Remote working reflections

A diagram detailing how we can work towards a positive working environment

By Angela Storer – Head of Operations, School of Social Policy and CoSS Professional Services lead for People and Culture

Back in June, I posted a blog where I began to reflect on my own experience of remote working and promoted some online sessions to gather perspectives from as wide a range of colleagues as possible.  These sessions were intended to enable us to understand which aspects of remote working have been positive and which less so, to help us shape both our immediate plans for returning to campus and the longer-term vision for a positive working environment within the College. Engagement with the blog article and the subsequent online sessions was fantastic, with 60 professional services colleagues reflecting on their experience of remote working and the aspects which they would like to see continue, regardless of our physical location.    

In this latest post, I will share some of the key themes that emerged from the sessions and the next steps in developing our “Positive Working Environment” as a College.

Key Themes

The sessions resulted in a huge amount of information, not all of which can be captured here.  I have summarised the main three topics below that were resounding themes across all of the sessions.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main aspect of remote working that colleagues valued and hoped to retain was flexibility.  Colleagues have valued the trust associated with working remotely and being able to balance their workload with home life more effectively than ever.

Engagement with online meetings and events

Colleagues had generally found meetings to be more purposeful since they have moved online and both meetings and events tended to yield better attendance and engagement than when they had been on campus. There had been a huge array of different tools used to support effective working and attendees valued having the opportunity to learn about these and had an appetite to learn about these. Further opportunities to learn more and ensure we make best use of the tools available to us will be important as we some of us begin to work between home and campus.

Wellbeing and collegiality

Attendees had experienced a greater focus on “checking in”, be that with their peers or between line managers and their teams, with more regular 1:1s and social activities.  This has been a real positive and helped them to cope with the circumstances. However, there was also feedback that some staff had felt under more pressure than ever and in some instances struggled to take screen breaks due to multiple back to back meetings. Colleagues suggested a stronger mandate for applying the wellbeing principles here would be helpful and there being a need for wellbeing to be embedded within the working day, rather than an ‘add-on.’

So, what does this mean for our “positive working environment”?

Through developing the positive workin environment within the College, we aim to:

  • Instil fair and consistent practice in the policies and procedures we follow
  • Recognise and value everyone’s contributions
  • Support each other to do our best work
  • Have a shared set of values that underpin how we do our work

The feedback from the sessions has already helped us to shape our approach to returning to campus on a phased basis from September.   Some shared principles are being developed and the Professional Services Senior Management Team (PSSMT) for the College are working closely to instil these in the return to campus planning.

Clearly, the feedback indicates the importance of feeling trusted, working collegiately, inclusivity and being flexible all of which is helpful in thinking about next steps in embedding a shared set of values through everything that we do.  The results of the staff survey will also help us to turn these into a practical set of actions which we hope to be able to share soon.

A Professional Services forum has been launched for the College, with two sessions planned initially:

  • 10th September 2.30pm to 3.30pm - to be led by Lorraine Gaytten focussing on return to campus. 
  • 14th October 2pm – 3pm - to be led by Angela Storer and Jo Higton (POD Partner) focussing on updating on the work in developing the Positive Working Environment, staff survey results and the launch of some related resources

There is also an updated programme of events as part of the Birmingham Professional which seek to address some of the themes arising from the remote working sessions including events on wellbeing, making the best use of the digital tools available to us and using linkedin learning for development.

If you were unable to attend, there is some further information available, including a recording of key parts of the first session:

Key timings:

0:10 – 4.44 – Introduction to the session

4.50 – 12:00 - Positive Working Environment Explained

12.24-17.38 – Key Remote Working Reflections


Professional Services