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COVID-19 FAQ: Guidance for Managers

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Overview: managing staff through the phased return to campus

Planning for the return of your team/staff to campus

Can colleagues continue to work from home if they want to?

How do I decide who should return to work on campus?

How should I respond to concerns about returning to work or undertaking activities due to personal vulnerability or risk to other people?

Managing staff returning to face to face teaching

What should I do before furloughed colleagues return to work?

How can I support an employee with childcare concerns?

How do I respond to concerns about public transport?

How do I manage colleagues who are generally reluctant to return?

What measures will be taken if an employee does not follow social distancing measures or other safety requirements?

What should I do if I notice that a member of my team is displaying potential COVID-19 symptoms?

How do I manage a team that is split between home and campus?

Ho should I ask colleagues to work at a different desk or office on campus?

What should be considered to help employees adjust to working in a shared environment?

How should I respond if someone requests facilities or equipment to work from home?

How do I manage people when I am asking them to do something different and they are unwilling?

What happens if someone has difficulty with suggested arrangements to cover the social distancing requirements?

How can I support pregnant colleagues?

What about those who need to travel?

What support is available to colleagues with financial concerns?

Useful further information

Managing staff through the phased return to campus 

As we move through the University roadmap for the phased return, it continues to be vital to support colleagues fairly, effectively and compassionately to best enable the delivery of teaching, research activity and services back on our campuses. This page provides some guidance for line managers to help with conversations and questions which may be raised in relation to anxieties staff may have about returning to work and to help line managers assess whether certain staff may have a higher level of vulnerability/risk from returning to work on campus and how to go about getting professional, specialist advice to help with decision making.

Health and Safety Services/H&S Coordinators across the University are ensuring that COVID19 risk reduction measures ("social distancing") are in place to prepare buildings and workspaces ahead of staff (and students) returning to work and study campus. The processes being followed are outlined in the COVID19 Risk Reductions Measures (social distancing) document.

Health and Safety Services have also prepared an organisational re-induction to campus e-learning presentation (available via UoRLearn) to remind staff about what COVID19 is and what steps individuals should take when they return to work on campus to keep themselves and others safe. It also summarises the measures being introduced on campus to ensure the risk of catching and/or transmitting the virus is minimised, in accordance with the current government advice on risk reduction. 

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Planning for the return of your team/staff to campus

It is important for line managers to continue to stay in contact with the colleagues they manage, both individually and as a team, and including those on furlough leave.  

Colleagues will have had many different experiences of the COVID-19 crisis and of the lockdown. Feedback from colleagues has shown that regular contact with line managers and good sharing of information relevant to their team or School/Function has had a positive impact on how colleagues have experienced work during the lockdown arrangements and ongoing through the phased return.

Have a discussion with your team members as part of the planning for a phased return. It may be useful in some teams to do this together but to also give individuals the opportunity to speak to you on a one-to-one basis as well.

  • Recognise the things that have gone well during the lockdown, such as the effectiveness of remote working or the team connections which have developed
  • Try to understand their perception of the risks they may face
  • Understand their individual circumstances and any personal stressors they may be trying to manage or may have experienced during the past few months and which may be ongoing
  • Discuss the terms of their return to campus e.g. is it a part time return to working on campus or full time (based on their normal hours of work)
  • Explain why it is important that they return to campus at this time. Is it to deliver face to face teaching or because their role now requires them to support colleagues and/or students on campus?
  • Discuss any opportunities that may have arisen during the COVID-19 restrictions such as continued flexibility in relation to working hours/times and/or the opportunity to continue flexible work from home where appropriate
  • Bear in mind that being worried is normal and anxiety is a normal life experience. Try not to focus on phrases such as "Don't worry" or "Don't be anxious" as they can increase anxieties
  • Check that your team members been made aware of the information about the social distancing and other measures that have been put in place on campus? (this information will be available via your local H&S Coordinator)
  • Ensure that you have shared information about the phased return to work plans for your School/Function and buildings that your staff normally occupy and use?

