Rethinking the workplace – returning to campus
These unprecedented times create the opportunity to shape the future of how we work at Imperial.
The Returning to Campus Working Group has been established to look at the future of how we work at Imperial and the roadmap for when the government’s restrictions start to lift.
On this webpage you will find the latest information and guidance on the road map to returning to campus and the future of how we could work for the many staff who have been working mostly or completely at home over the period of the pandemic.
We are grateful to staff who have worked on our campuses throughout the pandemic and continue to do so in order to keep our community safe, deliver support services and meet our academic mission.
Road map to returning to campus for those working at home
For those staff who have been mostly or completely working from home throughout the pandemic, the return to campus will be a gradual process. We are following closely the government’s guidance on restrictions. See the latest update below.
The priorities of the College for the return to campus are to:
maintain a safe environment for our community
enable temporary arrangements for flexible and hybrid working where suitable
learn from experiences and listen to the community in shaping future ways of working
Updated 15 July 2021
From 19 July, the College’s ‘Transition and Learn’ phase two will start. Departments are bringing additional teams back on site based on particular needs. We do not expect all staff to immediately return to campus at the beginning of phase two.
Managers in your department will determine the pattern of return to campus, with personal circumstances taken into consideration. You will be expected to return to campus at some stage as determined by your department – any new requests for permanent home working are not going to be approved in the short term.
In the new academic year, we expect to move to a more hybrid model as we come out of our Transition and Learn phase.
Importance of following safety codes of conduct
Our priority remains the safety and wellbeing our of community, so our progress will remain cautious, with reviews and local risk assessments built in. It remains vital that everyone visiting Imperial premises – staff, students, visitors and contractors – continues to follow our code of conduct. Only by following these closely can we all do our bit to help ensure the wellbeing of our community.
This week, the Return to Campus (RTC) working group discussed updates from its four workstreams, which can be read in detail on the Return to Campus Working Group - 24 June 2021 slides. Highlights included:
People: responses to wellbeing surveys in September 2020 and February 2021 are being compared and analysed, with results feeding into RTC decisions. Findings included a slight decrease in concerns among respondents about the safety of commuting and social distancing, but a small increase in concerns about safety on campus in general. Read Call for Evidence - People analysis - June 2021 for full details
Safety: A new analysis has begun on key areas of campus to monitor SARS-CoV-2 particles in the air. Areas include the Central Library, café areas, and halls of residence. Data from this will be shared in due course.
Technology: the workstream is making strong progress with its aims to move away from fixed desktops towards laptops and other mobile devices, along with the supporting technology, such as docking stations. A roadmap has been established, and currently runs through to completion by April 2022 (view slide 16 of ).
Space: a regroup of the room booking project is planned. The project seeks to make bookable teaching and meeting spaces visible and requestable across College.
Emerging themes from the latest call for evidence from departments which closed on 14 May underline our staff community’s desire to work in a hybrid way, from one to four days a week on campus, and to use existing spaces more flexibly.
View detailed findings: Call for Evidence - People analysis - June 2021
Further calls for evidence will be rolled out in the coming months (July/August, November and January 2022), to gather more detailed insights from teams across the College.
Workshops were held in May for teams who have shared staff spaces to give them an opportunity to discuss how their spaces could be reoccupied in the light of guidance now available. The key takeaways were that spaces needed to be as flexible as possible and as fixed only as necessary. Individual wellbeing and preferences were key to the approach to hybrid working, so too was team cohesion and delivering service quality. All guided by safety and underpinned by the right technology.
- View the slides from the 'Considerations for shared spaces' workshops: Returning to College Considerations for shared spaces (PDF)
- View a summary of the findings and the topics discussed at: Returning to Campus Working Group - 27 May 2021 (PDF).
- Read the full list of FAQs on shared workspaces which rose out of the workshops.
The ‘Transition and Learn’ phase that the College will enter on 19 July 2021 (in line with the government's move to Step 4) – as staff who are based at home will start to gradually return – is the time to test hybrid ways of working and determine the level of flexibility that is possible and desirable for each team.
Structural changes that may be required, such as the reconfiguration of desks spaces or the rethinking of a whole floors will require a coordinated approach. Feasibilty, investment and prioritisation will be required to prepare us for our road maps’ third phase ‘Ambition’. See a description of the College’s roadmap phases below.
Concerns about returning to campus
The Returning to Campus Working Group is well aware that for some staff, the thought of returning to campus can be the source of anxiety. This could be for a variety of reasons.
The strong message from the working group is that our return aims to be gradual, from 19 July, and flexibility and adaptability is key. As the workshop findings have shown, that’s imperative to individual’s wellbeing and performance.
New guidance for managers to support discussions with staff on the transition back to working on campus after such a long period working from home has now been developed.
The three phases of our road map
The Returning to Campus Working Group has identified three phases in the road map:
Phase one: ‘Essential access’ - while government restrictions remain in place (until at least 19 July 2021), onsite access is prioritised only for those activities and/or services which need to continue or resume onsite. Departments are currently being asked to develop plans for working arrangements in advance of Phase two. We expect departments to trial new ways of working in a new, hybrid manner, working in cohorts, operating rotas, and trialling shared space arrangements within or in partnership with other departments.
Phase two: ‘Transition and learn’- the College’s phase two will start on 19 July 2021, in line with the government’s roadmap and England’s expected move into Step 4 on that date. This new phase will be when more of our community are able to safely work on campus. We do not expect all staff to immediately return to campus at the beginning of phase two. Increased presence on campus will be incremental and driven by departmental and safety requirements.
This will be a learning period where new flexible working policies will be tried and tested, technology enabling more flexible and hybrid working will be introduced and work to establish the optimal use of space and space sharing will be carried out. All of this will inform and allow for the planning required for the third phase. The first formal review of the impacts of hybrid working will take place by the end of September 2021. This review, and information relating to the number of students the College is expecting on campus, will inform a decision on the ongoing length of phase two.
Phase three: ‘Ambition’ - we know that there are many potential benefits to more flexible ways of working and that the lessons learned during this period may inform our working practices and the use of our space and of technology. As we continue to learn and improve over the coming year, and as we listen to the experiences and views of the College community, we will establish our future ambitions for working arrangements and investment in space and technology. These changes may be significant – so we will take time to understand the impact and implications of any potential changes as we move through the first two phases. Further, it is important to note that significant changes to our spaces may require considerable investment, both in financial and time-commitment.
It should be noted that changes that rely on technology changes may take time, simply because of high demand and the timescales involved in procuring and introducing new technologies.
Further information and guidance
Who can you contact for more information?
Queries about the processes and guidelines produced by the working group can be emailed to the dedicated Rethinking the Workplace email inbox.
Links to further guidance
- COVID-19 HR policies (sign-in required)
- Work location guidance (sign-in required)
- Protect and respect code of conduct
- Returning to work guidelines – This guidance is to assist with coordinating returns to working at College premises.
- COVID safety pages
- COVID-19 Safety road map
- Events guidance
- Staff guidance – safety policiesand checklists
- Live well, work well during Covid