- While the pandemic has not yet ended, we are looking to the future
- Employees will receive advance notice when the university expects to return to normal campus operations
- In response to employee feedback, the university is developing a formal post-pandemic flexible workplace (flexplace) policy for staff.
The end of the pandemic is not yet here. However, thanks to safety protocols and the COVID-19 vaccination effort, we are beginning to envision a broader return to our vibrant campus workplace environment.
We have heard, through staff surveys and informal conversations, that there is interest in maintaining some level of flexibility regarding where you work when the pandemic ends. While we don’t have all the answers at this time, we wanted to address some of the questions you may have about what a post-pandemic return to campus will look like. These questions and answers apply specifically to exempt and nonexempt staff.
I have been working remotely throughout the pandemic. Will I have advance notice before being expected to return to campus?
Yes. University leadership will provide ample notice to campus before resuming normal operations, including calling people back to work on campus.
Will I be able to continue working remotely after the pandemic ends?
We recognize that staff who have been working remotely have had a range of experiences this year. Some may be looking forward to a full return to the on-site environment. Others have learned that there are aspects of their work they can do as well (and sometimes even better) remotely and would prefer some flexibility in that regard.
A representative group from across the university is currently developing a formal post-pandemic Flexible Workplace (Flexplace) Policy for Staff, which includes the following principles and proposed procedures.
Flexplace Policy General Principles
- Due to the diverse nature of position expectations at Lehigh:
- Flexplace arrangements won’t work for all positions.
- Where flexplace arrangements are workable, each situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis; therefore, not all arrangements will be the same.
- Efforts will be made to make arrangements as fair as possible within work teams.
- Full-time remote work is not covered by this policy. Standards for such arrangements will soon be added.
Proposed Flexplace Policy Procedures
- Once the policy becomes effective, if staff wish to request a flexplace arrangement, they will initiate the request with their immediate supervisor. The request will be reviewed by appropriate levels of management. There will be a standard form for all requests.
- Training will be made available to supervisors to equip them in making flexplace decisions and managing dynamic work environments.
- Reflecting the needs of a changing environment, flexplace agreements will not be permanent but will be renewable.
- The flexplace policy will reference standards and guidelines to address access to Lehigh data and technology resources.
Will I have a chance to see to the policy before it is made effective?
Although it will not become effective until pertinent pandemic limitations have been lifted, the final policy is expected to be released by May.
Before that time, there will be an initial review of the policy by the Employee Relations Advisory Committee (ERAC) and the Faculty Senate. The full faculty and staff community will then have an opportunity to view and comment on the new policy. We will provide more information on this in a future communication.
When we moved to a largely remote work footing in March 2020, few would have predicted that we would still be navigating the impact of the pandemic nearly a year later. And yet, you have all made it work.
As staff and supervisors, we have learned a tremendous amount about what we are capable of accomplishing in a remote work setting. It is our hope that we can take the lessons learned into our post-pandemic future in order to ensure that Lehigh thrives as a community while enriching individual work/life balance where possible.
Thank you for all you do for the Lehigh community.
Associate Vice President for Human Resources