Staff survey findings: Message from Director of HR, Francesca Fowler

A message to all colleagues

Dear colleague,

At the end of June, more than 2,300 of you kindly gave us your feedback via our latest survey, which was designed to check how you are dealing with the current situation and where you most need further advice and support.

Thank you for taking the time to do this and for the honesty of your responses, which are helping us better understand the issues most important to you.

An example of this from our first survey saw you ask to collect items from campus to support you with remote working. So far, we have arranged for more than 1,800 of you to do this.

We will also use the key themes emerging from this latest survey – some of which are highlighted below – to help shape our future planning, focussing on further improvements to make working arrangements easier for you.

Reopening of campus

Some of you asked for more details of when you might be able to return to campus. Further information and a timetable for the opening of areas within buildings has now been added to the dedicated coronavirus website.

We expect the majority of colleagues to continue working remotely while the need to maintain a covid-19 secure workplace remains in force. Even if the building you usually work in has been reopened, this does not mean that you will be returning yet.

Our immediate objective is threefold:

  1. To enable the resumption of research activities that require access to laboratories and facilities on campus;
  2. To facilitate the delivery of a few critical functions that cannot be delivered remotely (for example, confirmation and clearing); and
  3. To facilitate the preparation of teaching materials for the next session, where that requires access to on-campus facilities.

Extra support for teaching

Survey responses also highlighted issues around how to implement plans for online classes and face-to-face teaching.

All schools have been asked to contribute their priorities for the use of campus for face-to-face teaching activities. Particular focus will be on activities that add the most value to our students’ experiences, such as the use of specialist facilities or to ensure completion of practical elements required by accrediting bodies.

As different parts of the campus are opened up in the weeks and months ahead, under the guidance of our colleagues in Health and Safety, we will continue to work together to enable the best educational experience and promote a sense of belonging for our students. We are grateful to everyone who is contributing to these discussions.

Further resources for online teaching can be found on the Digital Practice website, with more support available from the Digital Education Service helpdesk. You can book development sessions to support you in the transfer to remote and online working and teaching, and any issues can also be raised with your Head of School.

Safeguarding the health of staff and students

Many of you asked for details of safety measures being implemented on campus, including those for staff in more vulnerable groups.

Comprehensive safeguarding measures are in place for colleagues notified that they can come back on to campus, including:

  • the application of agreed covid-19 and social distancing principles, (e.g. changes to building configuration, usage and signage); and
  • thorough cleaning and improved ventilation, with sanitiser also being made available on campus.

The following information can now be accessed via the dedicated coronavirus website:

  • the University covid-19 risk assessment
  • the University covid-19 pre-entry building checklist; and
  • general information for approved staff coming onto campus.

If you feel you are in a group that is more vulnerable, please talk to your HR Manager. It may be that you are referred to an Occupational Health practitioner, who may undertake an individual risk assessment.

Supporting your wellbeing

Issues relating to social isolation, balancing work with caring roles and tensions at home were also highlighted in your survey feedback. We understand how difficult the current situation is for everyone, and we appreciate all you are doing.

Do take advantage of the services provided by the Staff Counselling and Psychological Support team, which offers remote professional and confidential help and advice. The Occupational Health team continues to offer confidential wellbeing chats, and we encourage you to discuss and agree ways forward with your line manager.

Lots of resources are available on the staff support and wellbeing webpage and the Wellbeing, Safety and Health webpages. We’re also working on a wellbeing package in the coming weeks and we’ll share updates through our regular enewsletters.

Addressing your specific requests

  • Annual Leave: On the issue of annual leave, it’s really important to take a break from work, as this is all part of the need to consider your own wellbeing. You need to use your annual allowance by the end of September, but in exceptional circumstances, where agreed with your Head of School/Service, you can carry forward five days until the end of December 2020.
  • IT: Regarding questions about the Virtual Windows Desktop, IT is working with Microsoft to deal with the ‘black screen issue’ on login. Updates were emailed to staff last week. More information about working from home is available on the IT website.
  • Libraries: Information about the phased reopening of library buildings has now been shared.

We are also preparing responses to several other requests you raised, including:

  • updates on domestic and international travel; and
  • guidance on commuting to campus.

These updates will be carried in our regular enewsletters.

In the meantime, may I once again thank you for your latest feedback and for everything you are doing to support the work of the University in these challenging times.

Best wishes,

Francesca Fowler,
Director of Human Resources