This has truly been a year like no other, so it is more important than ever to hear how you are finding working at Kent. With this in mind, we recently ran a short staff survey to track how staff were responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the support we had put in place. The survey was shaped around our COPE Framework (Collaborate, Organise, Prepare and Enable), with 831 responses from across the University giving a valuable insight into how colleagues were getting in on challenging circumstances. Here’s what you had to say:
What went well
You were broadly positive about our response to the crisis, with 80% of you feeling you could operate effectively and 88% feeling colleagues were supporting each other well in our new environment. Most staff felt leaders had genuinely tried to support them and understood the pressures they were under, and accompanying communications were appreciated and considered helpful.
What we could do better
While some welcomed working from home, a number had struggled to find a suitable place to work and reported difficulties establishing appropriate work-life boundaries. Staff also expressed concern over ‘screen time’ fatigue, together with issues using personal equipment and technology. More broadly, many respondents flagged an increase in workload resulting from COVID-19, adding to concerns about wider changes at the University.
What we are doing in response
While much of this will require careful thought as we prepare for continued disruption over the next year, a number of measures are already being explored and / or put in place:
- Two additional rest days have been granted to all staff on 9 and 10 July 2020 in recognition of the strain we are all under and that this had a very positive impact on staff last time. This time though we are asking that we all, as far as possible, take the days on the same dates – relieving the otherwise unrelenting pressure on our inboxes.
- UELT is leading a dedicated programme to support online learning and Occupational Health and Learning & Organisational Development are developing additional support for managers to help their teams adapt to remote working.
- IS are looking into the feasibility of a centralised scheme to loan IT equipment
- The Staff.Kent homepage has been updated to help create a sense of community and better signpost ongoing support from Occupational Health, HR, Kent Sport and others
- The COPE Framework itself has been refreshed to include a new section on Remote Meeting Management & Practice, recommending a break in any virtual meeting lasting over an hour
- Our COVID-19 Mental Health Risk Assessment is being reviewed and discussed at the next JSNCC
- We are taking account of difficulties with home office set up and wellbeing issues in our policy on prioritising staff for returns to campus working and enabling collection of equipment wherever possible for those who need to remain at home.
Staff Survey 2019
Many of these findings reinforce what we found in last year’s wider Staff Survey, which showed that 80% consider Kent to be a good place to work but that there a number of areas where we need to do better. This included how we listen to and respond to staff, how we communicate about change and how our ways of working reflect our culture. A number of measures were introduced as a result of this feedback, including:
- Two rounds of ‘Town Hall’ briefing sessions for managers, designed to empower them to update and support their teams through the current period of change
- An ‘Ask Me Anything’ scheme to enable staff to anonymously ask questions and receive responses from their senior leader. Directors will be asked to put this in place quickly, with more information on the scheme available on our staff webpages
- Revised Organising for Success staff webpages, including consistent messaging across communications to reiterate the objectives of the project
- Wider promotion of additional support measures for staff such as the Employee Assistance Programme, including through the COPE Framework
Across both surveys, it is clear how much staff value opportunities to have their say in what we are doing as a University. This feedback will continue to shape our plans for next year, and in particular how we embed new approaches to engagement within new teams as they come together across the University.
Alison Ross-Green | Director of HR and Organisational Development