Human Resources

Ways of working

Check these supporting answers to questions about the Remote Working Framework, which will be in place from September 2021.

What is remote working?

Remote working the practice of an individual performing all or part of their role from home or, in some instances, another suitable non-University workplace.

What do we mean by hybrid working?

Hybrid working is the regular performance of work across multiple locations (remote and on campus), with tasks being performed in locations that add value to the activity being undertaken.

I’ve successfully performed my role remotely for much of the past year, my role falls into the category of ‘Hybrid Worker’, why do I need to perform 50% of my role on campus?

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic it’s been necessary for many staff to work remotely for much of 2020 and 2021. Remote working offers staff many benefits, however, there are also things that can be achieved more effectively through regular on campus working. Examples are things such as collaborative team working, relationship building, shared experience, networking, and connectivity to the Sussex culture. These are important experiences for staff and teams and also contribute to the experience of our students. It is for these reasons we believe that in the vast majority of roles it’s optimal to strike a balance between on campus and remote working.

Why are things not returning to the way they were before the pandemic?

Over the past year or so the world of work has changed significantly. The necessity for the majority of roles to be performed off campus of late has demonstrated the extent to which staff are able to effectively perform aspects of their roles remotely. Whilst there are many reasons why we welcome the time when we can return to on campus working, we also recognise that there have been many benefits of remote working for staff, and therefore wish to retain a blend of the two in the longer term. Remote working is voluntary, staff who wish to perform all of their role on campus will be able to do so. We do recognise that there will be a period of adjustment once it’s considered safe to return to campus and staff will need to acclimatise to a hybrid working model.

What are the benefits to the University in these future ways of working?

The University recognises a series of benefits to remote working, including but not limited to:

  • Increased flexibility for staff and increased home life, work life balance
  • The promotion of staff wellbeing
  • Competitive benefit for attracting and retaining staff
  • Opportunities for departments to consider the best use of office spaces on campus
  • Opportunity for more dynamic, collaborative working spaces over traditional office environments
  • Reduced staff commuting
  • Flexibility for staff to carry out tasks in a variety of environments best suited to the nature of the task.

What are the disadvantages of remote working to be mindful of?

The disadvantages of remote working will vary for different individuals, some could be things such as:

  • A lack of social interaction
  • A feeling of being disconnected from colleagues and the university
  • Lack of access to a quiet, suitable space and equipment
  • Competing personal and professional obligations
  • Fewer opportunities for creative thinking and collaborative working with colleagues
  • A lack of mental and physical separation from home and work
  • Technical and connectivity difficulties.

You should consider steps you can take to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives in your planning. The Organisational Development (OD) Team have produced guidance to support you in getting the most out of Remote Working.

If I think it would be beneficial to work remotely in excess of what’s being suggested, is this possible?

Many staff have done a brilliant job of performing their roles remotely during the pandemic, however, this was out of necessity and is not perceived to be an optimal and sustainable way of us delivering the Sussex strategy and meeting the needs of our staff and students in the longer term.

For this reason we are proactively supporting what we feel to be the maximum beneficial amounts of remote working across different types of role, affording a greater degree of flexibility to all staff where possible. The University recognises, as has always been the case with flexible working requests, that there are some staff for whom additional flexibility of work location, hours, days etc. may be required. Staff seeking flexibility beyond the realms of their remote working category should apply for this in the usual way, via the University’s Flexible Working procedure.

How will we work effectively as a team if people are working in a variety of locations, some team members frequently working together, whilst others never seeing each other?

A hybrid working environment does mean that staff may not always overlap frequently or by default. There will be times or tasks when it’s beneficial for colleagues to engage in person. Teams are encouraged to consider if/where/when they feel this is beneficial so they can plan face to face time to meet personal, team and organisational needs.Wherever a member of staff is working, they will be encouraged to be ‘visible’ and ‘accessible’, to ensure colleagues are able to connect with ease in working hours. It is recommended that teams discuss and agree ways of working to ensure everyone feels connected and part of the team irrespective of their location. With the support of technology, much of which has been made available during the pandemic, colleagues should be able to continue to connect successfully with one another. ITS have advice and guidance on the software available to support remote and hybrid working.

How will it be decided which category of worker I am?

The majority of roles at the University fall into the Hybrid Worker Category, followed by the On Campus Worker Category. A very small number of roles fall into the Permanent Remote Worker Category. The percentages of time to work on campus and remotely are a guide and may vary from week to week depending on individuals workloads and demands. If the majority of your role needs to be performed on campus you will fall into the On Campus Worker Category. If there are aspects of your role that are not tied to campus, for example you work in a lab but need to spend a few hours a week carrying out administrative duties, you will be able to agree with your manager to do such duties remotely, for up to 20% of your working week.

