Employee Guidance on Remote/Telework Arrangements

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Dear WWU Staff,

Recently, the President’s Cabinet met to review evolving guidance from Gov. Inslee for the safe reopening of the state’s college campuses now that COVID-19 hospitalization and infection rates are rapidly declining. As of this week, about 60% of people in Washington 12 years or older are fully vaccinated, and we’re encouraged by the steady increase in Western’s reported student and employee vaccination rates.   

As our state’s businesses and institutions open up again, we are excited to welcome students, faculty and staff back to campus throughout the summer, with the goal of being ready to support a more vibrant campus by the start of fall quarter on September 22.

Since the pandemic began, each of us has had opportunities to capitalize on learnings and experiences to support our students and our work in new ways. We know that there is still some anxiety about returning to campus. We also understand the need for us to re-adapt as we transition back to an on-campus operation, as well as the time some of us need to address personal circumstances as a result of the pandemic.

But we also know that for most of our students Zooming from the kitchen or bedroom is not a substitute for our community being together in classrooms, labs, studios and university residences. We are a residential learning community, and the key to our success is the intensively collaborative environment created by having everyone together.

As we balance our institutional priorities with individual employee needs, we are extending remote work flexibility through December 31, 2021, to allow departments and individuals the time to work through their specific circumstances. 

We expect the university to be operating fully, in-person with the start of winter quarter, January 4, 2022. Consequently, we will not be supporting any transitional types of arrangements beyond the end of fall 2021. However, we have learned a lot about remote work during the COVID pandemic. We understand that outcomes can be delivered effectively working remotely for several types of positions or elements of a position, and that the university can benefit from exploring new work arrangements. We will revisit our approach to remote work and associated telework policies and guidelines over the next six months to examine how we can enrich the work place by capturing some of the best remote work practices that are relevant to the work of a residential, higher education institution.

As we previously shared, we are retiring the Incident Command and Management System structure that has been in place over the last 16 months. As part of this change, Human Resources will resume the lead in providing guidance, resources and support for remote work and telework. Another reminder of the return to “business as usual” is that, as of July 1, the emergency COVID-era procedures on hiring, travel, and purchasing are no longer in effect, and each vice president will provide oversight and stewardship of divisional resources. 

Supervisors and department chairs should review remote work and on-site plans with each employee for feasibility, consistency and equitable application, and they should discuss department plans with their VPs and deans prior to implementation to ensure consistency and equity within the broader function. HR consultants are available to assist departments and individual employees as needed. In addition, HR will have a remote work/telework agreement form available by the end of this month for employees who will be working off site during fall 2021 to be completed no later than September 16, 2021. 

In the meantime, HR has developed some tools to assist you in evaluating the feasibility of ongoing remote work arrangements, including:

  • Remote Work Consideration Framework which provides guidance for departments on identifying their needs for in-person presence, which positions meet those needs, and the individuals who fill those positions.
  • Remote Work Feasibility Worksheet to assess the viability of a remote work arrangement and serve as a basis for discussion and planning.

I thank you for your understanding and flexibility as we continue to manage through ongoing change. We know that over the course of the coming months we will need to continue to be adaptable to ensure that our community remains healthy and safe while returning to more normal in-person education and services.

As a final reminder, if you’ve been vaccinated and have not yet informed HR, please complete the Vaccination Submission e-sign form or contact your HR consultant for assistance.

With gratitude,

Sabah