Think about using the REACT model to structure your discussions;

  • Recognise
  • Engage
  • Actively listen
  • Check
  • Talk about the plan of return you have

Some staff may be able to return to their role on campus very easily, others may need a phased return to their full role, or want to discuss new working arrangements, especially if their domestic arrangements have been disrupted. Heads of School/Function will need to work with their staff to consider all of these issues and balance the need to return to working on campus against the potential options for longer term working at home.

It is important to listen to colleagues' concerns and any personal circumstances they might have and to address and accommodate these where possible, being mindful at all times of the University's over-arching health, safety and operational business requirements.

Personal circumstances may include;

  • Concerns about returning to work and/or performing particular work activities due to underlying health reasons or other factors which may make them more vulnerable or at a higher risk if they get the COVID19 virus
  • Concerns about returning to work and/or performing particular work activities if they are "shielding" a family member or other person who is deemed to be vulnerable or at high risk if they get the COVID19 virus
  • Concerns about managing existing or new childcare and/or other caring responsibilities

Give team members the opportunity to ask any questions that are concerning them and talk through their concerns with them, try to reach a consensus about what is the right return to campus arrangements for them and how this will work for the rest of the team. Remember, if there were issues of concern prior to "lockdown" and the COVID-19 restrictions these are unlikely to have disappeared and may still need to be addressed.

This document aims to address some key questions and scenarios which you may encounter.

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Can colleagues continue to work from home if they want to?

Government advice is now changing and employers are bringing their staff back into the workplace.  More and more activities are opening up on campus and colleagues return needs to be managed to take account of buildings re-opening, of the social distancing measures being put into place which will reduce the capacity in many offices / labs. Some colleagues may have a strong wish to return to campus as soon as possible and others may be feeling more anxious about returning.  Listening to colleagues to understand their circumstances and being as accommodating as possible is encouraged, but ultimately decisions will be determined in light of the over-arching safety requirements and reasonable operational needs.

Please also bear in mind that ongoing working from home can be a cause of isolation and anxiety for some, impacting on mental health. Where any colleague appears to be struggling with ongoing working from home, notably if concerns focus on their mental health but also where there may be physical health concerns, it may be helpful to refer to Occupational Health for further support and advice.

Ensuring colleagues are aware of the plans for their return and that of their team with as much notice as possible will give time for people to adjust to the requirements.

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How do I decide who should return to work on campus?

Our phased return will prioritise those business-critical requirements that have not been able to be undertaken from home. Managing the number of colleagues on site to maintain a safe working environment will be critical.  Buildings are now re-opening as statutory maintenance and testing is completed.

Managers will need to give careful consideration to the activities that absolutely require a presence on site, either full, part-time or ad hoc. Colleagues' personal circumstances should be reasonably considered but must be reconciled with over-arching safety arrangements and reasonable operational needs.

Where social distancing means that only some colleagues can attend the University at any given time, discussing the options available with relevant team members is advised. Specific skill sets, expertise and risk issues are all objective criteria that can be applied in reaching decisions, as is the need to split a team into smaller ‘bubbles'.

Initially it is recommended that managers focus on the following groups of staff to prioritise return;

  • Those where OH referral supports an early return to working on campus;
  • Those who cannot work at home at all and need to come back to work on campus as soon as possible
  • Those who can work at home but with some reduced productivity and want to come back.

How should I respond where a member of staff raises concerns about returning to work and/or undertaking particular activities due to their own vulnerability or risk of transmission to vulnerable family members?

If a colleague has very specific needs such as a disability (which may involve underlying health conditions or access issues), or may consider themselves to be vulnerable, consideration should be given to any additional risk factors that may need to be taken into account and mitigated. This may require an individual risk assessment which can be done with the support of HR and Occupational Health.

Line managers should listen to any concerns raised and in consultation with the individual, and with advice from their HR Partner/HR Advisor, undertake a short assessment of the potential risks for particular colleagues using the tools below:

Risk Assessment Tool - 1 (For staff who identify they may be vulnerable due to their own underlying health conditions or where they have particular protected characteristics which may mean they are more vulnerable, for example ethnicity, age, gender).