During the pandemic I conducted teaching remotely, will this be possiblemoving forwards?

Forthe purposes of the University of Sussex, teaching is categorised as a campus based or in person activity, other than in clearly defined exceptions.

I hold multiple posts which fit into different categories, what does this mean for my work location?

If you hold more than one post with the University your remote working category will be determined for each of the posts you hold and agreed with the respective managers based on the FTE for each of your posts. For example, if you hold two 0.5 FTE posts, one of which is in the sports centre delivering physical activities, the other is an administrative post within a professional services area, your sports centre role would be classified as ‘On Campus’ whilst your administrative post ‘Hybrid’. You would agree with the managers for each of these posts suitable working arrangements, in line with the respective allocated category, for the days or times at which you perform that role.

How will mine and my colleagues on campus and remote working days be determined?

Each team and manager will need to review the delivery requirements of teams and roles and how remote vs on campus working plays into these. For some roles there will be clear points during the week where staff are required on campus, or clear responsibilities and tasks within roles that are better suited to being performed on campus. For others it may be that whilst representation is required within teams across the week, there is a greater degree of flexibility over who should be in the office on what day. Staff and managers need to work together to identify optimal working patters for the team and individual roles, that enable tasks to be completed in optimal locations. Where staff have preferences over their remote working days they should discuss these with their line manager, however, remote working days will ultimately need to be driven by the needs of the role, team and university and will be at a manager’s discretion. If you have health, caring or other personal circumstances that directly affect your availability to be on campus, please make sure that you raise these with your line manager as soon as possible. It may not be feasible to accommodate every request or need; the sooner colleagues alert their line managers to needs, the more time the team will have to consider options and plan.

When working remotely do I need to work from my home, or provided I’m able to do my role, can I be in a location of my choosing?

We recognise for some staff home might not offer a suitable working environment in the short or long term for a variety of reasons. Remote working is optional, however, if a member of staff wishes to work remotely from a location other than their home theyare encouraged to speak to their line manager and explore potential suitable alternative remote working locations near their home appropriate to the requirements of their role. If it is difficult to identify an alternative suitable remote working location, then staff will be required to work on campus.

I already have a flexible working request in place, does this new approach affect it?

All existing agreed flexible working arrangements will not be superseded by and/or should be complemented by the Remote Working Framework. For example, in some instances staff may find they are now able to work an increased number of days remotely, for example if they previously had an arrangement to work remotely one day per week they may now find they can work 2 or 3 days remotely each week should they wish to. Where staff have an arrangement in place that exceeds their remote working category this will be upheld. Where a member of staff has specific alternative working hours agreed these hours will be honored, and so on.

If I’m working remotely will I miss out on opportunities I would otherwise have had at work?

All staff, irrespective of their place of work and the frequency by which they work remotely, will be treated equally. The University and line managers will provide equal access to relevant information and opportunities, such as news, meetings and events, benefits and development and promotion opportunities so as not to disadvantage a particular category of worker. Inevitably chance conversations happen in person and these can help build relationships with colleagues and trigger ideas, opportunities and actions. We ask staff and managers to be mindful that, whilst this is a really positive aspect of on campus working, it could cause remote workers to feel excluded. Conscious effort should be made to be equally inclusive of those who aren’t physically present as well as those who are. Remote working staff are encouraged to ensure they are visible and virtually accessible, so even if they are not always on campus to interact with colleagues in person, they are easily contactable by colleagues. If staff feel they are missing out on opportunities as a result of remote working they are encouraged to feedback to line managers so they are aware, and openly explore ideas to improve levels of inclusion.

Can I work part-days on and off campus?

From a practical and environmental perspective, unless there is a significant reason to do so, it is likely that staff will work full days either remotely or from campus, rather than commuting between work places during the working day. For staff in the hybrid category who wish to perform 50% of their role remotely may for example therefore work two days remotely one week and three days remotely the following week. Practical schedules of on and off campus working need to be agreed with line managers based on the needs of the team. It should always be apparent to colleagues where a staff member is working on any day of the week to aid communication.

Do I need to have a set working pattern, where I work regular days from home and on campus?

Your working pattern should be agreed in advance with your manager and team to ensure the needs of the university are met. Teams should agree their ‘ways of working’, including a transparent, consistent approach to work patterns that works for the team. team may decide they will plan one month in advance, another team may have set days for on campus working and off campus working every week/month and stick to this. Another team may agree patterns in advance but have an agreed degree of flexibility a round this should a staff member need/feel it optimal to work in an alternative location or swap working days around at short notice, or should an operational need arise at reasonable notice. Different planning and working patterns will work for different teams and so it’s essential that line managers agree their approach locally with their teams so everyone is clear on the approach.

Can I accrue my allocation of remote working days and take them all in one go?

