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Hybrid working at UCD

Guidelines for Trial Hybrid/Remote Working Arrangements

Last updated: 2 September 2022

Introduction

As we experience a return to a fuller campus life, there is a need for clarity as to how UCD intends to approach hybrid and flexible working practices. The intention is to take the best from our experiences of the COVID-19 restrictions, without impacting adversely the importance of a vibrant campus experience for students, faculty, and staff, whilst also maintaining and improving our standards of service.

The UMT has decided that, rather than develop a detailed guidance immediately, we should first introduce a test period within which colleges, schools and units can determine optimum working arrangements according to their needs.  It is essential that schools, units, teams and individuals get the opportunity to work-out, in partnership with their managers, what might work best on a ‘test basis’.

There are activities that will not lend well to being delivered remotely. Examples include in-class teaching and learning, lab-based activities, and some aspects of research and professional employees’ activities that require a physical interaction. This list is not exhaustive, but with the principle of considering the job activity and sustaining our vibrant campus experience, managers and employees can identify and agree on which activities might work from an off-campus location and which cannot.

The UMT had initially agreed to run the hybrid working trial through to the end of 2021 before putting in place a more permanent policy framework around hybrid working. However, as the easing of restrictions has happened more slowly than anticipated, the UMT has now agreed to extend the trial into 2022, with a review to be  conducted.  That review will include consultation with our employees in the period afterwards with a policy and guidance communications developed for UMT consideration and approval.  Implementation of that policy will commence in September 2022.

However, to provide a degree of certainty, we have agreed that the current trial arrangements will continue to apply through to the end of 2022.

All colleagues should have agreed their hybrid working arrangements with their line manager and commenced their agreed level of campus working. UCD meetings should begin to transition back to in-person unless there are compelling reasons to retain a virtual format.

The development of local models for hybrid working should be guided by the following principles

  • We are a campus-based organisation that is people-centric.
  • We will facilitate and encourage everyone to re-experience the benefits of social interaction on campus (collegiality, collaboration, serendipitous meetings etc.) that help our community to prosper.
  • We will focus on individual roles, work outcomes and how they are measured, and the times when work needs to be carried out.
  • As a guide, during the hybrid trial, we expect most people performing roles that have been delivered primarily remotely through the pandemic will spend at least half their working time on campus. The precise arrangements will depend on local needs and details of their role. Hybrid working is not a continuation of working from home.

This period offers an opportunity to trial different forms of hybrid working and local leadership and teams are encouraged to try different formats so that the various options can be fully assessed.

It is important to note that such decisions will be ‘test arrangements’, meaning that over the period of the hybrid working trial they will be subject to review, possible variation, with no commitment or guarantee of becoming the norm.

Such arrangements will be trialled to the end of 2022. This approach will allow schools/units and individuals the opportunity to plan and make necessary arrangements both on campus and elsewhere once there is an understanding of mutually agreed working arrangements for their role. Where individuals operate from a location other than on campus it is expected they will be available to attend on campus, if needed, with reasonable notice. This therefore precludes locations that require a long-distance commute, e.g., residing overseas.

Concurrently to the hybrid working trial, there will be ongoing consultation, so that the experiences of the test arrangements can help inform a more concrete set of policies, procedures and working arrangements that would be targeted for implementation in September 2022. All members of the UCD community will have the opportunity to contribute to this consultation.

Consultation to date has been built into supplementary guidance for this trial period as outlined below, including FAQs and guidance documentation. UCD will continue to adhere to prevailing public health advice as we learn together and test new working arrangements. We will continue to update these FAQs as further insights emerge.

Guidance Notes to Support Next Steps

Trial Parameters

  • As normal, flexibility will be required for on-site working hours to accommodate, for example, the early arrival of students, external faculty, customers, on-site collaboration and welcome of new colleagues etc.
  • Any weekend schedules will continue to be populated as normal.
  • Local leadership teams will agree on the frequency with which larger and more formal meetings (team, committee, sub-committee etc) will take place in-person, i.e., monthly, quarterly etc, where all participants are required to attend in-person. A schedule of these meetings should be set out in advance to give the individual team adequate time to plan to be on-site for meetings. Please note UCD will continue to adhere to prevailing public health advice which may impact upon in-person meetings.
  • In line with University requirements, trial arrangements will be subject to ongoing review and potential variation.

A short document has been prepared for managers to consider as they contemplate hybrid working in their team, this is available to view and download below.

