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How the USM community adapted to remote working

When we were planning the continued Rollout of the Unified Support Model to Schools, we (like everyone else) had no idea that we would need to adapt ourselves, our plans and the USM to ‘the new normal’.              

Our immediate reaction to the move to at-distance was to focus on supporting those teams and offices where the USM was already embedded and in operation. We were guided by a principle of ensuring a unified experience for students through a unified approach from staff. Our planned Rollout to Schools was on hold while everyone adjusted, but we were still eager to connect to the School layer and support them and the service they provide students.

As a first step we focused on ensuring that the University had a clear idea of where students were looking for help and why. We looked to the systems of the USM, the continued use of UniShare and Contact Forms to capture students questions and needs as they arose. As well as providing staff a fuller picture of the student’s journey, we have continued to use the information gathered to keep a clear focus on the impact of this challenging situation on students.

Secondly, to ensure consistency and coherence, we began to work to connect staff in student-facing roles in College/School offices and Registry. When all is “normal”, communication between College, School Offices and other student support areas is crucial to the effective running of the University. At a time when normal lines of communication are challenged, supporting the flow of consistent, timely and accurate information is paramount to limiting the impact of changes on both students and staff. 

We’ve taken two main approaches to establishing and supporting communication flow. The first was to set up a Microsoft Team as a resource to share information. This online team acts as a forum where information can be posted, questions can be asked and connections can be made between staff working in the College/School Offices and Registry. You can read more about how we use Teams to support service delivery in a piece we contributed to UCD Agile’s Work Smarter Together April newsletter. 

The second approach is establishing the “Remote Working Group”. We brought this group together after the first two weeks of the University’s move to at-distance. This group is focused on ‘doing the doing’ at a distance, where we support staff to coherently adjust processes that would otherwise be managed very differently.

Our initial goal for this group was to bring people together to -

  1. Share their approaches and alternatives they found helpful in carrying out their roles at distance
  2. Identify areas where approaches and alternatives had yet to be discovered and help people come together to find them.

We have an article in May’s Work Smarter Together Newsletter if you would like to learn more about the group, how it began and what we have done so far. 

This is a challenging time for everyone and our focus as the USM Project Team is on how we can use the connections, approaches, systems, and tools developed as part of the Unified Support Model to best support those supporting students.

Never ones to shy away from a cliché, we firmly believe that there is an opportunity lying in the middle of this crisis. We’ve seen staff come together in new ways, through new forums to discuss new ways of doing things that could fundamentally change how things work. In an otherwise challenging time it is always exciting and often rewarding to be a part of this community.

USM Showcase from WST Summer School 2022

The Unified Support Model had been active for two years leading up to the WST Summer School in 2022. For this showcase we decided to take a step back to acknowledge the progress we made, the relationships and connections we formed with the USM community, and to celebrate some successes under the challenges of working in a hybrid world.

Sessions were a mix of remote, in person and on campus with the return of in person training and the continuation of remote training options.

We found the USM Showcase of Working Smarter Together as a Hybrid Team to be a great opportunity to look back at how far we have come with the project and the relationships we have formed and maintained with teams across campus in this changing landscape. 

We would like to thank all the Agile Team for hosting us as part of the Summer School. Thank you also for joining us for this year’s UCD Agile Work Smarter Together Summer School 2022. 

We hope you found our workshops beneficial.  

Here are the links to the outputs from each session below: 

  • Writing the Book on Hybrid Ways of Working 

The top five solutions we identified from our session included: 

  1. Use tools like Google Calendar to define working hours
    1. In Google Calendar settings set up working hours for yourself
    2. Consider whether to do this as a wider team (make it part of the culture)
  2. Move away from clock watching - focus on outputs 
    1. Start to think about how much time I/we as a team  expect certain tasks to take
    2. Consider what tools we might use that enable focus on output 
  3. Make conversations about “clocking off” the norm - Check in on colleagues: 
    1. Start asking colleagues "Did you finish at 5 yesterday?"
    2. Do this peer to peer
  4. Set reminders for e.g., lunch breaks or going 'home' time

We have kept a record of the Mural for the session open for participants to revisit their ideas, consider the information gathered and to share in the future with colleagues. 

We have attached a pdf of the Mural activities for your reference here. 

  • Feel the Fear and Mural Anyway 

During the session we aimed to:

  • To learn the basics of Mural
  • To gain confidence in using a new tool
  • To learn some new skills that can be applied in other sessions

We hope you gained some confidence in the usage of this tool as both potential participants and facilitators of future workshops.  

As mentioned, we have kept a Mural sandbox for participants of the session open for them to  become more comfortable with using and to demonstrate & share with your colleagues. 

We have attached a pdf of the Mural activities for your reference here. 

  • USM- Working Smarter Together as a Hybrid Team 

During the session we covered:

  • The tools & techniques we use for Communication e.g. Google suite & Trello for team updates and  email for external communications.
  • How we do Coordination, using Trello for tracking & planning, along with Google Drive for file storage & Google Calendar for meetings and room bookings.
  • The significance of Creativity and our approach of “freedom to fail”  in how we explore different ways of working, with a focus on innovation e.g., Mural for brainstorming & collaborative thinking, use of the Agile team space for ideation & experimentation.
  • How forging a Connection within the team has required a step  beyond formal meetings into activities e.g. lunches, coffees and team check ins using our weekly health checker.
  • The  importance of Culture in solidifying our team through celebrating success and the development of our Team Charter.

This was all framed with Mentimeter questions incorporating your feedback linked to the 5 C’s for managing hybrid working within your teams.  

We have attached the link to the mentioned Harvard Business Review article linked ‘5 Challenges of Hybrid Work -and How to Overcome Them’ used to guide the team’s structuring of the session.

  • USM- Excel Problem Solvers Group- relaunch of CoP 

During the session we:

  • Provided some context to the group
  • Watched a demo of Power query and advanced Excel functionality
  • Listened to the story, from Excel problem to solution
  • Discussed the value that this group will bring to the UCD community

You will also find attached a document with information about the group which you can show to your manager if they would like to learn more. This document also contains a link to a connector form which can be used to submit problems to the group, links to video resources and a link to the associated Google Currents community.

Excel Problem Solvers Group_18July22.pdf

If you have further queries about our approach to working smarter as a hybrid team, require training or wish to join the Excel Problem Solver Group, please feel free to send on any queries to the USM Team on usm@ucd.ie