Dear Faculty and Staff,
A few weeks back, we communicated that we’re planning for an all-employee return to campus on July 19, 2021, in accordance with health and safety guidelines. That message was to provide a full 90 days of notice for those of you working remotely to begin thinking about and planning for your return to campus and to recognize those who have been back on campus for many months already.
Some of you have asked about flexible work arrangements and the possibility of continuing remote work. While we have learned a great deal about remote work during the pandemic and know that flexible work arrangements will certainly become part of our workforce planning and organization in the future, we expect most employees to return on or before July 19.
There are several reasons for this approach. First, we are committed to providing a robust residential learning experience for our students in the fall. This will mean we will have full residence halls, in-person instruction in our classrooms, campus activities and services for students and employees, a more robust research operation on-site, and need for support programs across the teaching and research enterprises. While we have learned and intend to borrow some of the lessons gained from the necessity of working remotely due to the pandemic, we expect the needs of our students and employees to be different in this next iteration of the campus environment, and we must respond to those changing needs.
Likewise, before we can assume broader flexibility in where and how people work, we also must put into place some infrastructure and logistics updates to best serve both our students’ and employees’ needs. We have an infrastructure in place for full on-site work, and we have largely assembled, out of necessity, an infrastructure to support remote work while the bulk of the campus was working and learning remotely. What is needed is the full infrastructure to support a broader hybrid model, where some employees work onsite, others work remotely and some have other forms of flexible work arrangements such as alternate work schedules. Much of that work is underway but needs to be informed by the needs of a residential student body, a broader campus space plan, and tools to ensure employees can continue to be both effective and satisfied with their work. This work will also be guided by the insights gained from a limited number of approved pilot groups that will test hybrid and remote work options. These pilot groups are being proposed by Deans and Vice Chancellors across campus, and will largely be “back office” functions that do not require front-facing student or customer contact. These limited exceptions will be driven by business necessities, must meet a series of established factors for consideration, and will go through a rigorous review process for approval to become a pilot group.
All others will return to campus by July 19, 2021—just one month before the start of classes. We will use the first several months of the semester to evaluate and assess the balance of onsite and remote work needed to address the new normal on campus, and to roll out plans for instituting a new flexible work arrangements policy in the units and areas where it is feasible. Once developed, more permanent plans for flexible work arrangements would go into effect for the spring semester.
Of course, the well-being of our community remains a top priority, and we are committed to making this a safe return for everyone. Public health experts maintain that the most effective way to protect ourselves and our community from the spread of COVID-19 is getting vaccinated. The University’s COVID-19 Community Standards will remain in place and will be updated to reflect the most recent guidance from public health experts when necessary. Likewise, asymptomatic testing will continue to be available for students and employees through the summer and fall. Additional guidance about workplace safety practices will be provided in the coming weeks.
Employees unable to return to campus by July 19, 2021, because of a health condition that precludes a return should request an ADA accommodation through the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office on the COVID-19 accommodations webpage. The COVID-19 accommodations process has been updated for summer and fall 2021. We encourage you to carefully review the updated information on the website to evaluate your eligibility.
We continue to work on additional return to campus guidance, which we hope will help you in navigating the transition back to campus. We will share more of that on the hr.unc.edu website in the coming weeks and intend to offer informational sessions to answer your questions and provide the most up-to-date guidance in the early summer. In the meantime, know that we look forward to having you all back on campus!
Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office