PDF: Rethink Your Management Style for Hybrid Working

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Hybrid Remote Working

This  usually means that employees undertake some of their work at their contractual place of work (usually on campus but we know that some colleagues work off campus e.g., fieldwork) and some remotely (usually at home).  At its simplest, hybrid working means staff work a portion of their working week on campus and a portion of their working week remotely. The exact balance will vary depending on work activities, the service to be delivered and sustaining a vibrant campus presence.  Although some employees worked occasionally from home before the pandemic, this is a new way of working for many individuals and teams. 

Hybrid working is just one form of flexible working. In agreement with your local management, hybrid working may be undertaken at the same time as other forms of flexible working, such as part-time work and shorter working year.

No, all hybrid working arrangements during the trial period, until December 2021, will be agreed informally between managers and individuals/teams.  Arrangements do not constitute a change to an employee’s terms and conditions of employment. It is also noted that legislation is expected from Government in late 2021 and it will be incorporated into UCD’s formal hybrid/remote working policy as required. However, to optimise our learning through this trial period, arrangements will obviously be noted locally, and insights used to inform the development of UCD’s formal policy.

During the pandemic we have collated feedback that many of our employees who had moved to remote working out of necessity would like to retain some element of remote working in the future. We wish to identify and continue positive aspects of remote working that have been shown to positively impact the efficiency and effectiveness of our services and university experience. We feel that responding to this demand will help attract and retain talented employees, support employee engagement and wellbeing and help us achieve our aims around inclusion and environmental sustainability. All decisions about hybrid working will prioritise the successful delivery of the University’s mission and aim to balance the operational needs of the University with accommodating requests to work in a hybrid model.

All employees are encouraged to engage with their line managers throughout July and August in preparation for the start of Trimester One. Public health advice permitting, hybrid/flexible working arrangements will commence in September 2021.

We understand that hybrid/remote working is a new approach and there will be lots of questions from managers and colleagues. We are providing interim guidance through these FAQs to help you over the coming weeks and months. Our range of professional and personal development initiatives to support our community in transitioning to hybrid/remote working are also available and will be updated as further programmes come on stream. Ongoing support and guidance are available from your local leadership team, HR Partner and UMT member. We are taking an experimental approach and expect to learn a lot as we progress and will continue to add to our guidance, FAQs and future learning and development activities.

We are encouraging leaders and managers to proactively discuss hybrid working with their team and how it might work for individuals and the team as a whole. We know that many employees are keen to discuss hybrid working so it is important to begin the conversation as soon as possible, even if a requirement to return to campus is not yet needed. All Managers are encouraged to engage with their teams throughout July and August in preparation for the start of Trimester One.

Decisions about which employees return to work on campus will be made at a local leadership level considering the work activities to be delivered, the University’s needs and protecting the student experience.  If you are unsure when you need to be asking employees to return to work on campus you should speak with your relevant senior leadership team member for clarification. Whilst some teams may need to return to work on campus sooner given their role and in preparation for Trimester One, others may continue to work 100% remotely for the time being i.e., work activities and the service to be delivered will guide appropriate hybrid/remote working commencement whilst adhering to prevailing public health advice.

2. Making Decisions About Hybrid Working

Consider the activities of the role, the service to be delivered, safeguarding our vibrant campus experience, in-person collaboration and any team requirements that need to be taken account of e.g., a roster may need to be developed to ensure optimum service levels are maintained whilst optimising the capacity for hybrid/remote working for team members.

Managers must take all reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of their team members. Managers are advised to consult the University’s Return to Campus Guide for further details on Covid-19 workplace safety advice and read each section below which include links to required resources.

Generally, what pattern someone can work will depend on the activities of their role and how the team overall can deliver excellent service, be it either remotely or physically on campus. When making decisions, managers need to balance the operational needs of the University with individual preferences. For example, it is possible for you to determine that your team can work 50:50, but someone in your team may wish to work on campus full time which is also fine, subject to public health and UCD’s own COVID safety guidelines. It is appropriate for you to agree the working arrangements which you believe will work best for the University, individuals and the team. If after an initial trial period, you find this is not working you should discuss alternative arrangements.

Yes, you should, where this is relevant. For example, if someone has a disability then this should be considered as supporting homeworking may be a reasonable accommodation consistent with occupational health advice. When employees can work in their preferred way, this can support employee engagement and wellbeing, however this must be balanced at all times with the needs of the University, students and other colleagues. 

