Ongoing COVID-19 challenges and the role of flexible work
Dear FAS colleagues,
On the heels of President Jay Hartzell’s message to students and employees about changes to spring semester instruction and operations, I wanted to help frame how this impacts FAS.
While the move to more in-person instruction starting Jan. 31 is an important one, we must continue to acknowledge and confront the challenges of the ongoing pandemic and how campus density may impact our employees and our work. Many of our employees have continued to work on campus in roles that cannot accommodate remote work, while others have leveraged flexible work arrangements both as a powerful business tool and as a tool in the fight against COVID-19. All of our employees have been personally and professionally impacted in some way by labor shortages due to illness or attrition as the pandemic continues to reshape our workforce. Some of our teams have had to adjust their operating hours, make temporary changes to services and add temporary duties and adjustments to workloads. It is highly likely these challenges will continue and potentially even increase in the next several weeks.
While on-campus work is opening up again for those working remotely until Jan. 31, I want to reiterate our stance on flexible work. Those who can effectively perform work remotely may continue to do so in coordination with their supervisors. Work on site should continue requiring a strong business justification with remote work being the default and not the exception for those who can perform their duties remotely. In addition to being a good business strategy, flexible work also helps reduce campus density, which may also help reduce some degree of risk to our employees who are required to work on site.
We should all continue to follow the recommended health and wellness guidance: get vaccinated, get tested, wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick. Report to the Occupational Health Program (OHP) if you test positive for COVID-19, have symptoms even if you test negative, or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. Guidance, tools and updates remain available on the university’s Protect Texas Together website.
The last several weeks with the omicron variant have been challenging and difficult for many of us, regardless of our work location. Those on campus may continue to feel stress and anxiety about working in close proximity with others. Those working remotely may miss the important social interactions and inspiration they get from being on site. It is important that we continue supporting one another and acknowledging that the challenges that come with COVID-19 are still part of our daily lives and our own daily challenges. Please reach out to the Employee Assistance Program for help and take advantage of EAP self-serve materials such as trainings, groups and handouts that target both remote workers and those working on site.
Many thanks to our entire FAS community for all that you do every day in support of the university’s mission and in support of one another. We will continue to face our challenges together, ensuring a healthy and successful spring semester.
Darrell Bazzell (he/him/his)
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
The University of Texas at Austin