Returning to campus

Published 20 August 2021

These web pages are provided to support you with information and guidance as we return more activity back to campus. We have answered some of the most common questions from colleagues on these pages.

Our new University strategy describes an ambition of best-practice working environments and new ways of working. Achieving this ambition is a huge undertaking that will be implemented in the long term, over the course of the next decade: our future ways of working.

For the time being, we have an opportunity to trial new processes and approaches in the short term and learn from them as we gradually transition some of our activity back to campus. These are temporary solutions related to covid management and preparing for our future ways of working.

The coronavirus pandemic has required us to work in new and different ways and we’re now taking the chance to listen to our University community. We want to understand what is working and what isn’t, and to make improvements that enhance and balance effectiveness, efficiency, and the wellbeing of our employees and students. ​

​As more activity starts to take place on campus in a gradual transition, we will all have new things to consider in our teams: how to decide who works on campus and when; how to book working and meeting spaces; and how to maintain a sense of team. Our Managers’ Toolkit contains guidance and suggestions and this resource will develop as we learn more together.

To support our return to campus we are encouraging you to start ‘rediscovering campus’, a concept which is designed to encourage people to visit campus, book a campus tour, update IT equipment, clear previous office space and visit new offices. If you are part of a professional service team you will have a designated ‘service champion’ who will be co-ordinating this activity.

Why have we retained covid measures when nationally these have eased?

Our approach to our covid measures is driven by central and local risk assessments, in line with government guidelines for higher education (published 19 July 2021).

Our risk assessment has identified control measures that may be needed in each area such as reduced room capacities, prearranged room layouts, increased ventilation and managing the flow of people. We are transitioning to this over the summer, ready for the start of the September term; in the meantime, summer teaching activities will remain subject to current measures.

By retaining some risk-based precautions during this transitional time, we have taken a prudent approach to provide ourselves with more flexibility later, should government restrictions increase.

As we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, we continue to consult the recognised campus trades unions.

What will campus be like when I go back?

Campus is many things to many people. Across campus, we will have a wide variety of activities taking place, each with its own requirements that we need to have in place as an employer, as a place of study and as a social space. We urge consideration, collegiality and respect for each other in all spaces, particularly as we all get used to the changes in the government guidance.  

Campus is: 

  • An educational space: specific guidelines driven by risk assessments will dictate the measures you will see in teaching environments, study spaces, clusters, libraries. Spaces will have reduced capacities, pre-arranged room layouts and clear signage.
  • A workplace: as an employer, we have a greater duty of care to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff during work activities, meaning that risk assessments and more control measures – such as reduced capacities and pre-arranged room layouts – will be in place in offices, labs, teaching delivery spaces and support services.
  • A social and residential space: here we will mirror what is happening nationally, across society, with very few control measures in place. People using these facilities will be making a personal choice to do so and this is not directly linked to their work or study.

So, when on campus, you’ll find what appear to be contradictions in how you can access and use the various facilities and spaces on campus. Please recognise and support this by respecting the rules and guidance for the different spaces, and by acknowledging that in each member of our community will be experiencing the return to campus from their own unique position, both mentally and physically.   

For example, you might have a day where you can’t sit next to a colleague in your office, you need to sit apart in a meeting room and may need to wear a face covering when moving around a lab, but then sit next to that same colleague and indeed with your whole team to have a coffee or your lunch in the refectory, without wearing a face covering and without any restrictions on space. 

What is the rationale behind which buildings will or will not re-open?

There are a range of factors driving the decisions we’re making about buildings. Initially the key factor is our risk assessment related to covid safety requirements, but there are other considerations including sustainability. Some buildings are also unsuitable to open due to ventilation requirements or restricted space for movement around office spaces.

How long will there be covid measures on campus?

As rule of thumb, we are seeking to maintain 1m distancing in all rooms (including laboratories), but this may vary from location to location depending on the other control measures in place. To keep campus as safe as possible, we will continue to monitor the situation to determine what adjustments might be required to our risk assessments and safety measures. Risk assessments will be reviewed throughout the year, particularly in the event of an outbreak on campus and any changes in government guidelines.  Regular checks will take place (including walkarounds with the recognised campus trade unions), to ensure that we all keep campus as safe as possible 

Does this mean we are now hybrid workers?

Hybrid working is a term which covers a range of experiences and models, where some or all employees work in a range of locations, sometimes co-located in physical workplaces, sometimes remote, but usually incorporating technology to bring employees together in a virtual workspace, and supported by policies, processes and facilities which enable this way of working.

Over the coming months, we are trialling new approaches and processes with an assumption that we will move towards a more hybrid workforce overall in the longer term as part of our future ways of working. However, at the moment, we are not hybrid workers for a few reasons: some roles across the University do not lend themselves to hybrid working as they cannot be fulfilled away from the campus, for example cleaning services, catering, maintenance and Library to name just a few. Colleagues in roles that do lend themselves to hybrid working are likely to start spending some time on campus and some at home, subject to departmental plans, but until our future ways of working are agreed and implemented, this will not be a true hybrid working experience nor environment.

Will there be core hours for meetings, to ensure people working on/off campus are not disadvantaged?

Leaders are responsible for coordinating how their teams work, meeting times etc. If you have any concerns regarding meeting times during this transitional stage please speak to your line manager.

Will there be an expectation that people will have to do a certain number of days on campus?

This will depend on your role. Teaching and research requirements remain as communicated earlier this year.  Services will determine how many and which people need to be on campus, based on the type of activities each role delivers.

If people are allowed to do a mix of working from home and working from the office, how will these days (days per week / which days per week) get decided?

In services, these are local arrangements which need to be made through discussions within your team. Initially, you may have limited office space to use in order to transition some activities back on to campus. Creating a priority order across the service will assist in identifying those who will come on to campus, the frequency etc. All services have an allocated space with desk, in addition there will be bookable desks in various locations across campus plus bookable meeting rooms.

Academic activities will be determined by the framework outlined earlier this year and our objective to provide every student with a substantial and sustained curriculum-based, on-campus experience.