Return to Campus - Guidance for Managers

Introduction

The University continues to follow the advice of the Scottish Government (See the Scottish Government website for the latest information) and as restrictions ease we are keen to ensure that colleagues have a great return to campus experience. Heads of School/Research Institutes/Services and their management teams will assume responsibility for ensuring any return to campus activities are in line with the latest Government guidance and the agreed over-arching Principles. It is important to ensure this guidance is appropriately applied and this will require effective communication, engagement and dialogue with colleagues to support a seamless return to campus-based working in a phased and planned way whilst ensuring a safe, healthy and positive return to campus for our people. 

During this period of unprecedented change, we appreciate some colleagues may experience a range of challenges and emotions both generally and, for some in particular, around the prospect of returning to campus, whilst others have expressed they are keen to return. Managers will play a key role in maintaining open, supportive and sensitive dialogue with their teams to understand individual circumstances and preferences and make decisions which balance individual needs with the business imperative of enabling a smooth transition back to campus working and the long term strategic and operational interests of the University. In many areas this should also include discussing the adoption of or transition to any new ways of working which teams or individuals wish to embrace in the longer-term. 

Heads of School/Research Institute/Service will have responsibility for the general oversight of plans in their respective areas, with line managers leading on implementation as locally agreed.  

This guide is designed to assist leaders with planning all returns to campus, for individuals or teams.  

This guidance and the process steps outlined below provide the approach to be followed:  

  1. Consider the working context of your particular unit
  2. Carry out the  COVID-19 risk assessment(s) relevant to your unit/team   
  3. Support teams to return to campus   
  4. Reflect and review 

These steps outline a typical process, however in such a fluid and unprecedented situation leaders may encounter a range of other scenarios. Common scenarios and more specific guidance can be found under Scenario Based Guidance at the end of this guide.

 

Step 1: Consider the Working Context of Your Unit

As part of planning any return to working on campus, it is important to be aware of the wider context and up-to-date information. 

There are a number of key considerations which will shape the wider context and the transition back to working on Campus: 

Step 2: Carry Out the COVID-19 Risk Assessment(s)

It is the responsibility of each School/Research Institute/Service to devise the best approach to ensuring health and safety in their local area and to plan and implement any identified workplace changes/adaptations. 

‌The purpose of risk assessment is to help identify the significant risks of a unit’s work to ensure that control measures are in place to protect people against harm, so far as is reasonably practicable. Risk assessments don’t have to be complex, and you don’t have to be a health and safety professional to do a risk assessment.  

Risk assessments should be completed at a Unit/ activity level and an individual level where necessary. The requirement for additional individual risk assessments may be triggered through step 3 below depending on individual circumstances. 

The relevant templates and support can be found in the SEPS COVID-19 Resource CentreRisk assessments can be accessed on the Safety and Environmental Protection Service website 

Advice and support on risk assessments and controls is available in the first instance from Local Safety Coordinator’s with further, more detailed advice available via SEPS where necessary.  

Step 3: Support Teams to Return to Campus

Having completed the previous steps, attention should subsequently turn to identifying how best to support colleagues in their return to campus, in line with the relevant risk assessments.  This step can be viewed across three key stages: 

3.1  Understanding individual circumstances and preferences 

3.2  Exploring any new working arrangements (as a team) 

3.3  Implementing and ensuring a great return to campus 

These three steps outline a typical process, however in such a fluid and unprecedented situation leaders may encounter a range of other scenarios. Common scenarios and more specific guidance can therefore be found under Scenario Based Guidance at the end of this guide should it be required.

These include:

  • Colleagues having concerns around returning, or refusing to return
  • Colleague sickness absence around the return
  • Vaccination Status

3.1  Understanding individual circumstances and preferences

It is important that dialogue goes beyond the practicalities of any return and that it focuses on ensuring colleagues have a great return to campus experience. There are numerous facets to this, including supporting the transition and considering the  wellbeing of our people.  

