Survey results: our response to the pandemic

"Thank you to everyone who completed the recent staff survey about the University’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Your feedback is really important to me, and to my colleagues on the University Executive Board, and we wanted to say thank you for taking the time to tell us how you are feeling. We are committed to using your feedback to make adjustments and improvements as we continue to navigate our way through this difficult time.

"Please take the time to read the results summary below. This includes the scores for each section of the survey and our proposed next steps based on the key themes arising from your free text comments. I hope these provide answers to some of your most pressing concerns. If you have any questions about the survey or the results please email staffsurvey@sheffield.ac.uk and we will answer them as best we can.

"I know that this continues to be a period of uncertainty and anxiety for many of us and I thank you all for your continued efforts and commitment to our University. So that we can continue to listen to you, understand how you are feeling, and find out if the changes we will be making are working for you, we will be sending out further short surveys over the summer.

"As well as the University-level results below we have sent result reports to senior colleagues in each of the faculties, the AMRC and professional services so that they can consider any local actions to complement those we are taking centrally.

"Thank you for everything you are doing."

Best wishes
Professor Gill Valentine


Results at a glance

The survey was open from 19 June to 1 July and we received 1,308 responses from across the University and from a range of job roles.

We have an overall responsiveness score of 75 per cent which means that the majority of respondents feel positively about the University’s response to the pandemic. The survey asked questions across four different areas looking at policies and procedures; practical support; connectedness and communication; and consideration of personal needs. Our responsiveness scores for each of these four areas and a summary of what was being tested is as follows:

  • Protocols 79 per cent: The latest policies and procedures for this change have been received and understood by all our people
  • Enabled 76 per cent: We are taking practical steps to support our people during this change in working practices
  • Care 74 per cent: We are considering the personal needs of our people, and managers are actively supporting them
  • Visibility 70 per cent: Our teams communicate and stay connected as they navigate this change

Our next steps

The figures above show an overall positive response but they also show us where we need to focus to make improvements. Using your responses to the open text questions, we have identified four key areas for focus:

#1 Return to campus planning

Whilst you said that our immediate response to the pandemic, in particular policies around supporting home working, was positive, you would now like to see more information about the plans for returning to campus and the specific teaching arrangements for the autumn.

We agree that more information needs to be shared in a timely way. Earlier this week you will have seen an email update from Professor Wyn Morgan, Vice-President for Education sharing our preparations for return to campus and for learning and teaching in the new academic year.

As Wyn explains in his email, from now on we will be including regular updates about our plans in the staff update. We are also developing some dedicated return to campus web pages which will be updated with the latest guidance throughout the summer, as well as some additional resources for prospective and current students to address the uncertainties surrounding the autumn semester.

You have also asked that where it is not possible to give concrete information, we should explain why this is the case and outline the work that is happening behind the scenes. We agree that this would be helpful and will make sure this sort of information is included in the regular updates.

We would like to know what you think of these future updates. If you find them helpful, or if you have suggestions for how they could be improved, please email staffsurvey@sheffield.ac.uk

#2 Communications

You said that some communications both locally and centrally have been informative and timely, but you would also like to see improvements in terms of consistency, timeliness, understanding of your needs and visibility of leadership.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns about communications and associated issues. Your comments on this topic are very varied and there is therefore not a one-size-fits-all response or approach.

What we do know is that information cascade in an organisation this size and in the structures we operate in is not always going to be easy.

Some of you said you liked the regular email updates from the Covid-19 Management Group at the beginning of this crisis, some of you said you were happy with central communications as they are now but would like more communication from your local leadership teams. Other people said the opposite. Some people said they would like more opportunities to input into changes, others said they would appreciate more clarity, prioritisation and rationale for decisions.

Probably the most important action we can take from your comments is to keep listening, adapting and checking in with you. In his update today (17 July 2020) the Vice-Chancellor has said that regular information on key issues will be shared in the staff update. This is as a direct result of feedback he has received. The regular updates will include:

  • Information on our evolving financial position, including our reserves, surplus, cash and borrowing from Jo Jones, Chief Financial Officer
  • Updates on our student recruitment position and our safe return to campus, including our plans for the next academic year from Professor Wyn Morgan, Vice-President for Education
  • Updates on the collective consultation and the work we are doing with our trade union colleagues from Ian Wright, interim Director of Human Resources

To improve visibility of senior leadership, we’re working with the University Executive Board to explore ideas for the new academic year and will keep you updated about our plans. We hope too that our additional surveys over the summer will help maintain a regular dialogue and let us know how opinions are changing so that we can continue to adapt and explore new ideas.

