The Future of Remote Work as We Return to our Campuses
Dear Staff and Faculty,
Over the course of the pandemic we’ve gained valuable knowledge about how the University of Kansas Lawrence and Edwards campuses, and our people, can perform effectively and efficiently in service to our students and our state even while working from remote locations.
We will put our expanded knowledge to use as we prepare to provide a greater in-person presence this summer, and as we return this fall to provide a robust research residential experience in Lawrence and the workforce development and lifelong learning experience at Edwards.
A new policy has been in development that will outline remote work options – fully or partially remote – and the expectations of employees and their supervisors who want to take advantage of these options. Our expectations are generally that our offices will be open and appropriately staffed to support the exceptional learning community that we are, and to serve our students and constituents. There will be opportunities to provide some office staff with a variety of flexible work arrangements, such as working from a remote location, that allow staff to work together, potentially remotely, and still serve students and others.
The draft Remote Work Policy will be shared soon and will follow the traditional two-week comment period. The remote work options are not an opportunity for all employees or all positions within a unit, sometimes because of the nature of the position, the ability to effectively fulfill the job responsibilities or occasionally because of the potential impact on colleagues and coworkers. Student-facing positions, including instruction roles, are generally excluded unless an exception or official accommodation is approved. As written in the current draft, employees who want to pursue a remote work or hybrid work arrangement must complete a Human Resource Management request form that will be reviewed by both the supervisor and unit leadership. HRM will have final review and approval. Approved arrangements should be evaluated after six months and annually thereafter.
The policy is an important advance for this institution and the people who make it great. The policy contains considerable detail, and I encourage everyone to read it carefully. It will require that supervisors set and communicate clear goals and appropriately monitor staff activities. Implementation of this policy is a way we can demonstrate the high regard with which we hold our staff and our intent to support them as best we can, while at the same time ensuring we meet the needs of students and other constituents.
Vice Provost for Operations Mike Rounds and his team have been meeting with unit leaders to evaluate the opportunities for staff to work remotely, as well as to identify future work locations in campus buildings and facilities. Further, Mike and I anticipate that both employees working remotely and their supervisors will complete a brief training module before the start of the fall semester. The training will reflect the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic and will incorporate feedback from focus groups and emerging best practices on remote work that are being shared by organizations like College and University Professional Association-HR. The training is currently being developed and is scheduled to be available in MyTalent around July 1.
Finally, I want to thank Mike and those who worked to put together the policy. I also thank all of you, our faculty and staff, for showing what was possible during the extreme challenges caused by the pandemic. What we have learned from your dedication and outstanding work during the pandemic is leading to long-term positive change for employees on our campuses as we create the future of the university.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor