Our workload. What’s changing?
New Workload Principles agreed and implemented for academic staff, with a Professional Services model to be explored next
Our working practises, including workloads and working patterns, are important for our University to get right; they affect the quality of work we produce and importantly, the staff experience. Bristol aspires to be an organisation which attracts and retains high-calibre staff – to do this our working ethos needs to be modern and flexible and prioritise wellbeing and professional development.
Work has started in this area, and more will need to be done. Recently, there has been a review of the workload of our academic colleagues, including a revised Workload Agreement and Principles. The senior leadership team have committed to review the case for an improved Professional Services model next.
The University, as a good employer, has a responsibility to ensure that we promote healthy working conditions for all our staff. This responsibility derives from legislation but is also one to which we are committed beyond mere conformance with the legislation. The workloads of staff can be a factor in inducing stress-related illness, with a consequent reduction in effectiveness of performance. The increase in work of other staff can also lead to further overload and an expanding cycle of increasing stress can result. Similarly, any lack of clarity over the allocation of duties can give rise to stress and a perceived disparity in workload can be a source of complaint and grievance.
The Workload Agreement applies to all Academic staff on Grades J and above and is subject to negotiations between the University and the Joint Trades Unions. It should be read and considered in conjunction with the Workload Principles, below, which together sets out the policy currently in place to protect staff from inappropriately heavy workloads and constraining working practises.
The allocation and control of workloads, and the monitoring of the effect, is the responsibility of Heads of School and Divisions. It is important that each School and Division has in place suitable and appropriate procedures for allocating duties and the University Principles and this Agreement sets out good practices which should be followed.
We are committed to the fair, reasonable and equitable allocation of work. The purpose of the new policy is to set out the underlying principles of Workload Allocation and Management at the University and is an appendix of the University Workload Agreement. Currently, most academic schools use some form of workload allocation model and whilst there are some commonalities across these, there are also differences and it is rare that there is one model in a Faculty. However, important workforce planning occurs at the Faculty level, without any real sense of how workload varies between schools. At university level, decisions are similarly made about the allocation of posts without a real sense of comparative workload between Faculties and Schools. Therefore, from a university perspective establishing a common set of principles for workload allocation at Faculty level should inform good workforce planning and will enable the university to operate within a framework within which models for workload planning and adjustment can be operated.
If you have a query about your workload, speak to your line manager in the first instance and ensure this is part of regular conversations, including your annual review. If you feel you are unable to speak to your line manager, you can contact another senior leader in your School or Division, including your Head of School or Divisional lead.
Improving University systems and infrastructure to reduce workload
To support the continuing growth of the University, it is key that we are suitably equipped to carry out our duties effectively. To this effect, several projects have looked in detail at the systems and infrastructure underpinning our key processes and recommended important improvements to enable our workforce to better support the University to achieve our collective ambitions.
Specific improvements made which are now in operation, or planned to be instated:
- MyERP improvement project - the level of outstanding invoices is now lower than before we implemented MyERP
- Replacement of SITS with the new SLS system will provide more comprehensive student records in a single system
- End to End review of research project processes to improve the academic colleague experience. Implementation of the review conclusions will be undertaken alongside the launch of the new research award management system
- Launch of the Staff Intranet to make information more readily accessible
- Review of New Ways of Working (NWoW)
The vision of the Digital Bristol programme is to “to create a digital-first, paper-light, University where staff and students are empowered to do their best and work the way they want to.”
Four themes underpin the purpose of the programme:
- connecting with colleagues and partners more effectively, giving us a better platform to share ideas and get answers quicker.
- making it easier for us to get up to speed with the new technology, so we can start seeing the benefits quickly. The interfaces are similar, and training is being provided to support staff.
- we will have access to a suite of Microsoft tools that are designed to work seamlessly together, across a range of different devices.
- introducing tools that allow us to work flexibly - from where we want to and when we want to - safely and securely.
Different parts of the University are at different stages in the rollout of these tools. Digital Bristol is focusing time understanding specific needs and challenges and then developing training and support as new technology is introduced. To find out more, please see the Digital Bristol webpages.
New Email Charter introduced to help redress our reliance on email for communication
In response to your feedback in the 2018 Staff Survey, the University has developed an email charter to help redress the reliance on email for communication. The volume of email being received by most staff is challenging and without attention could become unmanageable.
We know a number of Schools and Divisions wanted to develop a charter in local staff survey action plans but we have adopted one across the University, developed in conjunction with our Trade Union Partners. The Charter sets out practical guidelines to help staff adopt more efficient email etiquette, to save time in reading and responding, and preventing unnecessary emails being sent.