This past spring, I updated you on our intention to have university staff return to their on-campus work locations this summer. Since then, we have been working to refine the implementation of our plans and prepare for a successful fall semester. Today, I want to share some key information related to our return to campus on Monday, August 2, 2021.
While the university has learned a great deal about managing many of its campus operations remotely during periods of greatly reduced capacity, we need to better understand how our full-capacity campus operations and services are impacted when staff work a portion of their week remotely. While implementing hybrid schedules (meaning some portion of the work week is remote) offers benefits, we want to ensure that any negative impacts for our students, as well as our staff and faculty colleagues, are mitigated. The university, therefore, is implementing a plan that addresses short-term needs while also looking at longer-term hybrid options.
To more fully examine a permanent framework for hybrid work, the university is launching the Modern Workplace Initiative. Its working group will examine best practices, gather feedback from the campus community, and make policy recommendations. The Modern Workplace Initiative will examine the many factors related to flexible work options, including technology and workspace considerations, supervising in a flexible schedule environment, and implementing flex work while considering diversity and equity. The initiative will incorporate staff unions into its work through a separate, dedicated flexible work labor/management committee.
It is expected that the working group will present its recommendations to campus leadership in early 2022. Information related to the Modern Workplace Initiative and the efforts of the working group will be posted on its forthcoming website.
While the Modern Workplace Initiative develops a long-term hybrid work plan, in the short term the university will consider employees’ requests for flexible work arrangements. Staff members who do not have a flexible work arrangement in place, as outlined below, should expect to resume on-campus work no later than Monday, August 2, 2021. Flexible work arrangements will be considered in circumstances including:
- Medical Accommodations – As previously communicated, if a member of the staff has medical needs that make a return to campus difficult, they should fill out a medical accommodation request. The university will examine these requests pursuant to its accommodation process under the Americans with Disabilities Act. These requests are based on an employee’s own personal circumstance.
- Transition-to-Campus Period – If staff members have legitimate needs, such as child or elder care, that make a full-time return to campus in early August a challenge, they should discuss this matter with their supervisor. Supervisors will work with divisional leadership to make efforts to allow flexible work arrangements (either hybrid or fully remote) during August and September to assist a staff member’s transition to working on campus full time. While the approval of a transition schedule will depend on the nature of the staff member’s position, these requests are based on an employee’s own personal circumstance.
- Flexible Schedules for Academic Year 2021-22 – Since a more comprehensive infrastructure for remote and hybrid work has yet to be created, the campus will consider some flexible work arrangements for the coming academic year. Requests for hybrid schedules, where a portion of the workweek includes remote work, will be reviewed by departments and approved by the appropriate Vice Chancellor. These requests are primarily based on the nature of the position, not the personal circumstances of the staff member. A few important notes about hybrid schedules:
- Not all positions are eligible for these arrangements, as the university will need to consider specific factors, including but not limited to, the position’s specific duties; need for in-person interactions with campus constituents; and a staff member’s success in a remote work environment over the last year.
- Not every employee is entitled to a flexible work option, nor will an employee be forced to work a flex schedule.
- Some areas of campus may be better suited to hybrid schedules during certain times of the year, depending on expected workloads (e.g. hybrid schedules beginning October 1 after the successful start to the fall semester). The university’s priority continues to be our service to our students.
- Divisions may set deadlines for hybrid work schedule requests so that all requests can be examined together and plans for on-campus coverage can be developed which may mean that, in some cases, staff return to on-campus work full time while all flex work requests are considered.
- Each staff member undertaking a hybrid schedule during the academic year will be expected to enter into a Flexible Work Arrangement Agreement.
- Fully remote schedules will be granted only in rare situations.
- All flexible schedules will expire no later than June 30, 2022 pending review under new policies and guidance that will be developed in the coming year.
The university will continue to update guidance related to flexible work. As outlined above, this guidance is designed to help think through flexible schedules for the coming academic year, while the Modern Workplace Initiative working group develops recommendations for a more comprehensive, long-term plan. As a careful and thoughtful implementation of flexible work in the coming months will help set the stage for our future state, it is important that the university implement flexible work arrangements in ways that prioritize operational effectiveness and service to our community. The university will be developing assessment tools to monitor the success of hybrid work and its impact on students, faculty, and staff colleagues.
All of our staff have worked incredibly hard over the past 18 months to keep the university running and I sincerely thank you for all of your efforts. Additionally, I want to thank our staff labor unions, which have worked tirelessly with university administration to find common ground around flexible work. I think, together, we will be able to chart a path forward that serves our community well.
Bill Brady, Vice Chancellor and Chief Human Resources Officer