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Human Resources

Sensitive and supportive conversations

Having supportive and sensitive conversations with staff about their working arrangements 

It is important that managers have supportive and sensitive conversations with staff about their working arrangements.  The questions and prompts below are ways in which these conversations can be led by managers.    

It should be noted:

  • This should not feel like a simple 'passing on' of information, it should be a conversation between your staff and you as a manager  
  • You will find below some suggested tips and prompts; on account of your relationship with staff, you may have your own way of starting the conversation – this is not intended to be exhaustive  
  • As the situation changes (e.g. as we progress through the government road map exit out of lock down), managers should consider if it would be helpful to have further conversations as people’s concerns might change  

Suggested structure:

  • General conversation about the staff member, how they are doing  
  • Focussed discussion on their experience during the current situation  
  • Outlining the University position and that we are now taking a phased approach to bringing staff who have been working remotely back to campus
  • Identifying specific concerns  
  • Identifying potential options for support and their impact  
  • Setting review timelines  

  General conversation:

  • How are you feeling?
  • How are your family/loved ones?

  Focussed discussion:

  • How have you found the experience of working from home? What’s working, what’s not? How can we improve the experience? 
  • How have you felt managing your workload  
  • What were the results of your individual health questionnaire?

Identifying specific concerns and options:

  • How has the current situation impacted on you?
  • Do you have any concerns about returning to work?
  • What can be done to support you in returning to work? For example, should we discuss any concerns and/or support needed in relation to:  
    • Work patterns (e.g. rotas, start and end times)
    • Health support (including mental health) 
    • Physical restrictions  
    • Travelling to work  
    • General health concerns/underlying health conditions  
    • Caring responsibilities  
    • General anxieties/concerns?
  • Is there anything else I can do to support you?   
  • Is there anything about your new way of working/remote working you would like to retain? 
  • Do you have any wider concerns about returning to work?
    • What are the options to resolve the concern?
    • What would you like to do if there were no restrictions?
    • What are the implications of doing nothing differently, or each of the options?
    • Who else might be impacted by the options?

Setting review timelines:

  • What timeline can we apply to [changes/options]?
  • When shall we meet to talk this through more?

In planning for the conversation, be mindful: 

  • to listen to their response and pay attention to how they react – the discussion may be uncomfortable depending on where they are and the relationship you have 
  • that they may not be comfortable sharing specific information with you 
    • If this is the case please see guidance on How to manage conversations with staff if they are unable or unwilling to return to campus (under 'Managing conversations with staff in specific circumstances'). 
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