First, a thank you. I know that the last few weeks have been a particularly difficult period. This time of year has always been busy, as we welcome students back and start a new academic year, but with COVID still in circulation, along with other general sickness, I know that workload pressures have been high. So I wanted to acknowledge that, and say thank you to all for continuing to adjust to these pressures and ensuring we continue to run an outstanding institution.
Update on New Ways of Working
In July we released the New Ways of Working framework for all professional services staff. Once it was released this marked the end of Phase 1 of the project: namely, developing and piloting a robust framework that is flexible enough to be used by a wide range of staff, easy to navigate, and has a range of supporting materials to aid staff in putting flexible working practices into place.
Timed to coincide with the easing of the lockdown at the start of the summer, the framework has now been available for four months, during which time we have seen how different teams and departments across the University are using the framework to test what can work, with many trial arrangements and lots of learning taking place.
This is fantastic to see, as this is what we hoped the framework would do when it was created – enable and support structured discussions about the optimal mix of remote and on-site working so that professional services staff can balance the need to continue to fully support our academic and research mission with their individual and team preferences.
Obviously, we want to ensure that such learning does not go to waste. As a result, we will soon begin Phase 2 of the New Ways of Working project. From late November/early December we plan to increase our dialogue with departments about how they are using the framework, noting the successes and challenges they have faced and then adapting the framework as required. So please look out for further communication around that time – and until then you can access the New Ways of Working website to learn more about the framework.
HR priorities for the year ahead
In addition, as part of the University’s Integrated People Plan – which takes the ‘people commitments’ and ‘people priorities’ from the University’s Strategic Plan, and feedback from the staff survey earlier this year – we have a clearly agreed set of HR priorities for the year ahead. The highest-profile issues are:
Wellbeing: this is one of the main priorities as we emerge from the pandemic. We have made good progress in developing our understanding of what contributes to staff wellbeing and satisfaction at Oxford and how that matches our current provision.
The pandemic has thrown into stark focus the need to ensure we have the right support for staff – that managers have the right training and tools to ensure that staff are able to balance workloads and their personal life. The work established under the Wellbeing Programme Board will be key to taking this on, and we hope to share further details with you in due course, so please keep an eye on any updates from this group. You can also visit our wellbeing pages to see the current provision.
Inclusive recruitment: we are developing a comprehensive strategy for inclusive recruitment at all levels, and across all job roles. This builds on our previous work in this area.
Development and training: a re-shaping of the People and Organisational Development (POD) team is almost complete, with the aim to optimise support for all staff. The focus is on professional services staff development, leadership development and research staff development.
Health and Safety Review: following recommendations to Council, we will support the Health & Safety teams to make changes to the safety management system in order to improve effectiveness, compliance and the safety culture at the University.
Pensions: we will continue to support and manage the implications of the current valuation of the USS pension.
Employer-Justified Retirement Age (EJRA): we will support and guide the University through the ten-year review of the EJRA.
We know that Oxford is only as strong as its people. As we emerge from the pandemic, I’m looking forward to the new and innovative ways the HR community can support you, our staff.