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Update for staff - 18 August at 3.45pm

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last two months activity has gradually been resuming on our campuses. I now spend most of the working week in the Loughborough office and have worked at Loughborough University London on a number of occasions. Each time I am on the campuses I see increasing numbers of staff and students who are now spending a proportion of their working week, perhaps just a day or two initially, back at the University.

Last month we invited everyone to let us know how you are feeling about returning to the campuses. Many have responded and I am grateful to you if are one of those that has replied. If you have not yet told us how you feel, there is still time to do so via this dedicated listening space.

The responses are helpful. Many feel comfortable or enthusiastic about returning. A significant proportion in this group have already been onto the campus so they know what it is like and the measures that we have put in place to maintain social distancing. Others are cautious and seeking reassurance. There is also a small number of colleagues who are reluctant to return to the campus. Over the coming day we shall share some views from colleagues who have returned to campus, which I thought would be helpful.

I realise that everyone is different, and I have taken time to personally read and understand the comments and concerns expressed through the survey. I encourage colleagues to read the information about the measures in place and attend the open session detailed below. Anyone who believes they are at heightened risk should use the self-assessment tool as a first step and discuss the outcome with their line manager, HR partner or Occupational Health.

The steps we are taking will enable us to return to the campuses in a managed and safe way for the start of the new academic year and, importantly, to support our students as they embark on the next phase of their education.

The measures in place on our campuses

I have now spent sufficient time back in the office for me to be fully acquainted with the measures that are in place around the campuses to keep us safe. Our buildings are clearly marked out with one-way systems and two metre guides to help us maintain social distancing. Managers have been asked to develop rotas for teams that include some home working, so that staff can maintain effective social distancing in their workplaces.

Most of our shared kitchen areas and toilets are operating a ‘one in one out’ system to manage the numbers in these spaces at any one time. We have signs to remind us to wash our hands regularly and there are sanitiser dispensers at key points, such as building entrances and exits. We also have an updated face coverings policy, which will come into effect from Monday 7th September 2020.

Like everyone else, I am taking steps to protect the health and wellbeing of both others and myself. I am conscientious in maintaining good hand hygiene and adhering to social distancing from others. I wear a face covering in areas stipulated by the Government and in spaces on the campuses specified in the University’s face coverings policy.

The measures that we are putting in place are among the most extensive in the higher education sector. They are being used as an exemplar for others by both Universities UK and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. The Department for Education has also referenced our work as an example of good practice.

Back to Campus

There is a lot of information for everyone to digest, so today we are launching a campaign entitled ‘Back to Campus’. This will help us to raise awareness of what we are doing as we plan for the new academic year and the steps you will need to take as part of coming back to work at the University. Our Back to Campus website is a central part of the campaign. Please do take a look. Back to Campus does not signal a return to where we were this time last year. Instead it requires us all to take a blended approach to working partly on campus and partly remotely where this is appropriate. The guidance and resources available to us all will be regularly updated as we move to the start of the new academic year.

There is now a Staff Handbook that summarises the key points, documents and links to further information. Print copies of this will be made available to those who do not have easy access to a PC in their role and also at key locations on our campuses.

A virtual view inside key buildings

Those of you who are yet to return to campus may be curious about the measures you will encounter. With this in mind we have produced a video in which Neil Budworth, our Head of Health and Safety, demonstrates some of the systems, mitigations and processes that we have developed.

Colleagues in the Sports Development Centre have also put together a video as an example of the safety measures in place at Holywell Gym, which I know is a particularly popular facility with staff.

For those of you keen to hear from colleagues what the campuses are like and how they have felt about returning to the University, we have produced some short videos in which they describe what they have encountered and their feelings. Other staff have written blogs. I should take this opportunity to thank those colleagues who have contributed for their candour and willingness to share their feelings with us.

Staff briefing sessions

I know that you may still have questions. We have arranged for Neil Budworth and other colleagues from Health and Safety to lead two online staff briefing sessions on Tuesday 25th August (3-4pm) and Wednesday 26th August (11am-12 noon). The sessions are open to any member of staff and provide an opportunity for you to learn more about the measures we have in place, ask questions and raise any areas of concern. You can book on to one of these sessions here. We shall arrange more if necessary.

Approaching the new academic year

As I said in my newsletter at the end of last month, we must continue to manage our response to Covid-19 in a way that is sensitive to the needs of all staff across the University. Our Back to Campus campaign is designed to reassure you about the extensive measures we are taking to make our campuses as safe as possible for everyone.

We all need to feel comfortable on campus. Equally, we need to recognise that next term will include balancing working from home and time working at the University. This includes the delivery of much of our teaching in person, as Professor Thomson has written previously. Support is available on our website for staff with their teaching delivery.

I am proud of the Loughborough community. I have already thanked those who have worked at the University throughout lockdown, such as the staff looking after students who could not get home. I want to repeat those words of thanks here. I must also acknowledge colleagues, some whom were initially cautious, who have been back at the University over the last couple of months to support important activity such as our campus tours and, most recently, our Clearing activity.

If we are mindful of our actions and behaviour on campus not only will we be able to approach the new academic year with confidence but we shall also be able to deliver a safer campus.

Professor Bob Allison
Vice-Chancellor