New Ways of Working

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Background

The pandemic has upended the traditional way of work for many professional services colleagues at the University, and we have adapted incredibly well to a period of unparalleled change.

In February 2021, the Government outlined its plans for easing lockdown restrictions. This provides an opportunity to start preparing for our return and consider how we can work most effectively and in ways that fit your lives outside work.

What lessons can we learn from the pandemic? How can we embrace some of the positive changes to our working lives and our workplaces in the future? How can we improve our support to teaching and research?

New Ways of Working is seeking to address those questions for professional services staff, so that they can continue to support the University’s academic mission as we move out of the pandemic.

About the project

The New Ways of Working project will provide managers and their teams with guidance and information to help them prepare for how they/their teams will operate as and when a return to the workplace becomes possible beyond current social distancing constraints, and in line with changes to the University’s Business Continuity Planning (BCP) stages as they are confirmed.

The project aims to provide a framework for how individuals and teams can work most effectively in the future - whether on-site or remotely.  

It will take a highly consultative approach, with staff able to feed in their views, draw on their own experiences during the lockdown period, and contribute to the improvements around how professional service staff will work in the longer term.   

The objective of the project is to develop a framework to support managers, teams and individuals in developing working arrangements which will enable professional services to be delivered in the most effective way to support our academic mission.  Work is taking place with colleagues across the University to ensure the approach can be used widely and as appropriate, in line with local needs and priorities. The experience of the pilots that will run in both UAS and academic departments will be a key feature of developing materials suitable for use in different contexts. 

Academic and Research Staff will be closely consulted to ensure that any outcomes fully support the University’s core areas of teaching and research.

The project was initiated by the Registrar, Gill Aitken, and is being led by Julian Duxfield, Director of HR.  Proposals for changes will be reviewed by Personnel Committee ahead of implementation.

New Ways of Working Framework

One of the initial outputs from the New Ways of Working project will be a supportive framework. It will help managers, teams and individuals develop working arrangements which provide the most effective professional services and continuity of support to academics, students and the wider University community to deliver our academic mission.  

Currently in development, the framework aims to enable professional services staff to learn from their experiences over the last year, to address any challenges they may have faced but to also build on any working practices that have worked well. This includes development of potential future models of working for consideration as part of future operating arrangements in teams.  These include working:

  • fully on-site

  • occasional remote (allowing for remote working on an ad hoc basis)

  • regular remote (ranging in proportion of working time)

  • and majority remote (likely to be appropriate only for a very small number of roles)

In support of each of these models of working are a number of elements to show how arrangements might work in practice, under the following headings:

  • place of work
  • wellbeing and safety
  • working at our best (for managers and staff)
  • enabling factors for successful working.

What next? 

New Ways of Working is preparing for the time when government restrictions are eased and the policy of ‘work from home if you can’ is removed. Until this time, ‘Return to on-site working’ will provide the approach for staff across the University to work on-site and in accordance with government guidance during the period of Covid-19 social distancing restrictions. Similar to the approach in Michaelmas Term last year.    

The Framework has been piloted in in a small number of UAS sections and academic departments in April/May 2021 to test the approach that has been developed ahead of the framework being made available to other parts of the University in line with local needs and priorities. The current plan is the framework will be available from the end of June. This will then inform any return to the workplace for professional services staff – in accordance with the required changes to the University’s Business Continuity Planning stages. 

The framework and the project will continue to adapt and evolve over time to ensure it still works for everyone.

Survey feedback

In March we ran a survey asking for your feedback on the initial planning and proposals around New Ways of Working. Thank you to everyone who completed the survey – over 2,500 people in total from UAS, divisional offices, academic departments and GLAM. Your insights and feedback have been incredibly valuable and the team have already begun acting on the responses to improve and adjust the materials supporting the project. You can now read a summary of the results below.

Further information

A feedback session on the New Ways of Working project took place on the 19 April at the Professional Services Conference, Staying Connected.This session provided an opportunity for staff to ask questions about the suggested framework and the current timeframes for the project. If you missed the session you can watch it again via the Conference webpage.

More information about New Ways of Working will follow in the weeks ahead, but, if you have any queries now, please contact nww@admin.ox.ac.uk

FAQs

The New Ways of Working Project is piloting a framework to inform models of remote and on-site working for professional services staff for when government COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted and the University is operating at BCP level 1 or 0. 

The New Ways of Working framework is intended to inform discussions about how to meet local business needs whilst also taking into account individual needs for ways of working for when a return to on-site working becomes possible for all staff.  

Until then, the University’s Return to On-Site Working (RTOSW) arrangements and guidance apply to all considerations for staff working on-site at the University.