Most roles will see a blend of on campus and remote working split across aweek/fortnight or month, however, based on the requirements of a team or an individual’s role, it might be that there are periods throughout the year where staff are required to work almost solely on campus, and others where it’s suitable to conduct almost the entirety of a role remotely. An example of this could be where a member of staff teaches during term time, but works on non-campus tied research during vacations and therefore may work three months predominantly on campus, and then one or two months predominantly off campus during vacation periods. With this in mind the category percentages of time spent at each work location can be spread across a 6-month period in roles more suited to this approach.

The Remote Working Framework says I need to come to campus at reasonable notice for important matters as requested by my manager, such as team meetings or perhaps to cover sickness absence of members of my team. What constitutes reasonable notice?

Hybrid and on campus workers will generally have advanced notice of matters requiring their in person attendance. However, from time to time staff may be called upon at shorter notice to cover for a colleague off sick or an unforeseen operational need on one of their remote working days. Managers will try to avoid this unless completely necessary. Both staff and managers are asked to adopt a flexible and reasonable approach to such situations, with managers providing as much notice to staff of changing plans and on campus requirements as possible.

For Permanent Remote Workers, we ask that managers give as much notice as is possible in the event they need a member of staff who is permanently contracted to work from home to come to campus. For example, managers should consider planning and communicating team meetings that require in person attendance of permanent remote workers as far in advance as possible. We recognise that urgent matters may occur that require in person attendance at short notice; in these instances managers and staff are requested to communicate in as timely a manner as possible. Staff and managers are asked to adopt a reasonable and flexible approach to this. It is however highly unlikely that permanent remote workers will be called upon frequently at short notice, especially as these roles tend to be very much stand-alone roles so it is much less likely a permanent remote worker will be required to cover for example an unwell colleague.

Now I work remotely, can I claim for my home to campus travel?

All staff, irrespective of their contractual place of work and their Remote Working Category, are expected to cover the costs of travel between their home, remote working location and a designated University place of work, most often the University’s Falmer Campus or a site such as the Keep. These locations are considered to be work ‘bases’ within the context of the Remote Working Framework and Travel and Working Away From Base, Hospitality and Out of Pocket Expenses policy. There are specific limited circumstances where staff may be eligible to claim for travel and these are outlined in the policy.

Why is the University not providing staff with non-technical equipment (furniture etc.) to support remote working?

In light of current financial challenges, we do not feel it is necessary or appropriate to duplicate equipment provision for all staff. This said, the University is committed to ensuring everyone has an appropriate work station at their contractual place of work, which for the majority of staff will be on campus. Should however someone have a disability or injury that prevents them from working from home without specialist equipment, they should speak to their manager who will arrange assessment and provision of appropriate equipment via Occupational Health.

As a result of my home workstation set up I’m experiencing aches and pains, what can be done about this?

To ensure staff have safe remote working arrangements, remote working staff are required to carry out relevant assessments by the University, including but not limited to, Display Screen Equipment (DSE). The University’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing policies apply to remote workers, and staff should refer to these policies for further details. The OD team have published lots of useful resources, advice and guidance on good remote working practices. These include good practices for remaining physically and mentally healthy whilst working remotely. If having tried the range of above options a member of staff is still experiencing negative implications of their home working set up, they are encouraged to speak to their manager. They may well be able to/asked to return to campus where the University is able to provide safe and suitable equipment which should overcome these issues. In the case of injuries it may also be appropriate for staff to be referred to Occupational Health.

When will new ways of working commence?

Managers and their teams will start to trial new ways of working over the Summer term 2021, assuming that Government guidance continues to support this, as more staff start to return to campus in the lead up to the new academic year. An agile approach will be required to embed future ways of working as best as possible for the time being in consideration of any health and safety requirements, even if this means adopting interim practices before longer term ways of working can be fully embedded.

Teams will need to plan for this locally, in consideration of their functional requirements, office layout and H&S requirements, developing a plan that works best for them. It is expected that any plans made will be flexible and likely evolve with time so ensure we remain agile to the evolving needs of teams and the University.

How has the University ensured that equality analyses have been undertaken in all hybrid working planning processes?

The University has conducted an equalities analysis of the Remote Working Framework. Teams are also being asked to conduct them locally to ensure equalities considerations are at the heart of local implementation too.

The framework says dependents should be cared for by someone other than the member of staff during working hours. Suitable care for my dependents is pre-arranged but there are occasions where my dependent(child/parent etc.) may be taken ill for example and I have to care for them at very short notice during working hours, does this change that?

We understand the complexities of caring arrangements and ask that, as has been the case previously, where unforeseen situations arise for carers that staff communicate with their line manager and agree a plan that balances the needs of their role and caring commitments. This could include a variety of approaches, such as long or short term flexible working patterns, unpaid leave, annual leave, reduced hours, career breaks etc.

