On March 13, 2020, we received notice that we were to limit all campus activities to personnel supporting essential activities and all other personnel were required to work remotely. In a short period of time, we learned that many jobs could be performed effectively in a remote setting.
For some, the flexibility of working from home afforded opportunities for better work-life balance while performing their jobs, and for others there were challenges to overcome. Our faculty, staff, and students have been incredibly productive over the past 14 months.
Moving Forward with Flexibility
As we expand on-campus operations, we intend to do so through a model of shared responsibility. We must be inclusive, thoughtful, and strategic in considering how to best move forward. It is also important to consider that what has worked while the majority of campus and instruction was remote, may not work when we return to more normal campus density and in-person instruction.
At UC Riverside, we strive to be an employer of choice, providing flexibility in line with today’s workforce needs. We also want to unearth new discoveries, deliver a high-quality educational experience, and provide services in support of student success. Ultimately, we need to consider work location in the context of both individual performance and community. How location impacts colleagues, professional development, our collegial network, output, space constraints, and sustainability goals are all to be considered.
The campus is committed to remote delivery for spring and summer quarters, and we now estimate approximately 85% in-person instruction for fall 2021. It is important to evaluate what staffing is needed on campus in order to serve the students, faculty and staff for a repopulation of the campus. Units that must have staff on campus for the fall quarter, as determined by unit leadership, will need to assure some gradual transition back to campus for their staff, well in advance of the fall quarter start date.
Local Decision Making
The Chancellor has asked every vice chancellor and dean begin conversations within their units to determine needs and plans. The campus will not impose work location decisions on any college, school, or unit, but will instead support local decisions that serve the interest of our mission.
Between now and July 1, most staff will likely continue in their current work arrangements as they have during the pandemic. Between July and the start of fall quarter, 2021, a return to campus will be implemented based on several guiding principles, which will be developed through a process that allows for feedback as well as consideration of the specific duties and responsibilities for the individual work units.
Timing for any return to campus will be driven by operational needs and the recognition that these needs differ across units and some employees may return to campus sooner than others.
Discussions should occur between the employee and their supervisor(s), and in order to help address overall consistency and equity within the organizational unit, it is recommended that the chain of command of supervisors be involved. These discussions should be initiated as soon as possible, if they have not already been ongoing. As we work through this transition to normal operations, we will continue to look at effective options to increase consistency across organizational units within the campus.
A Deliberate Process
We do not anticipate an abrupt return to campus as the pandemic comes under control. This transition back to campus also will not be without challenges, however we know will get there through a collaborative process that embodies a shared sense of responsibility. Managers will do their best to provide 30 days advance notice of changes to current work arrangements and afford flexibility for staff.
A work schedule that includes some hybrid (or use flexible) remote options can be beneficial for employee recruitment and retention, and employee engagement and well-being, if feasible relative to addressing institutional requirements. However, in some cases an all-remote work schedule may not be optimal for the department and University. The specific duties and responsibilities of a position dictate whether remote work is an option.
Supervisors and employees should work together to assess flexible workplace options, manage workload, set expectations, and maintain communications, whether the employee is working in a remote or hybrid-remote environment, or utilizing another flexible arrangement.
The guidance will likely continue to change based on new information. It is difficult to project in May what the public health guidance will be for September. We will continue to follow the public health guidance relative to parameters for a safe campus operation. The fall quarter may be a transition from a pandemic to a more normal environment, and we encourage employees and supervisors to continue to evaluate and discuss the work schedule through the fall and beyond.
The below links provide resources to explore options and responsibilities for telecommuting and alternative (flexible) work:
- Telecommuting guidelines
- Telecommuting agreement
- Equipment form
- Alternative (flex) work schedule agreement:
- Alternative (Flexible) Work Schedules
As a first step in preparing for employees to return to campus please review the Coronavirus and Campus Return sites and follow all necessary steps for a safe return including COVID-19 training, masking, proper hand hygiene and completing the daily wellness check. All supervisors must complete and submit an online Work Site Specific Plan. This is the requirement as of the date of these guidelines, but it may change with more direction from the state and CalOSHA.
We will continue to update and engage the UCR community throughout this process of determining our return to campus plans.