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Mark Evans, Joint Chair of the RDM Environment and Culture working group (EACWG), presents the findings of the EACWG Staff Survey, and remembers how it came about in the midst of the pandemic.

Infographic summarizing key statistics

One of the many moments I’ll remember from the COVID pandemic was early on in the first lockdown.

I was sat at a makeshift table, balancing on a rickety stool, desperately trying to get through all the extra work that had suddenly landed in my lap. As my youngest asked me for some help with what the school had set them to try and achieve that day, I remember wondering how on earth I was going to balance everyone’s needs.

Listening to the news reports, I knew I wasn’t the only one going through something like this, but in that moment I did wonder just how many other people were going through something similar.

At the next meeting of the RDM Environment and Culture Working Group (EACWG), I ran my thoughts past them all, and together we came up with a plan to send out a survey to try and capture what life was like for people and how, if at all, they were getting through it.

Our aim was to capture evidence of just what it was like for everyone, such that later we could use it to clearly state “This is what happened for people, this is what it was like for them”, and more importantly find out what we might be able to do to help those affected the most, and so in September 2020 we sent out a qualitative survey to all in RDM.

Huge response

Given everything that was going on we didn’t expect a huge response, and so we were elated when over 350 people took the time to share with us their thoughts and feelings.

As we looked through all the responses we saw: major disruption to clinical research, the anxieties of those on fixed-term contracts, the extra challenges faced by those with dependents, and the huge sense of isolation. However, we also saw people making adaptations, people who found the positives in constantly reminding their colleagues they were on mute, people who were grateful that at least they didn’t have to sit in standstill traffic for hours each day, and those who were grateful for the extra time they could spend with their friends and family - even if it were only remotely.

Next of course comes the question “Well, what are you going to do about it?”.

Thanks to all your responses we now have a set of data that we can use to shape and form opinion as we move forward into our post-COVID world. In January, we gave our initial summary to Professor Hugh Watkins, RDM Head of Department, which helped set the tone for the first RDM All online meeting. That summary was also shared during the RDM Head of Division meeting in March, and we will now share it with colleagues across the university. In the EACWG we have been discussing next steps, and sending information across the different RDM divisions and committees. We will use the information alongside the New Ways of Working Project and the upcoming Staff and Student surveys to develop actions which will be in place to support us all over the years to come.

A summary of the findings are now available, and I warmly invite you to read through them. I also invite you to reach out to myself and Charlotte Smith if you feel you would like to contribute towards the actions and recommendations we will be developing.

Thank you all again for taking part in the survey, we really appreciate the effort you all went to.

A screen-reader accessible version of the information in the infographic is also available. 

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