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Work Shadowing

Our work shadowing process for technicians was launched by Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor & President. It was announced simultaneously that technical staff are entitled to a minimum of 2 days of professional development per year, with work shadowing as one potential activity towards this.

Work Shadowing – Guidance and Process

What is Work Shadowing?

Work shadowing brings a job to life and can help you decide if it’s for you. It enables you to observe a new role, or, a similar role in a different setting.

Work shadowing opportunities usually last for a few hours or a couple of days and are where an individual observes someone in their day-to-day role. The objective of work-shadowing is to achieve an in-sight or increase knowledge, of an area of work that you are interested in, or a role that you might like to do in the future, rather than gaining hands-on experience through undertaking tasks. It brings a job to life and will help you to gain an understanding of the type of work and decide whether it’s for you; it can also help you to build a network of contacts that may help you with issues in the future.

It is important to remember that not all jobs are suitable for shadowing, particularly where there may be issues regarding confidentiality of information or data or health and safety matters.

Work shadowing opportunities are not generally advertised; an approach needs to be made by you and can often be done with the help of your line manager. Therefore an initial conversation with your line manager or as part of the PDR process should be considered.

Why should I consider work shadowing?

Work shadowing can be a very useful tool in networking which can help with contacts for future career opportunities and prospects.

If you are looking to develop skills in a certain technique, or wonder what it’s like to undertake a particular task or work with a specific group of people then speaking to someone who is already familiar with that area is often the best way to gain this type of information. Observing someone in that role for a few hours can give you an insight into the type of things that might happen on a ‘typical’ day and give you the opportunity to decide, quite quickly, whether that might be something that you would be interested in pursuing in the future.

Many roles have inter-relationships and are dependent on one another to work well in order to provide a good service. In order to promote good team working and support career development it is important to understand other areas than the one you work in. Shadowing across other teams helps you to observe how teams run, and can enable better connections with colleagues.

What are the benefits of work shadowing?

Work shadowing can bring a number of benefits including:

  • Offering a mutually beneficial experience for both the individual shadowing and those being shadowed/observed
  • Providing the opportunity to gain a greater insight into different roles and responsibilities and also enables you to observe how other teams work
  • Helping to improve communication and collaboration between teams
  • Encouraging interaction between colleagues (team building) and broadening horizons into other areas of work
  • Providing the opportunity to gain a better perspective on the skills, knowledge and experience required to work in other teams and areas of the Institution
  • Aiding development by gaining skills, knowledge and experience, on the job, to add to your CV, that are not available in your current role
  • Opening up networking opportunities with other colleagues, within or outside the Institution and learning about career pathways and future progression opportunities that might be available

Who can I shadow?

It is important to shadow roles that are relevant and of interest to you in improving your career prospects. Most roles are suitable for shadowing, other than those where Health and Safety or security may be an issue. The key factor is that you must be able to benefit from the experience in terms of gaining useful information that will help to inform your future decision on career development and progression.

What do I have to do to start the process?

You should discuss your wish to undertake a period of work shadowing with your line manager in order to gain approval. Discuss your plans with your line manager and seek their agreement. Your discussions will need to take into account workloads within your area at that time and other operational considerations and how any difficulties might be overcome or priorities covered during any absence. A form is available to enable you to request this which will be used during the approval process. Request Form

Once you have agreement from your line manager you will need to think about an area/team/individual that you feel is appropriate for work shadowing and is relevant to your area of work and will aide any development prospects.

You and your manager should discuss:

  • The purpose of the shadowing arrangement, for example, is there some particular knowledge you would like to attain or develop or a particular process you want to learn or observe that will be helpful in developing your current role.
  • The area, or person, that you would like to shadow and whether this is appropriate
  • What you hope to gain from the arrangement and the benefits the shadowing arrangement would bring to you and also to your team.
  • When would be a convenient time for the arrangement to start and the duration of the shadowing arrangement. It is likely that this will be a minimum of half a day (up to a maximum of 2 days).

If your request is agreed you should then discuss with your line manage and your HR Business Partner how the work-shadowing arrangement will be made, for example, who will approach the individual or their line manager and who will be the contact throughout the period

You will need to agree with the contact:

  • Confirmation of the work shadowing arrangements (dates and times)
  • The types of activities that you wish to observe and that will be covered during the arrangement
  • Your expectations of what you would like to gain from the arrangement and whether you will have the opportunity to undertake tasks during the arrangement or sit in on meetings
  • Any additional information to consider (such as any Health & Safety considerations and/or risk assessments that may need to be completed)
  • Any opportunities you will have to ask questions and gain further information during the work-shadowing period or perhaps afterwards


Your line manager should be kept informed of the arrangements at all times. During the shadowing arrangement you should note and respect the confidentiality of any information you receive and also of any policies and procedures in place relating to the activities you are observing or undertaking.

Once you have completed the work shadowing period you will be asked to provide a short outline of what you experienced and how you felt that this would be of benefit to you and if not, why that is the case.