This has been modified by Occupational Health Services from existing tools that are in circulation in the wider UK Occupational Health Professional community. A colour-coded version of this table is available to download (Word, 16 KB).

Description

Level of risk

Risk Mitigation that the employer is advised to put in place.

Those under 70, who may have

Underlying health conditions but do not have conditions defined in the government guidance that would make them more vulnerable if they were to contract COVID-19

 

Standard (GREEN)

 

 

 

Social distancing and hygiene measures should be applied

 

Workplace controls as decided following risk assessment

 

Occupational Health Referral not required

 

 

 

Those considered to be more vulnerable to serious illness if were to get COVID-19.

 

May be over 70 or those under 70 who may have underlying health conditions that would make them more vulnerable to becoming unwell.

 

Those who may be concerned about a family member's health and feel returning to work could put them at risk.

Increased risk (YELLOW)

 

 

Social Distancing and hygiene measures will need to be applied

 

Discuss any concerns with the individual and review any other measures that may need to be considered consider using risk assessment tool 2 (see below)

 

If concerned consider making an Occupational Health referral so risk factors can be considered

 

Those who are viewed to be vulnerable to risk of becoming very unwell if they were to get COVID-19. They are likely to seriously affected by one if the conditions that the Government has advised makes a person more vulnerable.(including pregnancy)

 

High risk (AMBER)

 

 

 

Social Distancing will need to be applied

 

Review any other measures that may need to be considered and carry out individual risk assessment

 

Referral to Occupational Health is recommended as other risk factors can be considered including ethnicity, age and gender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those who are viewed to be extremely vulnerable to the risk of becoming very unwell if they were to get COVID-19.

They are likely to have been advised to shield and may have received a letter or been speaking to their Consultant/GP

 

 

 

 

Very high risk

 

 

 

 

Individual who has been shielding at home and will need to continue to exercise caution as they remain vulnerable.

Referral to Occupational Health is recommended as other risk factors can be considered including ethnicity, age and gender


Risk Assessment - Tool 2 (Where staff have been identified as having an increased risk - YELLOW - via Risk Assessment Tool 1)

This tool helps you to evaluate the residual risk of COVID-19 transmission through work activities.

This has been modified by Occupational Health Services from existing tools that are in circulation in the wider UK Occupational Health Professional community. A Word version of this table is available to download (Word, 16 KB).

Framework for workplace COVID-19 risk

Based on risk after control measures are implemented (Please also refer to the document COVID19 Risk Reduction measures ("social distancing") produced by Health and Safety Services)

Risk ID

 

1

Risk factors

 

Is the role or work activity public /student facing?

 

Low 

Standard

Medium

High

 

 

 

 

2

Ability to maintain social distancing at work >2m

 

 

 

 

 

3

Consider the number of different people sharing the workplace

 

 

 

 

4

Mode of travel to and from work

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

Workplace entry and exit

routes

 

 

 

 

6

 

Availability and use of PPE

 

 

 

 

7

Ability to maintain hand hygiene

 

 

 

 

8

Workplace environment cleanliness control

 

 

 

 

9

Ability to avoid symptomatic people

 

 

 

 


If you have team members on furlough leave and you do not have enough work for everyone to go back full-time immediately, you may want to consider enabling staff who are vulnerable to be the last team members to return to work. 

Another option you can consider is to identify work that can be done remotely to enable them to remain working remotely rather than coming back onto site at the University. If this is outside of the work they could usually be asked to undertake, you should seek their agreement to this change.

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Managing staff returning to face to face teaching

In relation to face to face teaching, Heads of Department (or those responsible for the planning and allocation of teaching within the School) should set out the requirements for face to face teaching for the Autumn term to all relevant staff so they have a clear understanding of what will be required of them. Line managers should invite staff to raise any particular concerns they may have with undertaking the required teaching so these can be considered. 

Where medical advice from Occupational Health is that staff should not be attending campus to teach face to face, the Head of School should try to see if someone else is able to do the required face to face teaching. If not, then the Head of School, in consultation and agreement with the relevant Teaching and Learning Dean may approve that the module can be run as "online only" for the Autumn term. Where this is agreed, the Head of School must then notify the Timetabling team of this decision and which modules are to be run as “online only” so they can update systems to ensure correct information is available to the students undertaking the particular module(s) and so they can free up the teaching space for others to use if needed.

