Path to Fall - HR Guidance for Units

IMPORTANT NOTE: Because our knowledge and understanding of the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, policies, plans, and guidance will be updated appropriately as more information becomes available. As staffing onsite increases and operations expand, officials will closely monitor and assess the potential spread of the virus, as well as existing policies and procedures to mitigate it. In the event that conditions worsen and the Oregon Health Authority and/or Higher Education Coordination Commission issue guidance on required or expanded remote work, this guidance will be adjusted.
Last updated - May 11, 2021


Throughout the pandemic, many employees have been working in person at a UO location. As we set our sights on Fall 2021, we will begin shifting all employees, faculty, officers of administration, classified employees, graduate employees, and student employees, who have been working remotely back to onsite work in a planful, phased approach in order to help protect the health and safety of all. 

Get Ready for Fall 2021

Units should start preparing now in order to implement a plan for their unit that meets operational needs to achieve our goal of providing mostly in-person instruction, research, and services this fall and to allow time and consideration for employee transitions. It is the university’s expectation that a majority of employees - faculty, officers of administration, classified employees, graduate employees, and student employees - will return to work at a UO location by September 13 (or at the start of their fall contract for faculty members) unless they:

Units should continue to allow employees to work remotely through the summer, if it does not impact necessary on-campus operations. 

This guidance should be used in conjunction with the Path to Fall – Operational Guidance.

Guidance Overview

To assist units in planning for employees who are currently working remotely to return to onsite work, Human Resources has developed guidance and process information. Units should ensure they are making decisions in a thoughtful, consistent, and fair manner, accounting for individual needs and personal situations while balancing operational needs of the unit. Employees may have personal constraints, such as caregiving needs, related to returning to in-person work and units are encouraged to be sensitive to those needs. When possible, units are encouraged to consider ways to ease the transition back to campus, such as allowing temporary hybrid remote/onsite work for a few weeks to allow for a period of adjustment. 

The overall goals are to:

  • Ensure units are able to meet operational needs
  • Assist units to make decisions as consistently, equitably, and fairly as possible, while allowing for appropriate and necessary flexibility based on operational needs
  • Support employees who are currently working remotely by encouraging effective communication to build trust between units and employees, and providing resources and tools to help employees plan and prepare as needed, including identifying and addressing personal concerns they may have regarding their transition to onsite work.

Timeline

May: Preparation & Planning

  • Determine unit's vision for summer and fall operations and share implementation timeline.
  • Begin unit planning in accordance with unit's vision.
  • Check-in with employees.
  • Review safety and health guidance.

Refer to the Recommended Unit Actions below for detailed guidance.

Key action: Provide advance notice to employees who are expected to return to onsite work in June so they can plan and prepare. 

 

June - August: Implementation

  • Continue unit planning based on operational needs and implementing plans as necessary to achieve goals. 
  • Some employees may return to working entirely onsite over time during the summer months or, working in a hybrid (remote/onsite) schedule.

Key action: Communicate and notify employees with a minimum of 30 days’ notice of their expected date to return to onsite work, when possible. 

For example, an employee expected to return to onsite work in June should be notified in May. A July return should be communicated in June, and so on.  

September: Ready for Fall Term 

All units, divisions, and departments are providing instruction, research and services mostly in person. This means:

Recommended Unit Actions

Immediate Actions

  • Communicate unit's vision for fall operations.
    Deans and Vice Presidents should determine and communicate to their school/college/division what their expectations are for review and approval of return to the workplace plans, as there will not be a central review and approval process (except for requests to continue working remotely as an accommodation for disability/medical reasons).
     
  • Begin unit planning.
    Unit planning should begin with a goal of giving employees a minimum of 30 days’ notice of their expected return to onsite work whenever possible. 
     
  • Check-in with employees.
    Supervisors should check-in with individual employees to understand their personal situation, potential barriers, and preferences related to returning to onsite work and let them know the timeframe by which they anticipate making a final decision about the date of the employee’s expected return. Refer to the supervisor guidance for discussing fall planning with employees.
     
  • Review health and safety guidance.
    Units should review and stay up-to-date on the university’s safety and health guidance to ensure understanding of, and compliance with all requirements.

Additional Actions

Units should continue their planning process with the following actions in May to ensure communication to employees can occur timely, but some steps of the process may occur over the summer, depending on the operational needs of the unit. 

Determine onsite operational needs for summer

Units should determine their onsite operational needs through September 13, as well as into the fall, including the dates/timeframes in which those operational needs will begin and/or occur. These decisions should be made based on the work itself, not based on the individuals performing the work, their job performance, or their personal situations.

Consider your employees' vacation balances and time-off needs as you formulate a plan for your unit. This will allow time for employees to make necessary personal arrangements for their transition and relax and refresh before fall term begins.