Managers should hold open, supportive and sensitive conversations to build a more specific understanding of individual circumstances and/or preferences to consider as part of any return to campus: 

  • Identify/understand which colleagues: 
  1. Were previously shielding* (i.e. previously received a letter from the NHS/GP deeming them as extremely clinically vulnerable) 
  2. Are in an otherwise vulnerable* group (i.e. over 70, pregnant or have an underlying medical condition etc) 
  3. Live with someone who was previously shielding* 
  4. Have childcare or caring commitments (due to the impact of COVID, such as school/nursery closures) 

*Note - To support decision making around any colleagues who have identified circumstances relating to increased vulnerability to COVID-19, the University has developed a bespoke individual vulnerable person COVID-19 risk assessment to be carried out in all cases in addition to the area/generic risk assessment. Where appropriate, return to campus for vulnerable individuals should be planned and managed subject to the use of the relevant risk assessments and the application of appropriate restrictions/risk mitigation and with due consideration to any identified personal preferences. 

  • Identify individual preferences around the return to campus (this may be in the same conversation as above), such as: 
  1. Preferred work location (e.g. any home/remote vs campus split) 
  2. Any relevant or preferred shift patterns, start/finish times, use of staggered or flexible hours? 
  3. What has been learned from working remotely? (e.g. positives to build on) 
  4. How might a return to campus working support engagement and wellbeing 
  5. Are there any challenges or concerns and how might these be overcome?  

These steps/prompts should guide colleagues through the majority of conversations, however as this is a fluid and unprecedented situation leaders may encounter a range of other scenarios including colleagues having additional concerns and/or refusing to return or encountering other situations such as colleague sickness absence around the return.

Further guidance on specific scenarios can be found under Scenario Based Guidance at the end of this guide should it be required.

3.2  Exploring any new working arrangements (as a team) 

With an understanding of any individual preferences, discussions should take place at team levels to explore how arrangements might overlap and how teams will continue to collaborate and to ensure new ways of working are successful. Any new ways of working should be considered in a fair and equitable manner with the acceptance that each role and/or individual is different and certain arrangements may not be suitable for all.  

Such discussions may range from agreeing optimal times to meet/collaborate to establishing appropriate communication methods/tools to utilise and it is likely that experience gained whilst working remotely will play a valuable role in this. Ultimately, this will be a period of trial and error requiring creativity, collaboration and patience as we all explore and adapt to new ways of working and new working environments 

3.3  Implementing and ensuring a great return to campus 

Having identified any relevant circumstances and/or preferences across the wider team (and carried out the necessary risk assessments), focus can turn to implementing and ensuring a great return to campus where the practicalities of the return are addressed, but also where colleagues can reconnect with others and their workspaces in an engaging and fulfilling way that contributes to their engagement, health and wellbeing.  

Managers should firstly confirm any arrangements with their teams as appropriate. This may be verbally (e.g. individual or team meetings) or in writing and messaging should typically cover: 

  • Notification of the return to campus 
  • The date of return 
  • The location of the return/who to report to (if applicable) 
  • Details of any specific arrangements (subject to review) such as working patterns, start/finish times etc 
  • Links to any relevant information such as risk assessments, support materials to support the individual in understanding the steps taken to keep them safe at work 

With the arrangements communicated, the focus can then turn to implementing them. This should cover: 

  • Ensuring any required equipment is available, set up and ready 
  • Ensuring any access (e.g. access cards/key fobs) are ready  
  • Identifying and enacting any required local re-induction (e.g. refresher on local arrangements or any changes in the time that has passed). 
  • Each colleague must complete the Staff Return to Campus Moodle Induction before their return if they have not already done so. Colleagues who completed the induction some time ago are advised to rewatch the video as it has been updated with more recent changes.

The people-aspect of the return should not be under-estimated. Many colleagues have spent an unprecedented amount of time away from their normal workplace and colleagues and teams should jointly explore activities or ideas to enhance their return to campus experience. This may include meeting in advance for team lunches, walks or a tour of the campus. Our teams and people are naturally diverse therefore the specific approach should be discussed and agreed collectively to ensure it is inclusive and impactful for all. 