Where agreements are made that staff are not required, due to medical advice from Occupational Health, to attend campus in order to work, this will be kept under regular review by the line manager in case circumstances change which mean that staff are then able to resume working on campus and/or undertaking face to face teaching.

Line managers can also consider approving your employee taking paid annual leave and/or agreeing with them a period of unpaid leave if this is operationally viable and may help with managing the situation.

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Some of my team members have been on furlough leave, what should I do before they return to work? 

Keep in touch with any team members who are on furlough leave and provide them with the relevant information they will need to return to work either on campus or remotely. Ensure they are clear about the arrangements for when the furlough period ends, when they are expected to return to work and whether that will be on campus,  working from home or a combination of the two.

Ensure they are also aware of key things that have happened within their team, School or Function and the wider University, including any Health and Safety requirements they need to be aware of for social distancing and use of buildings, equipment and other materials for when they return.

During any contact with furloughed colleagues there should be no discussion about their work, the contact should be focused on key updates and developments.

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How can I support an employee whose children are not in school and/or their normal childcare arrangements are not available?   

We recognise that the COVID-19 situation continues to provide challenges for some parents particularly as arrangements a colleague may normally have for childcare during the summer school holidays, such as with grandparents or holiday programmes, may not be possible this year.  Some after school arrangements for September may also not be running this year.

In anticipation of this and potential localised lockdown measures which may be brought into force at short notice, staff with childcare responsibilities should be thinking about and planning how they will manage such a scenario.

For now, you should continue to support colleagues as much as possible during these exceptional times, accepting that there will need for flexibility in how a role is performed and that it may not be possible for some colleagues to work to full capacity.

However, if colleagues cannot work at all because they are caring for children they can use annual leave or request some temporary flexibility in their working hours or time. They can also request statutory Parental Leave (to care for a child under 18 years old) if they need more time than annual leave would allow.  

Managers can explore with colleagues other options such as:

  • Are they sharing the day-today childcare with anotherparent or person they are living with or in a social "bubble" and could the working hours be worked around each other's commitments?
  • Can your team member adjust their working hours to different days of the week?Including possibly some time at the weekend or in the evenings (where this does not impact others or the delivery of the service) instead of during the week if another person is able to look after their children at the weekend?
  • Could theyconsider temporarily reducing their hours of work to better balance work and looking after their children?

It is now possible under the Job Retention Scheme for people who have been in furlough full time to take part-time furlough leave. If you have team members on furlough leave and you do not have enough work for everyone to go back full-time immediately or team members having care responsibilities, you may want to consider whether part time furlough leave is a helpful option.

Please seek advice from your HR Advisor or HR Partner.

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My team member says they can't return to campus because they travel to work on public transport. What can I do? 

You should check with your team member about the other options for travel to campus and what may be preventing them from using other forms of transport. Also explore a mix of working from home and on campus if that is feasible for their role and reduces the need for travel.  Discuss with them whether there are any factors which increase their risk (e.g. ethnicity).  You could also discuss a change to working days/hours, for instance to travel at quieter times of the day. If it needs to be a temporary change, regularly review the arrangement as the public transport provision may change frequently too.

However, if it is necessary for your team member to work on campus and there are no adjustments which have been identified via Occupational Health, then they will need to return to campus when required.

Colleagues should be advised to take into account government requirements and guidance when travelling on public transport, such as using a face covering and distancing as far as they are able to.

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One of my team members does not have any health or other vulnerabilities but is reluctant to return to working on campus. How should I manage this?

It is important to understand their anxieties and concerns, but this must also be reconciled with legitimate operational requirements. If it is possible for them to continue to work from home at the moment then they could do so.

If they are required to work on campus then providing reassurance about the arrangements on campus will be key. Talk to your team member to try to understand the circumstances and their concerns. It may be that they are not fully aware of the measures that have been put in place on campus, or in their workspace to accommodate social distancing. It may be helpful to arrange to visit campus just before their return to help to break down the barriers to returning.  Once you have explained what is in place, they may feel more comfortable about returning to campus.

