Returning to campus

Updated 21 January 2022

Please check the homepage for the latest guidance on working from home.

Our approach

For some time now, circumstances have required us to find and develop new and different ways of working. We’ve adapted from working on campus to working from home; before gradually transitioning much of our activity back on site.

These web pages have been designed to equip you with information and guidance as we continue to navigate the return to campus. Information shared here will be continually updated to reflect current government guidelines.

We’ve taken time to listen to our University community and to reflect on your thoughts on what has and hasn’t worked. This has informed improvements that will enhance and balance effectiveness, efficiency, and the wellbeing of our employees and students.

As always, we have overarching principles in our University strategy and vision which shape our ways of working, and outline our ambitions for best practice working environments. These can be found in our newly launched University strategy 2020-2030: Universal values, Global Change.

On these pages, you’ll also find a Manager’s Toolkit – a resource which will continue to develop as we learn and adapt as individuals, teams, and as an organisation overall. You’ll also find answers to some common key questions from colleagues, which are detailed below.

Return to work FAQs

Why do we retain COVID measures that are not national requirements?

Our approach to our COVID measures is driven by central and local risk assessments and is in line with government guidelines for higher education.

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.

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

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

How long will there be COVID measures on campus?

As a 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.

What will campus be like when I go back?

Please remember that campus is many things to many people. Each member of our community will experience their return to, or first day on campus differently, with their own perceptions and views of the current circumstances. There will be a wide variety of activities taking place, and each comes with its own arrangements that we need to have in place as an employer, as a place of study and as a social space.

We’ve balanced the wide-ranging needs and expectations of our community with the need for appropriate safety measures based on risk assessments. So, you are likely to find that guidelines in one space are different to those in another. Please recognise and support this by respecting the rules and guidance signposted in each space.

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.

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-19 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.

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 together in physical workplaces, and sometimes remotely. It usually requires the use of technology to bring employees together in a virtual workspace; and is supported by policies, processes and facilities which enable this way of working.

As government guidelines allow, colleagues in roles that do lend themselves to hybrid working are likely to spend some time on campus and some at home, subject to departmental plans. However, until our future ways of working are agreed and implemented, this will not be a true hybrid working experience nor environment.

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 roles.

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 desks, 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.