If I’m working remotely but become unwell what should I do?

The priority when staff are unwell is that they rest and recover. The expectation of staff who find themselves unwell whilst remote working is that they inform their manager, much as they would do when working on campus, and take time off work to recover as per our sickness absence policy.

What support and guidance is available on agreeing and coping with a hybrid working arrangements for those who live with mental ill health and for disabled staff?

Staff living with mental ill health and disabilities should speak to their line manager and explore proposed new ways of working will impact them. We hope increasingly flexible practices will create some positive opportunities, however, there may also be barriers to engaging with an increasingly hybrid model, or challenges created by new ways of working. Managers and staff should proactively explore things they can put in place to overcome such barriers and challenges. Where challenges can be resolved through the provision of specific technology, equipment or environment, impacted individuals, managers, IT and/or SEF will work to arrange appropriate provision. Occupational Health referrals can also be made via line managers should specialist advice and guidance be appropriate. Should managers or staff feel additional advice and support would be useful, they are encouraged to approach their HR Associate or Business Partner.

What can I do if I believe that the working pattern that my line manager wishes me to follow doesn’t work for me?

Remote working patterns need to fit the needs of the University first and foremost. Line managers will do their best to balance the needs of the organisation,whilst affording staff as much flexibility of location as their role permits, however, there will be times when for organisational reasons it’s not possible to meet everyone’s preferences. If you feel your working pattern doesn’t work for you, you should discuss this with your line manager and share alternative suggestions in the first instance. If your line manager does not feel these are possible they will explain the reasons to you.

As we return to campus initially certain social distancing measures will still be in place, surely this will influence working arrangements and impact the degree to which we can fully establish future working patterns?

Any return to campus working will be planned in consideration of current government guidance. We anticipate a gradual transition period where we balance return to campus, current social distancing measures and the implementation of our future ways of working. An agile approach will be required to embed future ways of working as best as possible for the time being, in light of any health and safety and distancing requirements, even if this means adopting interim practices before longer term ways of working can be fully embedded. Teams will need to plan for this locally, in consideration of their functional requirements, office layout and health and safety requirements, developing a plan best suited to their needs.

Equipment, technology and campus spaces

Will office spaces and technology be reviewed in light of new working arrangements?

Yes, a variety of steps are being taken to ensure we have the correct set up to support desired future ways of working, including the formation of a dedicated project group (including, but not exclusive to, HR, SEF and ITS), however, this is a large piece of work and some of the required changes will take time. As we start trialing future ways of working, we will become clearer on our needs. The project group will be engaging with teams over coming months to review the configuration of our spaces and what technology, equipment and training are needed to support our evolving working practices.

Will I be given different equipment if I’m working between two locations?

The project group will work to define appropriate technology that will be provided to staff – it will be mobile first (i.e. portable) to enable hybrid working and different ‘technology stacks’ will be provided to suit different types of worker. Ultimately, provision will offer different ways of working and will encompass more than just laptops – e.g. additional monitors, keyboards, mice, connecting hubs etc.

Will I be using different equipment on campus to what I was using before?

As part the project, we will be analysing the IT needs of all staff to enable hybrid and flexible working, however this is a complex task and will need to be carried out over the coming months. It is envisaged that we need to pilot new technology with teams to properly assess its suitability ‘in the field’ so colleagues can look forward to getting involved in these pilot groups.

I took IT kit home with me so I could work from home during the pandemic. Can I still use that?

Staff members who took ‘All In One’ machines home to support working throughout the pandemic will be able to retain that kit at home to accommodate their ongoing needs. This will be permitted until ITS are in a position to deploy the new tech stacks and offer you a suitable new hybrid working kit.

How will we be able to have meetings with half the team on campus and half remote?

ITS are looking at appropriate technology to make sure that meetings can be held effectively between colleagues on campus and those working remotely. The project group are also analysing what can be done on campus to provide better and more equitable experiences in our main meeting spaces. Our teams are already involved in research and looking at best practice and learning from others in this space and you can expect improvements in meeting rooms as the year progresses.

Will I retain my desk on campus?

The project group will work with each department to get the correct mix of desk types. This may mean fixed desks (one person one desk), shared desks and/or hot desks in the office environment. Configurations will be developed with departments over coming months to meet their needs. In time, some people/teams will likely move away from dedicated desks. When looking at desking types, we will carefully consider not just the needs of roles but individual’s needs too. Where there are significant reasons for fixed desking, this will be listened too.

What will campus staff work spaces look like in the future?

Workplaces have been evolving outside of Sussex for many years. Moving forward Sussex want to review the changes that have taken place in other working environments and universities and learn from the strengths and weakness of these. This evaluation, along with detailed conversations on Sussex’s ways of working, will be used to inform our office spaces of the future.