Employers cannot force employees to return to work if it is unsafe, but if their work requires them to return to campus and you can show that all reasonable arrangements have been put in place and the work cannot be done from home, the employee cannot unreasonably refuse. So you will need to be clear about the specific arrangements and that you will expect them to return and when. If further advice is needed, please speak to your HR Partner.

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What measures will be taken if an employee does not follow social distancing measures or other safety requirements?

All colleagues have a responsibility for their own and others welfare to follow the national guidance on social distancing.  We have produced a Code of Conduct (Word, 795 KB) which applies to all staff and sets out the standards of behaviour and respect we expect of all colleagues. 

If concerns have been raised to you, then it is important to speak to the relevant staff in the first instance.  Have a conversation to check they understand the social distancing requirements and how this is applied in the University and local setting.

If you have not already done so, run through the measures that have been set up to maintain social distancing in the workspace and building they are working in. Check if there are any areas they are not sure about. Discuss any concerns they have about the social distancing or other issues that may have affected their understanding of the new ways of working.

If a colleague is wilfully disregarding the social distancing or other safety guidance and in doing so, may be putting other colleagues or students at risk, then formal disciplinary action may be appropriate. Please contact your HR Advisor or HR Partner for advice as required.

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What should I do if I notice that a member of my team is displaying what might be COVID19 symptoms?

You should take steps to ensure staff are adhering to the advice outlined in the current government guidelines.

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How do I manage a team that is split between home and campus?

As we transition back to operating the campus, you may have teams which are split between working on and off site. It is important that colleagues across the team continue to feel connected with each other and with the work of your School / Function. Think about how important it is for anyone in the team to maintain traditional ‘office hours' and try to develop a culture where the working hours of those working from home are easily understood by their manager and colleagues.

Continue as far as possible to use Teams for meetings to include those continuing to work remotely, and to assist with ongoing social distancing for those on campus.

Additional information is available to support managers to manage staff remotely - please see "Leading a Remote team" online course available via UoRLearn.

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What approach can I take to ask employees to work at a different desk or office on campus?

For safety and social distancing reasons, there will need to be some reasonable changes to the workplace. This may mean that colleagues need to work at a different desk, in a different building or on a different campus from normal. Staff should be made aware of any changes to their work location on campus prior to their return to work and provided with any relevant information relating to the change.  It is reasonable for colleagues to be asked to work at a different campus at this time but allow colleagues a chance to discuss any queries they may have.

If employees have reasonable objections to the workspace allocated on return, managers can try to accommodate other reasonable suggestions. It may not be possible to accommodate all requests if buildings remain closed or do not enable social distancing, or where the location of the individual will result in them being unable to deliver the requirements of the role. .  If you have any ongoing issues or concerns please seek advice from your HR Advisor or HR Partner.

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What things need to be considered to help employees adjust to working in a shared environment with their colleagues? 

Returning to what may feel like a very different environment will require a level of adjustment and this will impact people in different ways. The first thing to remember is to be considerate to each other and understand that everyone will have varying concerns that may or may not be shared by others. Colleagues must understand that some people will want to work in ways that may seem new and different to others and that in these circumstances these new ways of working may be wholly reasonable. 

All colleagues should be reminded of the need to abide by the social distancing guidance and any local health and safety guidance for their place of work.

When using desks and equipment, where possible, colleagues should use only their own workstation and equipment. If employees need to use other workspaces, where possible they should take with them their own keyboard, mouse, telephone/headset and other portable equipment including pens and other stationery. Where this is not possible then equipment must be thoroughly wiped down before use and all health and safety guidelines must be adhered to. 

All colleagues must ensure that they take care in personal hygiene and wash hands regularly and thoroughly.

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How should I respond if an employee requests facilities or equipment to work from home? 

Where possible, colleagues who are working from home for short periods should continue to adapt to the circumstances and use the equipment available to them. There is considerable guidance available on workstation set up and taking breaks. The Campus Services Request form should be completed as any part of a request (University log in required).