Again, please let us know if you find these changes helpful, or if you have suggestions for how they could be improved, by emailing staffsurvey@sheffield.ac.uk

#3 Practical support

You said that whilst effective collaboration across teams has helped you when working from home, you would appreciate more practical support that will enable you to continue doing so and to adapt to new working practices in the future.

The feedback that you gave in this area has been very clear – you would like to be able to access the tools, equipment and resources that will assist you in your work from home. This includes IT hardware, office supplies, DSE equipment and those essential personal items that make your working life more comfortable.

With the prolonged period of remote working, we recognise this is increasingly important. A process to enable this has now been put in place and if you have not already done so, you will receive further details directly from your departmental coordinator by the end of this month. For more details, please visit the working remotely section of the FAQs.

In addition, you said that you would appreciate more support to develop skills in the new technologies to enable teaching from home and in some of the new digital tools you will need to use for learning and teaching in the new academic year. Support and guidance to help with your planning and practice for learning and teaching for the academic year 2020-21 is available from Elevate, and if you have any specific questions please email the team at: elevate@sheffield.ac.uk

If you have any other specific suggestions, please email staffsurvey@sheffield.ac.uk

#4 Wellbeing

Whilst you said that overall managers have been considerate and supportive of your wellbeing during this period, you also said that they have not always had the information to answer your questions. Some of you said that this uncertainty has been detrimental to your wellbeing. You also said that you will need further individual wellbeing support when returning to work.

The expectations that have been placed on managers during the pandemic have been huge. The situation is unprecedented and given the pace of change there has not always been information available for managers to share with staff when needed.

We understand this has led to uncertainty and feelings of anxiety. We understand too that these feelings may have been heightened since the recent communications from our Vice-Chancellor about the collective consultation with our campus trade unions, and the Vice-Chancellor has today (17 July 2020) responded to this feedback.

HR colleagues are continually reviewing and expanding the resources and support that is available for people across the University in response to the changing circumstances and challenges we are facing.

Please do get in touch to tell us what you would find helpful as we head towards the new academic year by emailing staffwellbeing@sheffield.ac.uk. We are also continuing to explore how to make our wellbeing information more accessible to everyone.

You may also find these wellbeing resources helpful:

New: how to series

In response to the survey you said that some managers could benefit from more support in the practical elements of managing wellbeing.

Earlier this year, colleagues in HR conducted a people development review and are releasing new learning and development modules as part of a how to series.

Themes include wellbeing, managing change and complexity, and managing remote working and the first module is about how to have a wellbeing conversation. This is aimed at colleagues who manage or supervise others and will focus on the key skills, behaviours and attributes required to have a wellbeing conversation.

How to series

First module: how to have a wellbeing conversation

New: information sessions for managers

This month and next we have a series of informative sessions to help raise awareness of Health Assured, the Staff Counselling and Advisory Service. 

The sessions are for colleagues who have people management responsibilities. They will be run online and will be delivered directly by Health Assured.

The sessions are designed to give a comprehensive overview of what is available via the service, and how this can be accessed so that people managers can recommend and utilise the service to support their staff.

Sessions have been arranged for 29 July at 1pm, 3 August at 10am, 13 August at 3pm and 17 August at 2pm.

To book your place, email: staffwellbeing@sheffield.ac.uk

Wellbeing Champions

For faculties and departments wishing to implement our wellbeing champion scheme, we have a toolkit available and HR colleagues are on-hand to support you.

Wellbeing Champions provide a listening ear for anyone experiencing wellbeing difficulties and are tasked with championing positive wellbeing in their respective areas, particularly with regards to promoting positive mental health.

Some faculties are already underway with such schemes and a full suite of training for champions is now available.

Wellbeing Champions toolkit

Resources you might find particularly helpful: