Following extensive and productive consultation with our campus trade unions, staff and managers, we are pleased to be able to launch our new Homeworking Policy.  You will find the policy and supporting appendix below.

The pandemic has demonstrated that a range of roles can be carried out in a more flexible way. We also know from our Covid-19 and staff surveys that many of our community would like to be able to work more flexibly, whether that be during a transition phase as we emerge from the pandemic, or on an ongoing basis. The Homeworking Policy sets out different arrangements for homeworking whether they be occasional, regular or permanent. 

We are also launching Guidance on Managing and Working in a Hybrid Team which is available below. This will provide a framework for discussions about hybrid working to take place at a team level. Individual requests for homeworking as part of hybrid working arrangements are governed by the Homeworking Policy.

University of Aberdeen Homeworking Policy FAQs

The FAQs outlined below have been created to assist with the launch of the Homeworking Policy and Hybrid Working Guidance for Teams. They will be updated on a regular basis based on feedback and queries raised.

Introduction

1. Why do we need a Homeworking Policy when many of us have been doing this anyway for the last year?

A: It is recognised that in the current situation staff have been doing this, however this policy is written for homeworking ‘post pandemic’, after the lifting of current restrictions which still mean those who can should work from home. The main purpose of the policy is to be supportive and promote flexibility while at the same time ensuring service requirements are met as well as the health, well-being and safety of staff while working from home. This follows on from much of the guidance which was made available at the start of the Covid-19 first lockdown. 

The Homeworking Policy should be read in conjunction with the Hybrid Working Guidance for Teams. 

2. Why is there a Homeworking Policy and Hybrid Working Guidance?

A: The Homeworking Policy has been developed to outline the University’s approach to occasional, regular and permanent homeworking. The Hybrid Working Guidance has been created to support the roll out of the Homeworking Policy by providing a framework within which managers and teams/individual staff can discuss and consider longer term homeworking requests (at the stage when more staff can return to working on campus as a result of the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions). In addition, the Hybrid Working Guidance provides information which aims to facilitate what is likely to be a common pattern of work for some staff/teams post current restrictions – ie staff/teams working based on a mix of being on campus and working from home. 

3. What is the University’s expectation regarding homeworking and working on campus going forward?

A: As restrictions are further eased and more staff can start to return to working on campus, the University anticipates that we will have:

  • Staff continuing to work on campus – remembering that due to the nature of the work involved some staff have continued to work on campus throughout the pandemic;
  • Staff working a mix of on campus and from home – we know based on feedback in our staff surveys undertaken during 2020 that many staff would wish to continue to work from home for part of their time and the Homeworking Policy is designed to support that as far as possible, bearing in mind that service delivery takes precedence. It is also recognised that, whilst staff may have benefitted from homeworking as it has increased flexibility, the optimum model for work going forward in the University’s view, bearing in mind we are a campus based organisation, will be for a mix of on campus and home working i.e. hybrid working.  It is anticipated that when on campus working can re-start, that most homeworking will be on an occasional or regular basis.  

4. Can I just choose to work from home permanently as I have got on well with this during the period of restrictions and it has not impacted on my outputs. 

A: There is provision for permanent homeworking in the Policy.  However, the University anticipates that the most homeworking will either be occasional or regular. This is because it is likely that all teams will be required to be on campus at some point, the view is that a mix of homeworking and on campus working for all members of staff will be most beneficial to staff themselves and ultimately service delivery will take precedence. 

5. I have been working from home during the restrictions but when they are lifted I would prefer to work all my hours back on campus.  Will this be possible, or will the expectation be that I continue to do some work from home?

A: Once restrictions are lifted and all staff are able to return to work on campus if you would prefer to work back on campus then this will be permitted.  In order to provide time for the campus to be prepared, however, the return to working on campus is likely to be phased up to December 2021.  

6. Can I still work from home if I work part time?

A: Yes, if your job role is suitable, as detailed in the policy, and, in line with the roll out of the Hybrid Working Guidance, your manager is content to approve ongoing working from home. 

Equipment

1. Who will pay for the equipment I need?

A: For Regular or Permanent Homeworking, the University will provide equipment which you reasonably require to work from home and all such equipment will remain the University’s property. A minimum specification of equipment for homeworking has been defined by IT and is outlined in the document IT Provision for Hybrid Working available in the Homeworking Toolkit.  Any further equipment needs must be discussed with your line manager and costs will have to be met by the School/Directorate. 

2. I need special equipment for working, will the University provide this for home and in the office?

A: If you require special equipment for health reasons, you should discuss this with your line manager. Your line manager may refer you to Occupational Health so that advice can be sought on potential adjustments or equipment that would be suitable. Any decision to purchase equipment must be agreed with your line manager.

If you believe you require additional equipment but not for health reasons, you should discuss this with your line manager. (See Policy Appendix for further information)

3. I don't have a University laptop; how do I get one?

A: You should discuss this with your line manager in the first instance as University laptops are only provided when there are business reasons for doing so.  For those working from home, a laptop will be included in the standard equipment provided. 

4. What happens if the equipment breaks?

A: In the event of equipment failing or developing a fault, you should inform your line manager and make all reasonable attempts to get the equipment fixed or replaced as quickly as possible via the IT Service Desk. Please note that responsibility for broadband connection/provision lies with you.

5. If I buy equipment to facilitate my working from home, will the University pay for it?

A: No. Any equipment that is required for working from home will be supplied by the University.

6. If my equipment is broken and it is not possible to fix remotely, will IT services collect it and bring me a replacement?

A: Should any University equipment be damaged, stolen or develop a fault, you should inform your line manager so that appropriate repairs or replacements can be arranged. In the case of theft or damage, you should also contact Finance so they can consider whether they can make a claim under the University’s insurance arrangements.

Connectivity

1. I live in a rural location where internet connection is slow.  Can I work from a local library instead, so that I can save on travel?

A: This is not the purpose of homeworking which is defined as ‘working at home’. There are a number of security, confidentiality, data protection and safety issues that would be a concern in such a situation. In addition, you would need a suitable environment for keeping in touch with staff/students/participating in Microsoft Teams meetings and it is unlikely that this would be appropriate in a public space. Please discuss with your line manager in the first instance.

When working from home it is important that you understand your responsibilities for handling University devices and data, including personal data. Please follow the guidance in the Homeworking Policy Appendix 1.

2. I have poor internet connection at home. Does this mean homeworking is not suitable for me?

A: Limited or poor connectivity may mean that Homeworking cannot be approved on an ongoing basis as you are unable to participate in Microsoft Teams meetings and it may otherwise impact on your ability to undertake your role. Please discuss with your line manager.

Costs

1. Will the University pay for my broadband and telephone connections?

A: No. However you can potentially claim a tax rebate from HMRC (gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home).

2. If I work from home my heating bills will go up. Will the University pay for this?

A: The University will not pay your heating bills. However, you can potentially claim a tax rebate from HMRC (gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home).

3. Will the University pay any additional insurance premiums I incur while working at home?

A: No. However, you can potentially claim a tax rebate from HMRC (gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home). You should also check any applicable mortgage or rental agreements to ensure that you are permitted to work from home.

4. If I work more at home there will be greater wear and tear on my home (e.g. furnishing and carpets). Will the University contribute to these costs?

A: No. However, you can potentially claim a tax rebate from the HMRC for working at home (gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home)

5. I have been granted regular or permanent homeworking and need to attend campus for training/a meeting. Am I allowed to add travel time to my hours?  Can I claim travel expenses?

A: No. Staff coming into work on University premises cannot claim travel time for commuting to work and the same applies in the case of staff working regularly or permanently from home. In addition, you are not able to claim travel expenses.

6. Will the University reimburse me for items bought during the 2020 lockdown to make my home environment comfortable/safe to work in?

A: You would only be reimbursed for these items if it had been agreed in advance with your line manager that reimbursement was appropriate.

Health and Safety

1. How should I create a safe and comfortable space for working from home?

A. You should:

1. Read the Homeworking guidance (ref. current webpages and update) Working from home | About | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

2. Use the Homeworking Checklist (ref. current checklist and update)

3. Have completed a DSE for your homeworking location

4. Follow relevant H&S guidance Working from home | About | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

5. If in doubt speak to your line manager

2. How regularly should I take breaks and move around?

A: Taking regular breaks is just as important as setting your workstation up correctly. We recommend that you take more breaks and make extra effort to move around regularly when you work from home, including taking microbreaks, like getting a glass of water, standing up to make a phone call or stretching. This is especially true if you are working from home temporarily or infrequently and are not able to use your optimum ergonomic setup. Try to move around for five minutes every hour, aiming for frequent, short breaks. Keeping active and building movement into your day, for example by going for a walk at lunchtime or taking time to stretch, is key and will help you limit static postures.

3. I am experiencing pain or discomfort whilst working from home, what should I do?

A: If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort whilst working, discuss this with your line manager. They will address this by following the same process if you are working from home as they would if you were working from one of the University buildings. Further advice can be found here: Working from home | About | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

Information Security and Data Protection

1. What are my responsibilities re Data Protection?

A: Staff working from home are expected to provide a secure environment for equipment provided by the University, and to protect the physical and intellectual University property in their charge. Confidential documents should be stored securely and disposed of by secure methods. Portable computers and electronic information systems administered by the University may be used only by members of staff.

When working from home it is important that staff understand their responsibilities for handling University devices and data, including personal data. Please follow the guidance in the University’s Data Protection Policy and the ‘Working off campus: your responsibilities’ document which as available on Staffnet Data Protection | StaffNet | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

Where Can I Work?

1. Can I vary the days and times that I work from home?

A: That would be a subject for discussion and agreement with your line manager. You may also wish to submit a formal flexible working request.   

2. I would like to work alternate weeks in the office and from home, is this possible?

A: This may be possible depending on the needs of your post and the service. As part of rolling out Hybrid Working Guidance your manager will meet with you/your team to discuss what the organisational and service parameters are which in turn will help to inform what work arrangements are required and what may cause difficulty.

3. I work a nine day fortnight can I still work from home and continue with this?

A: This may be possible. Subject to normal line manager approval processes, homeworking may be combined with other forms of flexible working (e.g. 9-day fortnight arrangements - which currently apply to Professional Services Staff only, part time working or Purchase of Annual Leave).

4. I would like to work from home so I can spend more time with my children, and as a family friendly employer I would hope the University would support this.

A: We recognise that during the current Covid-19 pandemic that many staff have had to work from home and care for children and dependents, as there were no other options available. We appreciate that staff have done this and continued to work in circumstances that are not ideal for anyone involved. There may also be other exceptional circumstances where staff have had to do this.

There is an expectation that staff have appropriate care arrangements in place for dependents and homeworking on a regular or permanent basis cannot be used as a substitute for appropriate care arrangements for dependents on an ongoing and full-time basis. It is accepted, however, that home working may be suitable to provide flexibility for staff to work around care arrangements. For example, a member of staff may work from home after a nursery or school pick up period or during school holidays as long as they are still able to undertake their work appropriately. Consideration of the appropriateness for home working in such circumstances will be based on the specific detail on an individual case basis with a focus on flexibility and accommodation of requests as far as reasonable but bearing in mind the need to maintain the level of service, student experience, efficiency and/or effectiveness as well as consideration of other aspects such as impact on other team members.

As part of rolling out Hybrid Working Guidance your manager will meet with you/your team to discuss what the organisational and service parameters are which in turn will help to inform what work arrangements are required and what may cause difficulty.

5. If I work from home, I could increase my working hours because I don’t have to allow travel to work time, can I do this?

A: Any request for a change in working hours should be discussed with your line manager in the first instance and can only be agreed if there is an organisation need.

6. It would suit me to work in the evenings, can I do this?

A: Staff are expected to work the same pattern as their normal hours of work unless a change of work pattern has been agreed as part of the working from home request. If staff want to vary this they should discuss and agree this with their line manager. Approval would be based on the job/service requirements, maintaining the level of service, student experience, efficiency and/or effectiveness, and how suitable evening working is for achieving these.

7. I am an academic can I work full time from home outside of term time?

A: It is recognised that traditionally academic members of staff have already had flexibility and this may include working from home outside term time.  The Homeworking Policy is not designed to replace such historic arrangements.  Otherwise, if such arrangements have not been in place you should discuss and agree with your line manager.

8. Do I have to arrange a meeting with my line manager every time I want to work from home on an occasional basis?

A: No, this is not required where there is already a general understanding of that working pattern being in place, but it would be good practice just to let your line manager know where you are. If you don’t already have a general understanding of when occasional homeworking might be appropriate for you, then it would be useful to discuss this with your line manager and agree how this might work for you both going forward.

Sickness Absence

1. What happens if I am ill?

A: If you are ill and unable to work you should follow the normal Sickness Absence reporting procedures: Holidays, Leave and Absence | StaffNet | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

Application and Approval

1. How do I apply for homeworking?

A: The University is implementing Hybrid Working Guidance concurrently with the Homeworking Policy.  As part of this Guidance, managers are being encouraged to discuss with teams how hybrid working may work as and when more staff are able to return to work on campus.  As part of this you may discuss a request to work from home which is governed by the Homeworking Policy.  Please  refer to the guidance and policy, engage in team discussion and/or speak to your line manager.  You may then decide to complete a homeworking request form which is available online here.  

2. Is there an appeal process if my request is refused?

A: If refused you may wish to consider submitting your request as a formal Flexible Working request which also includes an appeal process.

3. Will any new arrangement agreed under the homeworking agreement be a permanent change?

A: No, any agreement will be for an initial period of 3 months and then it will be     reviewed. Thereafter, either the staff member or the University may end the     agreement by giving the appropriate notice. The University will not terminate a Homeworking Agreement without reasonable cause. 

In addition, the University will review Hybrid Working arrangements over the academic year 2021/22, including engagement with managers, staff and the trade unions and may make further changes based on the experience of the first year and feedback received.

4. What happens if my request is refused, when can I apply again?

A: You would not normally be able to apply again for 12 months but your line manager may be happy to accept a request sooner than this. Please discuss with them.

5. Why do I have to be available at short notice to come into the office?

A: An urgent need for you to attend the University may arise and you should be prepared and able to do so. This would normally be an infrequent occurrence.

6. I am an academic and I already work from home for a lot of the time and am concerned that this policy will give me less flexibility about when and where I work and add bureaucracy. Why does this policy apply to me?

A: This policy applies to all staff at the University. It is recognised that traditionally, some members of staff already have significant flexibility in how, when and where they work, including from home. For example this in particular has been the case with academic staff who traditionally have had the freedom to determine where they work based on the nature of activities they are undertaking (and, for example, whether this is required to be undertaken on campus or not). This policy is not intended to restrict this type of flexible working and such traditional arrangements take precedence over requirements introduced in this Policy.

8. Why do I need to have a meeting with my manager and fill in a form when I already work from home?

A: The policy is not intended to address the ad hoc one-off arrangements for homeworking for short periods to complete specific agreed pieces of work, nor intended to impinge on existing arrangements or working practices as outlined in the Policy at 1.2. However, this is to ensure the University is fulfilling its obligations to you as an employee and to help you understand what is expected of you and to discuss any additional equipment, support you might require when working from home. The policy is not intended to imply that you meet with your manager every time you want to work from home as this should not be required if you have already discussed and agreed what your arrangements will be. Some staff may also find it helpful to have this discussion with their line manager.

Examples

1. A member of Professional services staff wants to have the opportunity to work from home occasionally, what should they do?

A: The member of staff should read the policy in the first instance and then arrange to have a discussion with their line manager. Discussion might include, why they want to work from home, when and how often, whether they have tasks that it would be appropriate to do at home, whether they would need any additional support, and agreeing how they should let their manager know they want to do this. This might just take the form of an email saying ’ I plan to work from home on Wednesday as my boiler needs fixed, I can work on that committee paper/draft/etc and join in the team meeting by teams. Is that okay?

Because both the staff member and manager understand the general arrangements for that staff member to work from home, having met to discuss them previously, as occasions arise when the staff member  wishes to work from home it is easier for the line manager to make a decision on whether this can be facilitated.

2. A member of Professional services or Academic member of  staff wants to have work from home regularly or permanently, what should they do?

A:The member of staff should read the policy in the first instance and then arrange to have a discussion with their line manager. It is likely that as part of rolling out the Homeworking Policy and Hybrid Working Guidance, managers will meet with teams and individuals to discuss how Hybrid Working including homeworking will work for the team. 

Discussions between managers and teams regarding hybrid working will include challenges and opportunities offered by it, organisational and school/directorate parameters that the team will have to work around as well as what preferences regarding home working team members have. 

Staff are also likely to want to discuss their own circumstances and preferences for homeworking with their line manager.  Discussion might include, why they want to work from home, when and how often, whether they have tasks that it would be appropriate to do at home, whether they would need any additional support, and agreeing how they should let their manager know they want to do this. This might just take the form of an email saying ’ I plan to work from home on Wednesday as my boiler needs fixed, I can work on that committee paper/draft/etc and join in the team meeting by teams. Is that okay?

Because both the staff member and manager understand the general arrangements for that staff member to work from home, having met to discuss them previously, as occasions arise when the staff member  wishes to work from home it is easier for the line manager to make a decision on whether this can be facilitated.

3. An Academic member of staff has previously enjoyed the freedom to work at home and wants to continue to do this but is now required to discuss and agree this with their line manager and sees this as unnecessary bureaucracy and a waste of their time

A:The University has a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff whilst working from home and to provide appropriate support, as well as ensuring security of University property and data and there is health and safety and data protection legislation which must be followed.

It is very probable that the member of staff can continue to enjoy the same freedom to work at home once they have read the policy and had a discussion with their line manager to agree how this might work for them. The purpose of this discussion is to be supportive and to ensure that appropriate equipment is available. The outcome of this discussion should be that the member of staff knows what is expected of them and they have discussed and agreed this with their line manager.

There may only be a need to discuss this again if anything changes or either the staff member or line manager wishes to clarify anything.

Location

1. I have a property abroad; can I work from home from there for part of the year?

A: Homeworking outside the UK will not be permitted on a long-term or ongoing basis other than in exceptional and pre-agreed circumstances. This is owing to tax, social security, pension and immigration considerations. Homeworking may be permitted on a shorter-term basis depending on the circumstances.  Staff should ensure that they discuss with their line manager any plans to work from home outwith the UK even on a shorter-term basis.  This is to ensure that the potential implications both for the staff member and the University are fully explored and understood. Line managers will seek advice from Human Resources before approving any requests, but approval is not guaranteed.

Further guidance in relation to this issue will be included in the Mobile Workforce Framework/Global Mobility policy which are being developed.