Departments and UAS sections will be responsible for managing the further return of staff to the workplace when this is possible, but it is not expected that 21 June will see an instant return to the workplace for those staff currently working from home. Departments and UAS sections will have many issues to work through, and the University will need time to reflect on the Government’s announcement and how it impacts our own guidelines.     

Once this has occurred departments will need to look at the practicalities of when and how those staff who are not yet on site can start to return over the course of the summer. The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students will continue to be the core focus, with any guidance giving careful consideration to local context, including risk assessments of our workplaces where appropriate.  

A workshop model is provided to help your team to have discussions about the needs of the people you support, including researchers and students, and to review what has worked well and not so well during the pandemic.

Thinking about the roles within your team, your operational objectives and your experiences of working during the pandemic will help inform decisions about where activities can be performed remotely and where these are best suited to being carried out on site. 

The draft Framework has recently been piloted in five areas across the University, including two academic departments, and as result of this, the New Ways of Working project team are looking at further guidance on how to review and discuss inter-team working arrangements.

The Framework has been developed to provide flexibility for different models of working, with options for both office and remote working. There is much that we can learn from the pandemic where most of us have worked remotely and we have collaborated in new and different ways – and we intend to build on these experiences.

However, there are also clear benefits to being together in-person, and we must also ensure we continue to meet the needs of our thousands of students and researchers working on-site.

As such, most members of professional services staff should expect to be on-site at least some of the time. The exact amount will depend on local circumstances and arrangements, and will need to be agreed as outlined in the New Ways of Working framework.

Team leaders will need to take local, operational needs into account in decision making so that they can best support the academic mission. This means that similar roles in different teams may not automatically be similarly suitable for a remote working arrangement. They will also need to consider individuals’ needs and preferences. However, a detailed step-by-step guide has been developed as part of the framework together with guidance for managers to help them to make reasoned decisions in a consistent way.
 

The New Ways of Working project has also undertaken an equality impact assessment to determine the impact any changes could have on staff.

We are developing guidance for both individual members of staff and line managers to assist in their decision making about future working arrangements - covering the different factors that will be best for each person and team. That includes the important issues relating to disability and Display Screen Equipment (DSE) arrangements too.

Teams will need to consider what they need in order to make different ways of working successful and this may include considering how existing space can be reconfigured and used to ensure that online meetings and quiet work can take place at the same time.

 

The Framework involves a phased transition to post-pandemic working arrangements over the next 6 to 12 months. This includes a period of time when teams will be reviewing and adjusting their working arrangements and assessing what their needs are in terms of space and equipment in the longer term, based on their experience of trialling new working arrangements.

Yes, once finalised and published, the Framework will provide information about what staff can expect in terms of the provision of IT and other work equipment, depending on the model of working that applies to you.

There is no current plan to provide additional support for those working from home. Some employees may have been able to claim tax relief against certain costs relating to working from home during lockdown, and HMRC has extended this for the 2021/22 tax year. Once HMRC reverts to the standard working from home regulations, and working from home becomes an employee choice and not a contractual requirement, it is expected that tax relief will not be available.

Reasonable adjustments will be made to ensure someone with a disability can enjoy the same flexibility as colleagues without a disability. This is a University priority. All provisions relating to DSE and workplace health and safety, and the requirement to make reasonable adjustments remain unchanged. This includes the purchase of additional equipment, if required. If you have any concerns please contact your local HR manager to discuss how the current policy applies to you.

The NWW project provides a phased transition to post-pandemic working arrangements over the next 6 to 12 months. This includes a period of time when teams will be reviewing and adjusting their longer term needs in terms of space. The experiences of teams as they adjust to working after social distancing restrictions are lifted will help to inform the work being undertaken on the Estates Strategy.

There are no current plans to provide out of town offices or shared spaces but local hubs may be considered in the longer term. As noted previously, the New Ways of Working project is not just about the next few months but also looking to the longer term to see how to best balance the needs of the University and staff in the coming years.

Also, working remotely need not necessarily mean working from home, if there are other suitable, private spaces in which you wish to work. The University will not bear any costs for rented spaces.

The New Ways of Working framework is not intended to encompass arrangements for staff to work from a non-commutable distance from Oxford.  Even the ‘Majority remote’ working pattern will still require staff to attend site ‘on a pattern agreed with your manager’, e.g. one day per week or fortnight, and for any in-person meeting and events.

There is no new appeal process where preferred local arrangements cannot be agreed, but individuals can submit a formal request for flexible working which will be reviewed as per the current process.

New Ways of Working staff survey summary 

Below you will find a summary of the New Ways of Working staff survey from March 2021. The summary provides the feedback of over 2,500 people in total from UAS, divisional offices, academic departments and GLAM.  

 

Survey summary

Contact us


nww@admin.ox.ac.uk