The team looking at the ‘Future Ways of Working’ pilot of hybrid working for professional services with office-based roles has analysed a number of sources of insight, including responses to Work & Wellbeing Surveys, interviews with Heads of Department and focus groups including TU representatives. Thank you to all colleagues who have taken the time to input and share their feedback.

What challenges, benefits and opportunities did the review find?

Some of the benefits of hybrid working have included:

  • more focussed time for thinking and writing when working away from office distractions
  • better use of some digital tools, leading to easier access to colleagues and more efficient processes, and
  • an enhanced work/life balance.

Challenges have included:

  • the lack of opportunities for personal contact/social connections and therefore a reduction in informal knowledge sharing
  • navigating the University to find support was also flagged as being more difficult, particularly for new starters and for colleagues when they didn’t already have established contacts in a particular area.
  • there was also mixed feedback about making hybrid meetings work, and about the use of different digital tools, with plenty of scope for further learning in these areas.

In terms of performance and productivity, there was really positive anecdotal evidence. However, there was also an acknowledgement that we don’t use data to measure performance and support improvements as well as we could. We also need to learn more from other organisations about how to make hybrid working as successful as possible.

What framework will we adopt from 2022/23 onwards?

University Executive Board has agreed, on the basis of these findings, to continue hybrid working arrangements for office-based roles in professional services. This will use the Bath Hybrid model. We will maintain a phased approach, monitoring activity and reviewing guidance every Semester.

The guiding principles are:

  • to enable a thriving and caring University campus community, in which every staff member is able to work as successfully as possible in a safe and secure way
  • to seek to develop ways of working to deliver our strategy as successfully as possible for the benefit of all students and staff
  • to support sustainable and productive staff working practices that make maximum use of our learning so far, and therefore we will adopt a framework, from which we will learn and iterate.

In practical terms, the overall framework from this year will be retained in this ‘Bath Hybrid model’, with Heads of Department agreeing a ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ presence for each role within their teams, depending on the business need:

  • high: a high in-person presence means working on campus/in University buildings for 80% or more of your working hours
  • medium: a medium in-person presence means working on campus/in University buildings for 60% or more your working hours
  • low: a low in-person presence means working on campus/in University buildings for 40% or more of your working hours.

Any exception to this (e.g. very low campus presence or largely remote) is expected to be a rare occurrence and only agreed once a Head of Department has discussed with the relevant HR Business Partner, as it can have significant HR and employment contract considerations.

How do we deal with the downsides of hybrid working?

To reduce the potential disadvantages of hybrid working:

  • regular, physical team meetings are strongly encouraged. If a team is working in a hybrid way, monthly in-person meetings are expected apart from the holiday periods
  • inter-departmental meetings are also encouraged to break down silo working
  • a weekly opportunity for teams to meet (even virtually or in a hybrid way) is important to maintain lines of communication; this could be a weekly team meeting or a slot where managers are available to answer any questions their teams may have
  • all Departments are encouraged to find more efficient ways to use space on University premises, considering the need for workstations and collaborative space. The staff hub in the old Wessex restaurant space is expected to open in early October 2022, but there may be opportunities to repurpose space within departments for collaborative or hybrid working.

Looking ahead

The team monitoring ‘Future Ways of Working’ will continue to engage with Heads of Departments and our wider staff community about what is, and is not, working well and to evolve our working practices for the benefit of all.