Colleagues should also be mindful that the transition out of relative isolation and back to a busier environment may impact everyone in different ways and that fellow colleagues may experience a range of emotions around the return. During this time of learning and adjustment, patient and understanding in an open and supportive environment will be vital to ensuring individuals are supported in their return.

Step 4: Reflect and Review

Over the coming weeks and months, the situation will remain fluid and dynamic. Government advice will continue to evolve and consequently University plans and priorities may follow around this. Attention should continue to be paid to all the factors identified in the steps above and plans reviewed as necessary.  

Risk assessments should also be revisited as and when required and individual circumstances and/or preferences may also be subject to change. 

Continuous monitoring and adaptation will be essential in order to ensure that any work on campus remains safe, secure and compliant. 

Additionally, teams should continue to test, trial and adjust any new ways of working to ensure they are optimal for the work being carried out. Regular reviews and/or check-ins may help to identify any challenges or barriers and jointly agree solutions to overcome them. 

Colleagues are also advised to order or collect lateral flow testing kits and test twice a week, following the instructions within should a positive result be obtained.  

Further Support

More information is available in the general coronavirus FAQs, HR FAQs on the HR Webpages. 

For questions not covered in the FAQs, you can ask anything else via the UofG Helpdesk.  

Scenario Based Guidance

The main Managers Guide – Returning to Campus should guide colleagues through the majority of conversations relating to the return to campus however as this is a fluid and unprecedented situation managers may encounter a range of other scenarios.

These are accounted for in this additional scenario-based guidance note which is intended to supplement the process steps outlined in the main guide. This guide is not exhaustive and remains dynamic, evolving as policy positions emerge and our experience grows.

Additional/further scenarios which managers may encounter could revolve around:

  • Colleagues being concerned or refusing to return to campus
  • Colleague sickness absence around the return
  • Vaccination Status

For further information, please see below.

Colleagues being concerned or refusing to return to campus

It is natural in this dynamic situation that colleagues will experience a range of feelings and emotions around returning to campus, with a wide spectrum ranging from individuals who are keen to return whilst others may have a range of concerns. The main guide provides relevant steps to follow to explore individual circumstances and preferences whilst the Process Flow - Return to Campus (Colleague Concerns) and scenarios below provide further specific guidance:

Colleague concerns as they were previously shielding/identified as vulnerable

Colleagues who were previously shielding or were otherwise identified as being in a vulnerable group may naturally have additional concerns over the return to campus. At this stage, the majority of staff are now anticipated to return to campus 1 day per week from September, rising to 2 days per week from October thereafter reverting to normal/new normal working arrangements. It is important that any concerns are discussed and heard and that colleagues are reassured that plans are underway to progress a gradual return to campus in a safe and secure manner, in line with the latest Government advice and easing of restrictions. University safeguards also mean that our campus is likely to remain a safer environment than many other environments out in wider society.

In addition to this, it is particularly important to reassure colleagues that the return will be backed by risk assessments at unit/area level and, in addition, the University has developed a bespoke individual vulnerable person COVID-19 risk assessment to be carried out wherever appropriate (in addition to the area/generic risk assessment). These should be utilised where required and will inform further dialogue in order to mitigate or eliminate any concerns.

Further information on risk assessments can be accessed on the Safety and Environmental Protection Service website. Further information relating to the return to work and the wider recovery process can be found on the university’s coronavirus information pages for staff and students.

In addition to risk assessments, colleagues and teams (particularly those with reservations or concerns) should explore how to best to progress their return to campus. For some, a short or quick visit to campus (e.g. for one meeting or to meet colleagues for coffee or lunch) may help to familiarise with the changes and ease concerns, with a view to gradually phasing up their time spent on campus over a number of weeks. Options such as these should be explored with the relevant colleague to explore how best their return may be supported alongside the wider university community. It may also be appropriate to agree a short-term plan and to review and adjust this as the weeks progress.

Further information on risk assessments can be accessed on the Safety and Environmental Protection Service website. An overview of relevant coronavirus information, guidance and support for staff can be found in the Coronavirus Information for Staff pages. 


