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Published: 27 May 2021

University of Strathclyde – Joint Winner 2021, Best Covid-19 Response

The University of Strathclyde employs more than 4,000 staff. The organisation started an agile working pilot in May 2019 with around a quarter of staff working flexibly before the pandemic. Covid-19 accelerated the roll out of agile working and during 2020 all staff worked flexibly.

At the start of the pandemic, as most staff moved to home working, the university offered a range of flexible working options. These included short term career breaks, additional annual leave purchase, a temporary reduced working week and more flexible annual leave carry over.

All staff had the opportunity for one-to-one conversations with their manager about their needs for additional flexibility, or any workload and health concerns.

As the schools closed, parents were told to prioritise their families. The university wanted staff with childcare and caring responsibilities to know they were supported, and that work would fit in with home life.

The university provided educational materials for staff with school age children and piloted a session called “Support for Staff with Families Home Schooling’, which 25 colleagues attended.

Frontline staff whose jobs couldn’t be done at home and who had childcare or other caring responsibilities were told they didn’t need to work and continued to receive full pay.

In March 2020, the university pioneered Rest and Recuperation Fridays. Staff didn’t need to be available for work and were encouraged to focus on their family, health and wellbeing. These ran until August 2020 and resumed in January 2021 when Scotland went back into lockdown.

Between lockdowns the university had ‘Meeting Free Fridays’ to allow for a more productive end to the week.

All staff were given three additional day’s paid leave over Christmas and along with the Rest and Recuperation Fridays, staff have benefited from an extra 28 days paid leave since the pandemic began.

The university created an online wellbeing hub providing resources to help colleagues and families navigate this exceptional time. The hub included support and guidance on balancing home and work life, mental health and online fitness sessions. In a recent survey, 81% of staff said they found the wellbeing hub useful or very useful.

Staff were regularly communicated with through emails, engagement sessions with the Principal, department meetings and one-to-ones with managers.

During the pandemic, absence dropped by 60%, with the number of mental health absences reducing by 31% for female staff and 24% for male colleagues.

Hear what the judges had to say about the winners of the Best Covid-19 Response Award.