Blended Working

Blended Working

The University believes that individuals derive significant value from being on campus, working alongside their colleagues and engaging with the wider University community.  We also support the use of blended working arrangements, where it is operationally possible for staff to work in such a way, and recognise the benefits that blended working can bring in relation to staff health and wellbeing.

The blended working pilot originally implemented for Semester 1 has been extended for Semester 2 of Academic Year 2021/22 (January 2022 to May 2022).

Our key priority during this pilot is to ensure that all staff are working as efficiently and effectively as possible and in a working environment that best meets the needs of both colleagues and students. It is vital that we continue to ensure an excellent student learning and on-campus experience.

What is blended working?

Blended working is an informal arrangement to support individuals who may wish to work in a more flexible way that better matches both the needs of the University and their personal preferences. It is a mix of campus-based working and working remotely. The split between campus and remote working will depend on the role, however all colleagues should be working on campus more than they are off campus. The University campus remains the primary place of work for all employees.

Blended working may allow flexibility regarding:

  • When an individual works on campus or at home (but noting that the University will remain their primary and contractual place of work); and/or,
  • When working from home in particular, the possibility of some alteration to individual working patterns, retaining the same number of hours but offering flexibility in how these hours are worked.

Blended working does not guarantee a permanent pattern or location of work as the work location and time should, wherever possible, be based on where and when a task or activity can most effectively be delivered. It is expected therefore that such arrangements will vary regularly based on operational needs/priorities. Guaranteed working patterns can only be agreed if a formal flexible working request is submitted and agreed.

Who can access blended working?

The opportunity for blended working will apply where business need and the requirements of an individual’s role allow, but the requirements of some roles will mean that they will have to be carried out entirely on campus (e.g. the majority of our Estates and Facilities team, our team at The Hive etc). Blended working will be available to relevant colleagues regardless of whether they work full or part-time.

What are the key principles of blended working at the University of Worcester?

All decisions on whether blended working is suitable for an individual’s role and, if so, what that arrangement involves, must be led by the business needs of the University. Blended working should not negatively impact on the service provided by any team or negatively impact on other team members.

Academic staff must be mindful of the fact that majority of teaching should be delivered in-person, and therefore the delivery of any teaching online and/or from home is subject to agreement by their Head of School. All academic staff must also ensure that they have a regular amount of time working on campus outside of any in-person teaching commitments. This is to ensure availability to meet with students in-person as needed.

The opportunity for blended working is optional for all individuals in roles for which it is appropriate. It is entirely voluntary and if colleagues want to work on campus for all their scheduled working hours, they are entitled to do so unless health and safety guidelines (e.g. Covid-19 restrictions) require them to do otherwise.

Managers will work with individuals to determine the extent to which blended working is appropriate for them, and if so, what the appropriate blend of working is for their role.

Individuals engaged in blended working must work their contractual hours but may agree with their line manager to alter when and/or where they work those hours if operational requirements permit them to do so.

For colleagues with dependents, the University recognises that blended working may potentially help with school/care drop offs or pickup, if operational requirements permit them to do so. For example, some individuals may work on campus more regularly, but then to leave to collect their children from school and work the remainder of their hours for that day from home. Such individuals should ensure that whilst they are working remotely, they have adequate care arrangements in place to enable them to undertake their duties effectively. Should an individual wish to guarantee themselves a set pattern of work however (e.g. guaranteed days each week to collect their child from school), they must submit a formal flexible working request in the usual way because the operational needs of their role and department must take priority.

Blended working arrangements are informal arrangements which can be altered at any time.  Blended working does not guarantee a pattern of work and can be changed should operational needs require them to do so.

Managers will take a fair and equitable approach, but all colleagues must also accept that there will be inevitable inconsistency, particularly between different departments and potentially also individually. There are no ‘priority reasons’ which would allow one colleague to benefit from blended working arrangements over another colleague.

This is an informal arrangement and any concerns or disputes regarding such arrangements should be managed locally and through the relevant management chain as necessary.

Practical considerations

Working from home

Individuals will be responsible for ensuring that they have a suitable space to work at home and sufficient broadband provision.  Home working environments must be safe and secure. They should also be adequate in terms of space, lighting, layout, and conditions. They should be appropriate to the nature of the work being conducted and free of distractions.

Individuals should familiarise themselves with the University’s guidelines on Homeworking (https://www2.worc.ac.uk/personnel/957.htm). A Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Assessment should also be carried out (https://www2.worc.ac.uk/facilities-staff/display-screen-equipment.html). If any additional office equipment is identified as required due to a disability related reasonable adjustment, such equipment will usually be provided, depending on the working arrangements for the role.

As colleagues have the option of working on campus for all of their working hours, there will be no reimbursement of any expenses for working from home (e.g. broadband or heating costs). Depending on personal circumstances, colleagues may be able to claim tax relief (https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees). As individuals will still be required to spend time working on campus, stationery etc. should be sourced from University supplies on site.

Working at or from home more regularly, may affect home and contents insurance policies, mortgage, leases, or rental agreements. It is the individual’s responsibility to make any necessary arrangements with their providers. Colleagues are not required to take out insurance to cover any University equipment, as this is covered under the University’s insurance policies. The University will not cover any additional costs related to insurance premiums.

Health and wellbeing

All individuals have a responsibility to highlight any wellbeing concerns for themselves or for a colleague with their manager. There are resources to support colleagues with managing their physical and mental health. Those resources are available at https://www.worcester.ac.uk/life/help-and-support/health-and-wellbeing/remote-working-wellbeing.aspx.

If an individual is unwell when working remotely then they should continue to follow the normal sickness reporting procedures. They should keep their manager informed but if they are unfit to work this should normally mean they are unfit to work whether working on site or from home. There may be circumstances where they may be able to work from home effectively even where onsite attendance would not be possible (e.g. due to mobility issues that would have been challenging if commuting) and such situations should be discussed between the individual and their line manager.

Working hours

Colleagues must make sure that they are not working excessive hours just because they are working some time from home and may therefore have the flexibility to do so. 

Where an individual has a working pattern that falls outside of their colleagues’ normal scheduled working times (e.g. maybe due to working adjusted hours to accommodate school drop-offs and pick up), it should be clear to those colleagues that the individual does not expect a response to any emails sent ‘out of hours’. Such individuals may wish to consider including some wording to this effect in their personal email signature.

Data protection and compliance

Sensitive and confidential information can easily be compromised through unsafe working practices or insufficient home network security. Guidance on ensuring your working arrangements at home are secure can be found at https://www2.worc.ac.uk/it/remote-working.html.

All University equipment and information must be kept securely at all times. Confidential or sensitive paperwork should not be taken home unless it is vital to do so and where paperwork is taken home it must be kept in a secure location (e.g. a lockable cupboard or drawer). When transporting equipment between campus and home individuals must ensure that they never leave such equipment unattended.

The University’s policies on data protection and on information security are available at https://www2.worc.ac.uk/informationassurance/content_images/Data_Protection_Policy_May2018(2).pdf and https://www.worc.ac.uk/documents/policies/Information-Security-Policy.pdf

Working from outside of the UK

Any remote working should take place within the UK or there may be an impact on tax, healthcare and pension arrangements, as well as other legal considerations both for the individual and for the University.