Determine functions for onsite work

Units should determine the functions, positions, and number of employees required to be onsite to meet those operational needs. Below are some questions and considerations units should keep in mind when making their determinations:

  • Which positions in your unit can and cannot effectively work remotely in order for the unit to successfully complete the preparation, planning, and actions necessary for a mostly in-person fall term? 
  • Do you have employees who want to return to onsite work sooner than others? If so, can you meet operational needs with only those who want to return to work onsite for now, and delay bringing others back for a period of time?
  • Provide flexibility to employees, when possible, and consider ways to ease the transition back to campus. Consider implementing a temporary flexible work arrangement, such as rotating or staggering employee work schedules or a hybrid remote/onsite work arrangement, if space, safety, or personal concerns are an issue and business needs can still be met. It may be mutually beneficial for units and employees to ease into a return to onsite work by temporarily implementing a hybrid remote/onsite flexible work arrangement, rather than returning employees back to onsite work fully right away. Some example of hybrid options to consider include:
    • Gradually increasing the number of days an employee works onsite over several weeks
    • Split shifts (such as working the first half of the day onsite and the second half of the day from a remote work location)
    • Spacing out shifts efficiently so that only those that must be in the office are present at any given time
  • If some, but not all, classified employees within a particular classification will be required to return to onsite work at a given time, units should use seniority as the means to determine who will be allowed to continue to work remotely.
  • If some, but not all, Officers of Administration in similar roles will be required to return to onsite work at a given time, units should use objective criteria (such as seniority or job performance) to determine who will be allowed to continue to work remotely.
  • Supervisors should contact Employee & Labor Relations at uoelr@uoregon.edu if they have questions or concerns about how to make determinations regarding which positions must return to onsite work and which can continue to work remotely through early September.
  • If an employee raises concerns about returning to onsite work because of their own physical or mental health, then they have requested an accommodation. Such requests should be referred to Human Resources’ formal accommodation process. The university’s ADA Coordinator will work with the employee and unit to determine whether remote work is a reasonable accommodation or an undue hardship to operations.  

Determine approximate dates for return

Units should determine the approximate dates that employees will need to return to onsite work in order to meet the operational needs.

  • Units are encouraged to provide 30 days’ notice where possible and more advance notice is allowed and may be beneficial. This may not be possible in every situation, but giving as much advance notice as possible allows employees to make personal arrangements needed for their return, such as caregiving, and gives time for employees to prepare for the mental adjustment of returning to onsite work. Support resources and tools are available for employees who may need or want them.
  • If units are unable to give 30 days’ notice, they should plan their communications accordingly by being sensitive to personal arrangements needed and by being clear about the reason why the employee’s return is operationally necessary.

Contact Employee and Labor Relations when needed

If any of the following situations apply, the unit should contact Employee and Labor Relations (ELR) at uoelr@uoregon.edu to discuss next steps prior to talking with the employee:

  • An employee is on an approved leave.
  • An employee has requested an accommodation (such as continued remote work) for a medical reason. Such requests will follow the formal accommodation process.
  • Unit believes the employee will not want to return to onsite work for another reason.

notify employees of Expected return date

Units should determine the communication plan and timeline to notify employees (group and individual) of their expected return to onsite work.

  • Units should notify employees of their expected return date and any other relevant expectations or information; it is recommended to do so both verbally and in writing. The written communication should be retained in the supervisor’s desk file.
  • Units should be prepared to communicate to employees the reason why their return to onsite work is operationally necessary.
  • Show compassion in communications and interactions with employees. Remember:
    • Employees will have a wide variety of feelings about returning to onsite work. Some may be eager to return, some may be fearful or anxious, and others may have mixed feelings.
    • Employees have all been impacted by the pandemic, but in different ways. Some employees may have had COVID-19 themselves, experienced the passing or illness of friends or family members, struggled with the loss of income within their household, suffered emotionally from physical distancing, or dealt with the added stress of caregiving responsibilities with the closures of schools and childcare options.
    • Everyone’s situation is different; don’t assume that you know about employee’s personal situation or experience during the pandemic. Be empathetic and flexible, when possible. Refer to the Leading Teams in a COVID-19 World for further guidance.
    • Think about workplace expectations and clearly communicate them to employees. Some employees haven’t worked onsite in over a year, so re-stating existing expectations or clarifying new expectations will be important. Don’t assume employees know what is expected of them in this “new normal” environment.
      • Are there things that were acceptable while working remotely, but are no longer acceptable in the office?
      • Are there things that were not acceptable before the pandemic, but are now acceptable?
      • What is the department’s standards for workplace attire?
      • What is the current standard related to masks/face coverings?
      • Are there new behavioral norms employees should be aware of, such as how offices, cubicle spaces, break rooms, conference rooms, etc. will be utilized?

Support and Resources

Recognizing that change and transition can be challenging, Human Resources has assembled a variety of resources to support supervisors and employees as we make our way to fall term and beyond.