Colleague concerns as they live with someone who was previously shielding/identified as vulnerable

Colleagues who live with someone who was previously shielding or were otherwise identified as being in a vulnerable group may naturally have additional concerns over the return to campus. At this stage, the majority of staff are now anticipated to return to campus 1 day per week from September, rising to 2 days per week from October thereafter reverting to normal/new normal working arrangements.  It is important that these concerns are discussed and heard and that colleagues are reassured that plans are underway to progress a gradual return to campus in a safe and secure manner, in line with the latest Government advice and easing of restrictions. University safeguards also mean that our campus is likely to remain a safer environment than many other environments out in wider society.

In addition to this, it is particularly important to reassure colleagues that the return will be backed by risk assessments at unit/area level and, in addition, the University has developed a bespoke individual vulnerable person COVID-19 risk assessment to be carried out wherever appropriate (in addition to the area/generic risk assessment). These should be utilised where required and will inform further dialogue in order to mitigate or eliminate any concerns.

Further information on risk assessments can be accessed on the Safety and Environmental Protection Service website. Further information relating to the return to work and the wider recovery process can be found in the COVID recovery - guidance and support webpages, including over-arching principles and guidance.

Further case-specific advice and support is available from People and Organisational Development either by visiting the HR Helpdesk or through contacting the relevant local team.


Colleague concerns around facemasks

Colleagues who have concerns around facemasks should be reassured that, in line with Scottish Government guidance, non-exempt individuals must wear face coverings while on campus: 

  • when moving around in buildings 
  • outside, in congested areas 
  • in libraries and study spaces at all times 
  • in classrooms (including teaching labs) 
  • in offices and other workplace settings, where one metre distancing is not possible 

Face coverings are not required: 

  • when eating or drinking 
  • when exercising 
  • when seated in offices and other workplace settings, where one metre distancing is possible 

Individuals may, at their own discretion, remove face coverings temporarily while teaching or presenting, provided they are distanced from others. 

Specialist research settings are subject to bespoke risk assessments; local rules should be followed in these areas. 

All members of our community are asked to treat each other with respect and consideration as we move through new phased of increased activity on campus. 


Colleague concerns around ventilation

It is important that these concerns are discussed and heard and that colleagues are reassured that plans are underway to progress a gradual return to campus in a safe and secure manner, in line with the latest Government advice and easing of restrictions. University safeguards also mean that our campus is likely to remain a safer environment than many other environments out in wider society. Ventilation systems are one of the key areas of focus to minimise the risk of transmission and colleagues can be reassured that over 11,500 workspaces have been assessed to ensure ventilation is adequate in line with Government guidance with only a very small percentage of spaces requiring additional intervention to ensure ventilation is adequate. Further more specific information is available in the ventilation FAQs. 


Colleague concerns around returning due to childcare/caring arrangements

The University recognises the extra burden being placed on colleagues who are affected by pandemic related impacts on childcare/care arrangements and colleagues should be reassured that the University will be as flexible as possible in accommodating childcare/care related responsibilities.

The dynamic of this support will shift as campus return plans progress, however with schools and nurseries reverting to more normal arrangements disruption is more likely to be sporadic and localised, linked to self-isolation rules at any given time.

Where concerns exist or arise, dialogue should take place to explore what the concerns are and to explore how they may be mitigated and/or what support may be required. Whilst every role/unit in the University is different, it may be appropriate to explore approaches such as flexible hours, working from home, alternative start/finish times and following an output-based approach to work. It may be appropriate to direct colleagues to the University’s Flexible Working Policy whilst the Emergency Time Off to Care for Dependants and/or Support for Carers policies may also be applicable depending on the circumstances and eligibility, particularly for shorter-term requirements. 

Further case-specific advice and support is available from People and Organisational Development either by visiting the HR Helpdesk or through contacting the relevant local team.


