The Smart Working at Essex (SWAE) project was designed to provide growth space and specialist student-facing facilities for the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences (SRES) and School of Health and Social Care (HSC), repurposing a range of spaces to support the delivery of essential education and research activities.

This has included adapting some spaces that were previously used as office space by Professional Services. The project has developed new ways of supporting colleagues to work flexibly, utilising new technologies and new approaches to space to create more flexible working environments.

The project covered three key areas:

  • Creating new learning and research spaces
  • Developing a flexible and collaborative culture
  • Modernising our digital estate to provide seamless working

Climate and ecological emergency

In December 2020, the University declared a climate and ecological emergency. We recognise the importance of reducing our collective footprint, minimising new building construction and optimising our use of existing space. This approach enables us to protect our precious green spaces, at the same time as making sure that we are not adding to our carbon use. Our approach also means that we can direct more of our capital resources to improving our energy efficiency and reducing the carbon impact of our existing estate.

Developing a flexible and collaborative culture

Over the past two years, as we have adapted to the demands of the pandemic, we have developed new and different ways of working. We know that many colleagues have appreciated the increased flexibility of these working practices, and the SWAE project will help us provide a more flexible and agile working environment, blending campus-based and remote working practices as required.

We’re working closely with the teams who are part of this change project, to support them in adapting to new ways of working. This includes teams from:

  • People and Culture
  • Estates and Campus Services
  • Finance, Planning and Data Insight
  • Digital Innovation and Technology Services (DITS)

We are aiming to understand how new ways of working affect the lived experience, and to provide the support staff need to work in a more agile, flexible and collaborative way across all three of our campuses. We want to create a workplace which enables everyone to do their best, whatever their working environments – campus-based, remote, or a mixture of the two.

Modernising our digital estate to provide seamless working

Through the SWAE project we are trialling a number of new technologies to support a seamless digital experience, on-campus and off-campus. This includes providing staff with:

  • A laptop which allows staff to access their applications and data from any location
  • An enhanced telephony service which will enable staff to access their University phone number through their laptop
  • A new remote access service which will be accessible through the web, as well as a new mobile application for use on smart phones.

These new technologies, which enable staff to work anywhere through one multi-functional device, will form the foundation of our modernised digital estate. They will provide a working environment that is scalable, portable, and which minimises the risk of cyber security threats, the loss of data and business interruption.

Learning from the SWAE project

The Smart Working at Essex pilot will enable us to test, analyse and review what works well and what doesn’t, learning from this project to inform future thinking about our digital and physical estate.

If you have a question about the project please email