No, however where an employee or team wishes to engage in hybrid or flexible working, employees and managers should review which activities can be performed from an alternate location and which cannot in a fair and objective manner. Equally, our vibrant campus experience must be protected and sustained, allied with an on-campus presence to promote collaboration, team integration and social connectedness. You should base your decisions on what will work best for your team whilst still ensuring University operations can be delivered effectively. Before deciding, fully consider all the support and guidance available to you and discuss with your HR Partner.

No. Whilst you should discuss hybrid working with your team, you will still need to consider every request on its own merits, focusing on the activities of the role, services to be delivered, campus experience and in accordance with the guidance provided. Further, this is a trial period, and any local agreements are therefore only on a trial basis. Managers and team members should not make any corresponding arrangements that go beyond December 2021.

No, however you should consider all requests for hybrid working in a fair and objective manner. The pandemic was a very specific situation where large-scale remote working was necessary as many University facilities were impacted and most students were studying online. You should base your decisions on what will work best for your team whilst still ensuring University operations can be delivered effectively.

Hybrid/remote working is a distinct aspect of flexible working. If other flexible arrangements are requested e.g., move from full-time to part-time working hours, this needs to be discussed on its own merits and separate approval is required, in accordance with normal University procedures.

Yes. Some roles may require a colleague to be on campus more often at a specific time of year, and these needs in the annual work cycle can be considered.

This should form part of the hybrid working trial setup arrangements. It may not be possible to accommodate all preferences and the University needs must be met in the first instance. Every team will be different; there may be some circumstances where it is preferable for everyone to work remotely at the same time and to also come into the University workplace at the same time (however, in the short-term, consider any social distancing and work pod requirements which may be in place on campus which may limit the number of people in the same workspace at one time). There will be others that will need a rota-type approach where remote time is shared across the team with people working specific days remotely to ensure operational coverage on campus.

Not necessarily. This may suit some teams, but not others. We recommend that this is part of your own team discussions around hybrid working, and what will work for each team.

No one will be required to work remotely, and not everyone will have a suitable remote workspace to support hybrid working long-term. If employees want to work exclusively on campus, then they can continue to do so.

Generally, this would fall outside the scope of hybrid working as the point of hybrid arrangements is that employees still spend some of their time at their contractual place of work. 100% remote working can be requested but will be driven by activity subject to review, including the provision to attend on campus if required, with reasonable notice. Equally, our vibrant campus experience must be protected and sustained allied with on campus presence for collaboration, team integration and social connectedness.  Reasonable notice, excepting in emergency circumstances, would be at least 2 days.

It is assumed that your alternate working location is your home, and this is therefore within reasonable commuting distance from the campus. During the trial period anyone working from a remote location needs to be available to attend campus. Overseas remote working locations are not permitted.

No. We know there is great interest from employees to try hybrid working but it is a very different way of working for our University, which is why we are introducing it on an experimental basis until December 2021. Further the University is keen to explore more flexible working arrangements as we develop our thinking as part of Enabler 4. Before deciding, fully consider all the support and guidance available to you and discuss with your HR Partner. You can always try hybrid working on a trial basis and adjust this during the period of the trial.

Again, we are all operating under a short trial period, and this gives us the collective opportunity to test new arrangements to validate workability or otherwise.

If you do not agree that the activities can be carried out through hybrid working, you and your team member may wish to discuss this further with your HR Partner and Head of School/Unit. Decisions about hybrid working do not require formal approval and do not constitute a change to the terms and conditions of employment, and so local decisions will be carefully considered, and rationale provided.

Hopefully, this can be avoided if the hybrid working arrangements are properly established. However, as hybrid working is a new concept for many people, it may have unforeseen implications that need to be addressed on an ongoing basis. Where issues are identified these should be considered and discussed through proactive, open and solution focused dialogue, noting the needs of the University are paramount. This may mean that hybrid arrangements put in place need to be adjusted during the trial period, and this should be discussed locally with your team.

3. Workspaces

In the short-term we do not plan on making significant changes to our University estate or workplace design. This may change in the future as we learn more about new ways of working and the kind of workspaces we may need as part of hybrid working and the developing thinking associated with Enabler 4. An assessment will be made of the physical workspaces that your School/Unit occupy and what numbers of people can be safely accommodated in those spaces at one time, in line with prevailing public health advice.  This will inform how many people can work safely in these workspaces together and in what configuration.

There is no requirement to do so but you will probably want to discuss with your team how you all want to use your workspaces on campus. For example, you might want to reconfigure desk space or think about how you use meeting rooms/spaces. Please note that you will have to comply with COVID-19 safety measures and social distancing on campus until public health guidance changes. However, it is recommended that potentially costly office space changes are held off whilst we are in the trial period.