Colleague refusing to carry out their duties on campus

Situations where colleagues are refusing to carry out their duties on campus should be handled sensitively and supportively and it is important to understand the concerns involved and are likely linked to one of the detailed scenarios. Where these concerns related to safety on campus, colleagues should be reassured that appropriate controls and protocols are in place to support a safe return, in line with the latest Government advice and easing of restrictions. University safeguards also mean that our campus is likely to remain a safer environment than many other environments out in wider society. In addition to this, it is particularly important to reassure colleagues that the return will be backed by risk assessments at unit/area level and, in addition, the University has developed a bespoke individual vulnerable person COVID-19 risk assessment to be carried out wherever appropriate (in addition to the area/generic risk assessment). These should be utilised where required and will inform further dialogue in order to mitigate or eliminate any concerns.

Further information on risk assessments can be accessed on the Safety and Environmental Protection Service websiteAn overview of relevant coronavirus information, guidance and support for staff can be found in the Coronavirus Information for Staff pages.

In addition to risk assessments, colleagues and teams (particularly those with reservations or concerns) should explore how to best to progress their return to campus. For some, a short or quick visit to campus (e.g. for one meeting or to meet colleagues for coffee or lunch) may help to familiarise with the changes and ease concerns, with a view to gradually phasing up their time spent on campus over a number of weeks. Options such as these should be explored with the relevant colleague to explore how best their return may be supporting alongside the wider university community. It may also be appropriate to agree a short-term plan and to review and adjust this as the weeks progress.

In cases where a colleague is still refusing to carry out their duties on campus, further case-specific advice and support is available from People and Organisational Development either by visiting the HR Helpdesk or through contacting the relevant local team.

 


Colleague sickness absence around the return

Managers may also encounter the management of sickness absence at or around the time of the return to campus. A Process Flow - Return to Campus (Colleague Sickness) and scenarios below provide further specific guidance:

Potential scenarios in this area include:

 

Long-term sickness continuing through the return to campus period

Long-term absences should continue to be managed in the normal way as per the guidance under the University’s Managing Attendance Policy. Given their nature, it is unlikely that existing long-term absences will be related to the return itself however routine absence meetings and dialogue should take account of the wider context and managers should factor in relevant conversations from the key steps of the manager guides as and when required (e.g. when approaching a return to work). Naturally, any return to work process should be handled sensitively but particularly at this time focus should be on ensuring an appropriate return to work plan is in place which accounts for the fact that the individual is returning under different circumstances.

Depending on the circumstances of the absence (and any medical advice received), it may be appropriate to consider starting from a short visit to campus then increasing hours/days (if applicable) from there.

Overall, dialogue will remain key, not just during the absence but through planning the return and then monitoring and reviewing as the weeks progress to ensure the individual is fully supported.

Further case-specific advice and support is available from People and Organisational Development either by visiting the HR Helpdesk or through contacting the relevant local team.


New absence commencing at or around the time of the return

Any new absence should be managed in the normal way as per the guidance under the University’s Managing Attendance Policy. Through early dialogue, the reasons for absence should become apparent. Many absences will not be related to the return to campus, but where it is identified that an absence is related to the return then further dialogue should take place to explore any concerns in more detail.

It may at that point be appropriate to refer to one of the above points relating to managing concerns around the return to campus.

Further case-specific advice and support is available from People and Organisational Development either by visiting the HR Helpdesk or through contacting the relevant local team.


Vaccination Status

Enquiring on vaccination status

Whilst vaccination status may arise or be shared through dialogue relating to the return to campus (or as part of risk assessment based conversations), managers (or any other colleague) cannot compel others to share their vaccination status. Furthermore, it is recognised that members of our community are at different stages of comfort with being on campus and with this in mind colleagues should be sensitive to the impacts of openly sharing their vaccination status (particularly if they have chosen not to receive the vaccine). Line managers may be required to remind individuals or teams of this requirement to be sensitive as more of our community return to campus.

Further case-specific advice and support is available from People and Organisational Development either by visiting the HR Helpdesk or through contacting the relevant local team.


Mandating Vaccination

Whilst the University encourages all colleagues to receive the vaccine if they are able to do so, no individual should be compelled to do so under any circumstances.