New report puts spotlight on workplace equality for technicians in Covid-19 pandemic

Monday, 08 February 2021

New equality research from the University of Nottingham has offered a snapshot of the work challenges faced by the technician community across the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 65 technicians in research institutes and universities from across the UK took part in detailed qualitative research investigating the daily effects of lockdowns on their working practices and work-life balance.

Through interviews and written accounts, the project also highlights equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) best practice introduced as part of Covid recovery strategies. Many of the findings could be used to inform positive social and cultural change in workplaces where technicians play a key role and even beyond to different working environments and industries.

“The technical community has been at the forefront of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but has not always got the same recognition as other roles in research. Technicians have shut down and maintained buildings, materials, animals and specimens, conducted Covid-19 and other essential research, been instrumental in reopening campuses and the return to face-to-face, blended and online teaching and learning. Technicians have also worked from home or experienced periods of furlough for the first time and this has had a profound impact on their work experiences, both positive and negative. “The report draws on narrative research data to examine in detail cases where Covid-19 has exacerbated pre-existing EDI issues, where it has brought acute challenges to achieving EDI and, more positively, it shines a light on best practice examples of EDI to ensure all colleagues can participate at work on equal terms in future.”
Professor Louise Mullany, report co-author and sociolinguist

The detailed findings are published in a new report entitled Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: UK Technicians’ Experiences During the Covid-19 Pandemic. The report was produced by the University of Nottingham as part of the STEMM-CHANGE project under the EPSRC’s £5.5m Inclusion Matters portfolio, which aims to drive positive organisational change and practices in EDI across science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.

The report focuses on six key areas where participants felt the pandemic has had a particularly significant impact on EDI matters: flexibility and work-life balance, communication, parenting and caring responsibilities, ethnicity, disability and mental health. These themes emerged from narratives of technicians’ everyday lived experiences.

“We were delighted to secure EPSRC Inclusion Matters funding, part of which has helped us to advance understanding of the equality, diversity and inclusion issues that affect and impact the technical community. Technicians make vital contributions to higher education and research. By working together to increase awareness and recognition of EDI challenges, and by designing and implementing interventions to address them, we can advance equality, diversity and inclusion for all.”
Kelly Vere MBE, Director of Technical Skills and Strategy at the University of Nottingham and Programme Director of the Technician Commitment, Science Council

Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and People at the University of Nottingham warmly welcomed the report: “I’m very proud of the work that the STEMM-CHANGE team have done to highlight the specific impact that our technical community have experienced during the Covid-19 response. I am pleased that we have been able to implement many of the report’s recommendations in our practice at the University already, but also recognise that we need to do more, particularly to support the significant mental health impacts that we are seeing across the community. We are very lucky to have such a rich source of expertise through the STEMM-CHANGE project to accelerate our work in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University.”

EPSRC's Deputy Director, EDI and People, Dr Alison Wall said: “This report published by STEMM-CHANGE today is a great example of the timely, ambitious and inspiring work to improve diversity and inclusion being undertaken as part of the EPSRC Inclusion Matters portfolio. Addressing these challenges by bringing social sciences researchers together with the engineering and physical sciences community is proving very effective. I particularly welcome the focus here on the experience of technicians, who make such a vital contribution to our research programmes.”

Emma Lowry final
Emma Lowry - Media Relations Manager Engineering
Phone: 0115 846 7156
Location: University Park

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

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