Whatever COVID-19 restrictions or policies which are in place at the time will apply, and these may change over the trial period.

Employees must confirm that they have a suitable remote working environment and can meet all the obligations of their role. During the trial period we will continue to operate under the arrangements currently in place for remote working during COVID. We will learn through the trial period and impending legislation what is required for our new ‘steady state’ post COVID. 

During the trial period we are continuing to operate as we have through COVID.  Any future adjustments will be made in line with impending legislation and Government policy.

4. Communication & Meetings

UCD’s core meeting hours policy continues to apply. Generally, hybrid working is about where you work rather than when you work – although employees often utilise a mixture of both time and location flexibility. We recommend that discussions about core hours, i.e. agreeing a part of the day when all team members will be working, whether on campus or remotely, should form part of each team’s review of how hybrid working can work for them. For example, it may support communications to have times that everyone is working at the same time.

Generally speaking, larger group or committee meetings should be scheduled upfront as far as possible to ensure clarity of expectations, however ongoing flexibility is required to accommodate emergent needs. The trial period can be used to test varying approaches to meetings, and this will generate insights to help us all understand better what works.

You need to consider COVID-19 safety measures and social distancing on campus. Once safety measures are satisfied, it will be possible for you to ask your whole team to work on campus at the same time, provided reasonable notice is given.

Yes. The trial period is about getting the University ready for a new ‘steady state’ post COVID. All employees are expected to engage fully when working remotely and this includes keeping cameras on for Zoom work meetings and activities.

5. Equipment

During this trial period current arrangements apply. Employees will be expected to use, where possible, existing IT such as laptops, monitors, keyboards & mouse devices and desk chairs that they have been using throughout the pandemic. Any additional requests should be discussed with your line manager. We are expecting legislation and Government policy in the latter period of the year, which will provide further guidance on the supports to be provided.

Generally, at this time, the University can provide equipment for the primary or most appropriate work location. If equipment cannot be easily transported the role may not therefore be suitable for hybrid working.

6. Caring Responsibilities

As when working on campus, employees should not be undertaking caring responsibilities whilst working remotely and must have adequate caring arrangements in place. Employees are responsible for assessing their own caring responsibility needs and ensuring that they can fully undertake their duties. The suitability for undertaking hybrid working is determined by the activities of the role and not an individual’s personal circumstances.

7. Managing Hybrid Teams

This should be addressed in the usual way and in accordance with University policies and procedures.

At this time, whilst hybrid working is new to us and we are establishing whether it will be successful over the longer term, we are not proposing to change terms and conditions of employment.  Employees will continue to be based contractually at the University campus. 

Yes. Decisions on hybrid working should be made based on the activities of the role, protecting the campus experience and team connectivity that the employee experiences, and not their grade or seniority.   

8. Discussing Hybrid Working with Your Manager

Not necessarily. Any request for hybrid working will be considered based on the activities and service to be delivered.  

The pandemic was a very specific situation where large parts of the campus were closed, and most students were studying online. We can learn from this time about what has worked well or what has not, and we encourage managers when making decisions about hybrid working to consider how successful remote working has been for the role. However, the decision for trimester one should focus on what is needed in a post pandemic state and ensuring the needs of the University are met successfully.   

Yes. This can be agreed on a local basis.

Yes, as capacity to work remotely is driven by the activities of the role and services to be delivered which can vary significantly.

In the short term, we do not plan on making significant changes to our estate or office design. This may change in the future as we learn more about new ways of working. Employees who want to work on campus will still be able to do so.  Some areas of the University that already work flexibly, including some remote working, have hot desk type arrangements in place although there are no immediate plans to roll these out further on a campus-wide basis.   

Flexitime will continue to be treated in accordance with relevant Government directives. Currently, the normal operation of flexitime is temporarily suspended.

9. Working in a Hybrid Team

This will be determined in line with operational needs. We cannot guarantee that anyone will be able to work remotely for specific days of the week. 

When considering trailing hybrid arrangements you should also consider how best to support the integration and welcome of new colleagues to their role and the broader team, including some capacity for face-to-face meetings and social interaction.

There are a range of LinkedIn Learning courses available to managers and employees to in preparation for the Hybrid environment:

A short document has been prepared for managers to consider as they contemplate hybrid working in their team, this is available to view and download below:

Rethink Your Management Style for Hybrid Working 

UCD Human Resources

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