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Summary of the October 2021 staff Work and Wellbeing survey results

Take a look at some of the key messages from the staff survey run in October and November 2021 and our planned next steps.


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Work and Wellbeing Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Work and Wellbeing survey in October. A total of 1254 people responded, compared to 1107 in June and 1415 in February.

Since carrying out the survey, we have been working hard to understand the key issues that you said were important and to define further work to be carried out in this Semester.


In previous surveys we have used the four standard questions from the Office for National Statistics to assess people’s feelings of wellbeing, asking how satisfied they are with their life, how happy they feel, whether the things they do in their life are worthwhile and how anxious they felt the previous day.

In the graph, the red and blue lines represent the mean scores for the University and for the ONS national results. There is a consistent pattern of the University assessments tracking, but slightly below UK reference data. Further analysis has shown that female staff reported higher results for satisfaction than male, but also slightly higher anxiety scores; younger staff reported higher levels of anxiety, with those in the oldest categories showing least; staff in the Education and Research job family showed consistently lower levels of life satisfaction than the other job families.

Qualitative comments which can be more attributed to female and younger staff show a preference for more flexible working options. Some fears are expressed around presenteeism, and it may be that these are contributing to anxiety. Comments from the academic workforce often speak of workload as a contributing factor to lower levels of satisfaction.

We have also asked some questions more focused on the University shown below:

Question Feb 21 Jun 21 Oct 21
To what extent do you feel part of a community of staff and students? 6.11 6.13 5.85
To what extent do you feel proud to work for the University? 7.07 7.05 6.59
How satisfied are you with your current work-life balance? - - 5.98

We start to see a reduction in the first two questions. While we have insufficient data points to call this a trend, there does feel to be a disassociation with the University emerging in parallel to ‘return to campus’. It is possible that settling into a model of hybrid working is focussing more on ‘task’ and less on ‘community’ and that managers will need to work harder and make better use of campus facilities to build collaborative, community-focussed opportunities for teams to develop and grow. Equally, it is possible that the amount of time some individuals or teams have been spending on campus have not yet reached the ‘critical mass’ required to regain and rebuild that sense of campus community, and a renewed focus on this in 2022 would help.

Next steps

There will be more detailed work to understand better ways of managing academic workload, and how this affects culture and satisfaction in the academic workforce.

My Manager, Communications

We have relied heavily on the relationship between managers and staff to adapt to these new ways of working, and the longitudinal data we have collected from staff continues to show they have the support of their managers.

Communications also seem to have reached a steady level where individuals appreciate the timing and clarity of what is provided to support them through COVID.

Next steps

Action has already been taken to give greater prominence to the Covid statistics and review the covid safety pages. Other changes including improved visibility of internal vacancies have also been made as a result of feedback. 

Culture, Inclusion and Development

We asked a number of questions to sample, more broadly, the culture across the organisation. These questions will provide valuable data which can be interrogated to support further analysis for Athena SWAN and the Race Equality Taskforce and inform future actions.

New ways of working

The previous Work and Wellbeing survey undertook a comprehensive review of working patterns across the University in the last months of the previous, COVID-impacted academic year. With the new academic year, and students more consistently on campus, we asked staff about their expected working pattern for the coming 12 months:

  • 20% of staff expect to be working 80% or more of their time on campus

  • 21% of staff expect to be working 60% or more of their time on campus

  • 31% of staff expect to be working 40% or more of their time on campus

  • 28% of staff expect to be working 40% or less of their time on campus

The guidance provided for Heads of Department expected all staff to be working on campus 40% of their time or more. This was particularly focussed on professional services staff, given that academic, operational and technical staff will have more of their working patterns determined by the location of certain tasks or equipment.

There is a balance to be struck between team/Department performance, individual performance and flexibility to suit an individual’s needs. Across the UK workforce data is emerging that higher levels of flexibility are key attractants, particularly for younger people and those with caring responsibilities. However, there is also a strengthening of views in some companies that hybrid working is not being as efficient.

Next steps

An evaluation of hybrid working patterns will be carried out in mid-21/22 to learn specifically what is working and what isn’t during this pilot/transition year.

Commend the operational teams for their positive adaptation to on-campus working within the pandemic and offer them support to develop their culture and wellbeing.

Working on campus

There remain many reasons why individuals feel less able to work on campus/university premises. Unsurprisingly COVID infection remains highest, but many of the remaining issues relate to flexibility of working patterns.

The graph shows the responses to the question 'Which of the following are you least comfortable about working on campus/university premises?'. Staff members were able to select up to three responses. 'Fear of infection' scored highest (596 members of staff selected this), followed by 'Losing flexibility' (408),'Decreased productivity' (373), 'Impact on wellbeing' (270), 'Balancing work/caring' (220), 'Using public transport' (199) and 'Shared working environment' (164).

Office-based jobs, some of which involve a lot of sensitive information processing, state that they are less comfortable with campus-based working. Whereas many of the more operational teams whose role involves more face-to-face contact have adapted well.

The ongoing uncertainty regarding the progress of the virus makes it hard to establish concrete plans. It would appear that forms of hybrid working for certain teams will be important measures for recruitment, retention and motivation, with flexibility continuing to be a growing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) issue where that work can be done successfully. Theory and practice regarding high-performing teams shows, however, that a team comprises more than simply a set of individuals performing highly on their individual tasks, and if we are to excel at service delivery, we need to ensure that our working models deliver this.

Next steps

Offer teams a model by which capability and maturity can be assessed to assist them in the development of high-performing operating models.

IT systems and services

Thank you to those who completed the IT systems and services section of the survey. A wealth of valuable insight was provided; our colleagues in DDaT will be working through the initial findings and will keep you updated.   

As we consider and understand the survey data in greater detail we will keep you informed on the solutions being developed and opportunities created to respond to what the survey is telling us.

The next survey is planned for March 2022.

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