Professional Services – the return to campus working

January 31st, 2022

A message to Professional Services colleagues from Paul Greatrix, Jaspal Kaur and Margaret Monckton.

Dear colleagues,

It is good to start 2022 with the positive news that the government has lifted its ‘Plan B’ restrictions – this is a significant and positive milestone in our own recovery from the lockdowns and restrictions that have been a feature of our lives for almost two years.

Whilst many of our colleagues in professional services, operations, teaching and research have spent time working on campus throughout the pandemic, we are able to invite those colleagues who were required to work from home before the winter break to return to regular time spent working on our award-winning campuses again.

As the Vice-Chancellor set out in her recent VC Blog, we have a busy and indeed game-changing year of projects to deliver for the university and our colleagues. We are designing the new Castle Meadow Campus in consultation with staff across the university, as well as completing the purchase of our Malaysia campus to cement and extend our operations in the ASEAN region.

We are also improving the foundations for our performance as an institution, with work to deliver our new research strategy, curriculum reform and realising our full potential as a university, embedding our values into how we teach, research and deliver our services. And we are refocusing on the essentials to improve the working conditions for our staff and students, spending an additional £6 million to alleviate workload pressures and address the maintenance backlog, alongside work to further improve Campus Solutions and deliver new digital solutions for our HR, Finance and student recruitment operations.

To deliver this, we will need to revitalise both how and where we work, moving from an approach which was often wholly remote for many colleagues, back to our hybrid model where time is spent both on campus and working from home.

A university is so much more than a set of buildings, laboratories and classrooms. It is a thriving community of people, collaborating in their work, and a bustling exchange where people meet to study, work and socialise together. We have missed many of these aspects whilst away from campus, and although MS Teams is now an undoubted essential in our working lives, it simply cannot replicate the enjoyment of face-to-face interaction with our colleagues, or enable the level of collaboration, innovation, learning and creativity that can come from this.

It is important that we once again begin the transition to regular working from campus and re-join colleagues who have remained on them throughout. A physical connection to the wider university as well as our own teams is a critical part of all of our roles, and just as important as some of the efficiencies that may be gained whilst working from home. Please work closely with your line managers during the transition back to campus, support your colleagues and take advantage of the wide range of wellbeing, guidance, training and other support materials listed at our Hybrid Working Site.

We know that returning to campus, albeit for 40% of the time initially, will prompt different feelings and emotions among our colleagues. For many the prospect of return will be eagerly anticipated, for others there may be no strong feelings either way, and for some there may be feelings of anxiety and apprehension.

All of us will have had different experiences during the pandemic and therefore it is important we consider how we behave inclusively and supportively during the transition back to campus.

We will want to retain the work/life balance and business benefits of a more flexible approach to our work, alongside the team, social and productivity dividends of working on campus. We will also want to continue our journey from hybrid to agile working – and we will be publishing an update on the agile working vision and programme very shortly.

Your line manager and directors will determine with you what the return to hybrid working looks like for you in practice, within the parameters defined in the communication from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Appreciating that some may need a little time to adjust back to campus working we have asked that arrangements are as supportive as possible.

We very much look forward to working with all of you over the coming months and continuing the journey to return our campuses to the busy and vibrant centres of innovation and learning that our staff and students value so much.

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