In some circumstances we recognise that there may be health conditions or other reasons why the home workstation is not suitable for extended working from home. In these circumstances it may be helpful to refer your team member to Occupational Health who may be able to make other recommendations. If necessary it may mean that some colleagues will need to return sooner to the campus workspace or to have equipment made available to them at home, but the Occupational Health referral will help to determine this. 

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How do I manage people when I am asking them to do something different and they are unwilling? 

It is not unreasonable to ask colleagues to do different duties as long as these are within the scope of their job and their skills and abilities. This year in particular, we may require people to focus on different aspects of their role or to take on additional or different tasks; these should all be reasonable requests.

You may find it helpful to take colleagues through why you have asked them to do something different, understanding the reason for a request is usually the best way for people to feel better about being asked. If you have ongoing concerns please contact your HR Advisor or HR Partner for advice as required.

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What happens if an employee has difficulty with suggested arrangements to cover the social distancing requirements, such as staggered start and finish hours?  

Arrange to speak to them to better understand what the issues are and consider what different options may be available that work for both parties. It may be that suggestions impact on them in ways you have not considered and some other options may work better for them, including taking paid annual leave, unpaid parental leave, unpaid leave, or different flexible working arrangements such as a temporary reduction in hours of work. 

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What do I need to consider in terms of supporting a return to work on campus if a member of staff is pregnant?

Where  a member of staff has disclosed they are pregnant, you should undertake a New and Expectant Mothers Risk Assessment and should there be concerns relating to a return to work on campus, or to continuing to work from home, it is recommended that a referral to Occupational Health is completed for further advice and guidance.

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What about staff who need to travel to or visit external partners or other Institutions or organisations? 

Where possible, colleagues are reminded to continue to work remotely and conduct meetings using Teams. If travel to other sites or organisations is required, including travel to a partner office within the UK or abroad, , this should be covered by a risk assessment and it may be helpful to understand what measures have been taken by the external company.  

There are full details available on the COVID-19 FAQs under Travel and Insurance.  Check with the employee that they understand the risk assessment and are comfortable with the arrangements provided to carry out their visit.  

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What other support is available to colleagues with, for example, financial concerns?  

You can encourage them to contact the Employee Assistance Programme - which is an independent, free, confidential support and counselling service which is run by CIC and is called Confidential Care.  Confidential Care gives employees a place to turn to for support any time of day or night, 365 days a year. Support is available for whatever issues employees might be facing including financial problems, work stress, depression, marriage and relationship issues, legal concerns, coping with change, parenting issues, health issues and much more.

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Useful further information:

Safety Notice No 76 - COVID19 Risk Reduction Measures (Social Distancing")

Safety Notice No 78 - Planning for COVID19 Social Distancing within teaching, learning and assessment activities in Autumn Term 2020

Managing Stress and Anxiety - returning to work after lockdown

Returning to work may feel like a source of stress for some individuals and having a discussion about the 6 key areas of work design that are known stressors can be helpful and using the Talking Tool Kit.

Causes of concern:

Addressing work stressors

 

Excessive demands

Discuss the issues they have and agree any changes that are feasible

Low control

Outline any area of flexibility

Poor relationships

Have 1 to 1's and catch ups with team

Poor support

Remind them of wellbeing resources

Unsure of role

Be clear about expectations for their role and work responsibilities

Poor change management

Talk through what may be different in their role as a result changing work processes or procedures


Employees may also wish to access the Employee Assistance Programme for further information and support.  This is a free and confidential service offering telephone and online information and support.

Social anxiety after lockdown

Returning to work during Covid-19

UoRLearn - online courses available for all staff to help with skills development such as workload management and organisation skills

UoRLearn- Quick reference guide for line managers

Mentoring and Coaching support for line managers - we recognise that as a line manager, supporting staff through this difficult time and reintegrating staff back into the workplace is challenging. Mentoring and coaching is available for line managers if this may be useful support for you during this time. Please contact peopledevelopment@reading.ac.uk for more details so you can decide if this may be useful development support for you at this time.

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