The following email was sent to Lehigh supervisors on Friday March 20, 2020
In light of the constantly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m writing to update you on Lehigh’s current position regarding staff work expectations and supervisory responsibilities.
The situation has changed since our original guidance. With Governor Wolf’s order yesterday that all non-life sustaining businesses must close their physical operations, only staff who are considered essential to University operations AND who cannot perform these functions remotely should be coming onto campus.
Let me emphasize that our objective is to keep the number of employees on campus to a minimum while ensuring the essential on-campus functions continue. Please be good stewards and minimize the number of people designated “essential.”
Having said that, Lehigh is continuing to operate. Our faculty are teaching and nearly all of our students are attending classes remotely. We are also still caring for approximately 230 students on campus for whom going home was not a possibility. This means that the majority of our staff are expected to be working remotely if they are not ill or caring for an ill family member who lives in their household.
Supporting Your Team
At this unprecedented moment, your staff are looking to you for guidance and support. We’ve developed a guide to Best Practices for Leading Remote Teams for your use.
Below is information about some of the most common areas of need. Please reach out to HR if you have specific individual cases that need additional consideration.
Essential vs. Non-Essential Personnel
Because employees designated as essential who cannot perform their work remotely are required to be on campus, it’s important that you are especially thoughtful about who you designate as essential on your team. Please try to designate the fewest people possible from your team to be on campus. In an extended situation such as the one we are in, traditional definitions of essential may not capture all the critical functions that need to be maintained. Thus we are looking to local managers to make responsible determinations and utilize remote work solutions as much as possible.
If you do have designated essential personnel on your team, include them along with your continuity plan to your next level manager and to Kim Nimmo, Director of Risk Management. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
All staff will be paid their regular salary for the foreseeable future. This includes employees who are not designated essential and cannot perform their duties remotely. In such situations, staff should not come to campus to work, but should instead stay home. They are still considered “working” and must ensure they are accessible for communications and appropriate alternate work assignments from their supervisor.
The length of this crisis is difficult to predict, as are the economic ramifications. Senior leadership are monitoring the University’s financial situation and there may come a point where we need to reassess in light of the length of time of the crisis or significantly changed circumstances. Our hope and plan is to weather this crisis together.
You are responsible for ensuring your employees have the technology and/or other tools they need to work remotely. LTS is your partner in this process. As you can imagine, they are experiencing a much higher volume of work than in usual circumstances. Please follow their procedures to assist them in serving the entire Lehigh community.
There are good remote working resources available for you and your team provided by LTS here: https://lts.lehigh.edu/business-continuity.
Onboarding New Employees
If you are currently trying to fill a position, carefully consider the significant challenges of onboarding a new employee in this remote environment before choosing a start date. In addition, we have been advised that all IdentoGo sites are currently closed, meaning there is no availability of fingerprinting for the legally-required FBI clearance at this time. Please refer to these guidelines for on-boarding new hires remotely.
Sick Leave and Mental Health Support
Please encourage your employees to take care of themselves and to use their sick leave if they are ill or if they are caring for someone who is ill in their household. Lehigh is providing ten additional sick days to all employees through June 30, 2020 in the event they exhaust their available sick leave due to COVID-19 illness.
If any of your employees have questions about the sick leave policy, they may contact Human Resources at email@example.com.
We know this is a difficult time for everyone. Everyone is adjusting to new work and home situations. The stress may trigger mental health challenges. Please remind your staff that Lehigh healthcare benefits include behavioral health coverage. To access these services under Lehigh’s medical plan, employees should call the number listed on the back of your Capital Blue Cross Card. In addition, Lehigh's Employee Assistance Program (Integrated Behavioral Health) can be helpful regardless of whether you participate in the Lehigh medical plan.
Similarly, if you become aware of an employee suffering an injury while working remotely, you may advise them to contact Risk Management to submit a claim. Lehigh does not determine compensability of Workers Compensation claims; that is done by the insurance company who will then determine eligibility in accordance with the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act. For more information, please visit: https://risk.lehigh.edu/content/workers-compensation-0.
While we are also working remotely, Human Resources is fully staffed and available to assist you. Please do not hesitate to contact an HR team member.
Thank you for all you for your leadership at this critical time.
Associate Vice President for Human Resources