Returning to work on campus: guidance for staff
This guidance applies to all staff returning to work on campus.
For many staff, the transition to remote working happened very quickly and many have become accustomed to this way of working and adapted well. While it will be important for us as an institution to ensure we do not lose the flexibility and creativity in working that we have developed during the period of lockdown, it is inevitable that we’ll need some colleagues to return to working on campus in some form or other over the coming weeks.
The pandemic has had a big impact on people’s lives and there will be differing levels of anxiety about the prospect of returning to work on campus. This guide aims to support staff in preparing to return with confidence and with the knowledge of how they can help the University ensure a COVID-secure work environment.
It should be noted that a separate, longer term piece of work is underway to help us to identify new ways of working based on what we can learn from the experiences during lockdown.
This guidance applies to all staff returning to work on campus, taking part in activities that have been approved by the Summer Restart Priority Group and its successors. You should not begin any new campus work without authorisation.
The expectation is that where staff need to be present on campus to perform all or some of their role, Heads of Department and line managers are responsible for managing their work areas to provide safe working conditions, complying with the University’s guidance and requirements for COVID-secure work spaces.
Line managers should provide all returning employees with information about the practical arrangements for return, including the risk assessments that have been carried out and any specific mitigating measures that have been undertaken. You should discuss with your manager any concerns you have about working on campus and any further control measures that may need to be taken.
You should familiarise yourself with guidance on expected conduct and ways of working.
Preparing to return
Your line manager should involve you in planning your return to the workplace in advance, so that you’re able discuss any concerns or queries in a timely way. Here are some initial tips and expectations:
Managers should have engaged early with the health and safety requirements, including completing the COVID-specific risk assessment and the Line Manager Risk Assessment Checks template, and preparing the building for re-opening in collaboration with the relevant professional services.
There should be a system of managing your work area so that you and your team are able to work effectively while practising the required social distancing.
Start talking to your colleagues now about returning to campus. Discuss the plans that have been shared for the building, and your understanding of the practical measures that are being put into place to ensure your safety. In this way, the whole team will gain a shared understanding of how things will work, and can contribute to the planning.
Discuss any concerns you have with your manager now so that you can work together ahead of any return to campus (further information is available below).
Where feasible, your manager may arrange for you to return to your work building for a short visit so you can visualise how working back on campus will operate.
There is no expectation or requirement for staff to work exclusively on campus at this time, unless of course your role requires it. Where it is possible to perform some aspects of your role at home you should continue to do so.
Discuss with your manager and team how a rota can be established to enable colleagues to work effectively remotely and on campus when needed. This should take into account individuals’ circumstances as well as the work that is required on campus.
Ensure that you have completed relevant training prior to returning to campus and starting work.
Heads of Department are responsible for signing off that managers have completed risk assessments and the necessary actions identified to ensure safe working. If you have any concerns you can discuss these with your Line manager or your HoD.
There are a number of personal circumstances that may affect your confidence and ability to return to campus working. These include:
Having an underlying heath condition that makes you particularly vulnerable to Covid-19
Being from part of the population disproportionately affected by Covid-19, such as members of the BAME community or those over the age of 70
Having a close family member that they are living with or have caring responsibilities for who fall into any of the categories above
Having childcare responsibilities due to the closure or partial closure of schools or nurseries
There may be other reasons for you to feel anxious about returning to work on campus.
In the first instance, it is important to have an honest dialogue with your manager about any health reasons or other anxieties about returning to campus. The University is committed to making arrangements so that anyone who is able to return to campus can do so confidently, assured that a safe working environment is in place.
If you are unable to attend campus, your manager should ensure that you have the necessary support to work effectively at home, including necessary equipment.
For any health-related individual circumstances that cannot be resolved in terms of establishing a working pattern, consider a referral to the HR Operations Teams for further Occupational Heath advice.
Prepare an individualised risk assessment to address specific concerns that require an individualised response.
We are aiming to reach a position where those staff who need to work on campus feel confident to do so, and where arrangements for remote and campus working are complementary and effective.
If you are unable to find a solution that enables you to fulfil your role, you and your manager should seek advice from your HR Advisor.
Once you are back working on campus, there will be expectations around conduct and behaviour that won’t be the same as normal times. These are mostly concerned with social distancing and hygiene and you will be provided with detailed guidance. You should adhere to these standards at all times, and feel free to raise with your manager any occasion or activity that makes you uncomfortable.
Here are some further tips:
Check in with your colleagues and manager regularly for mutual support and to deal with any concerns or queries that you may have. This is especially important if you are working on a rota basis or non-conventional working hours.
Make yourself aware of the risk assessments to make sure that they are being complied with and raise the issue quickly if they aren’t. It may be necessary to make changes to working practices once people are back working on campus.
Encourage a culture that enables people to speak up if they’re feeling uncomfortable (e.g. if someone isn’t complying with the social distancing rules).
Continue to take annual leave to make sure you have a healthy work-life balance.
When working at home, develop some way of “signing off” to signal to yourself and others that your working day is over, in the interest of you own wellbeing.
If you, or a member of your household, develop symptoms of COVID-19, then you must strictly follow the government’s isolation procedures and not come to campus. You should advise your line manager as soon as is possible of any test outcomes. If the test is positive but you are well enough (and your role allows it) you can work remotely, but you should not risk making your health worse and should report sickness absence if you are too unwell to work.
If you have been placed on furlough you may have had a considerable period out of the workplace, and will not necessarily be aware of what has happened, what has changed and how the rest of the department / team is working now. It’s therefore important that you are re-inducted into the workplace effectively so that you can resume work. Make sure you access the re-induction resources being prepared by the University.
In addition to one-to-one conversations with your manager, you may also wish to consider:
Having a “buddy” from among the staff who have not been furloughed.
Talking to other members of your team, and colleagues you know from other departments, about their experiences and current work.
Attending in-person and virtual team meetings and informal group discussions to ease back into the University community.