Students Staff
University of Essex

June 30, 2020

Working practices

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Victoria Beckwith @ 11:28 am

Susie Morgan, our Director of People & Culture, tells us about the responses to our ‘Working During COVID-19’ survey.

Many of us have experienced enormous changes to our working lives during the pandemic whether we are working from home, working on our campuses, or on furlough leave. I do not underestimate the scale of this change and very much appreciate how difficult it has been for colleagues as we try to create new work spaces, find new routines, stay connected, stay well, and of course balance our home and work lives.

We wanted to understand how colleagues were adjusting in recent weeks and if there was more we could put in place to help. Our ‘Working During COVID-19’ survey ran in May and I would like to thank colleagues who contributed their views and gave us ideas for future support, this was very much appreciated. In total we had 757 responses to the survey from colleagues across the University, and through  those responses we have been able to capture both the individual and shared experiences during this time. Personal and professional circumstances vary enormously; specific challenges for groups and individuals were explained and while for many there have been solutions found, it was clear for others this remains a very difficult moment of transition and the impact considerable.

Overwhelmingly colleagues appreciated the efforts and consideration by others and offered constructive feedback for how we can continue to improve the current working environment as well as prepare for future cycles of remote working. Our communications through university emails and web pages seem to have been informative and timely but we are keeping our approach under review to ensure length, format and content remain accessible and informative without duplication. It was reassuring to learn that the majority of respondents also felt that the University had managed the transition to different working environments well, although of course there is always more we can do.

The Survey has raised a number of priority areas where we can continue to build on the progress made. For example, many colleagues asked questions about their return to on-campus working. We have been working as a cross-university team to develop our guidance here including our approach to risk assessment and will shortly be publishing it.

Workspace was an important factor. The majority of respondents felt they have a workspace at home which, whilst it may not be ideal, is functioning well enough for them at the moment. This might be as a result of personal investment such as buying new equipment, finding strategies to balance shared spaces, and compromising on preferred approaches to work. A second screen is missed by many of us (myself included) and the need to continue to build digital confidence will be important for future working practices.  Providing access to equipment and technologies is an area where our Health and Safety, and ITS teams are working hard to provide the guidance and support needed and the survey captured how much this was appreciated by colleagues. We are currently trialling an approach for colleagues to be able to access their office equipment from Campus, once complete, we will publish the details of this new process to Heads of Department and Section on 02 July.

Health and wellbeing was understandably another priority area. We know that we have many resources and support available online to help colleagues in developing strategies to stay mentally and physically well at work, as well as access to specialist services when needed but we can do more to share these and help managers to share them with their teams.

As a result of the survey findings we will put in place more guidance and support for managers on areas of wellbeing, communication, delegation, online meetings, recognition, and return to role. We will also curate and share development opportunities available to everyone on topics such as how to strengthen digital skills and confidence, and working as a member of a remote team.

The responses to the survey questions can be found here: Working Practices Survey Responses

Thank you to colleagues for completing the survey. If you would like to get in touch please do email me on hrdirector@essex.ac.uk

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