VandenBosch: Planning for return to onsite work with the fall semester

The following message was sent to CALS faculty and staff on 5/26/2021 by Dean Kate VandenBosch: 

As we enjoy the beginning of a summer term with better public health forecasts, I want to express my deepest thanks for all you have done during the past year and a half. Your willingness to learn new skills and accommodate new ways of working kept the college moving forward during extremely difficult times.

As we look ahead to a more normal fall, when employees and students return to working and studying on campus at normal densities, I want you to know that health and safety are a top priority. Should public health circumstances dictate the need for reimplementing social distancing, for example, continuity of operations plans (COOPs) will be put into place.

As we begin to plan for fall, we expect units to plan for an orderly return. More guidance will be forthcoming as we receive guidance from campus. We know some employees may be interested in seeking flexibility to work off-site. Chancellor Blank recently released the updated UW-Madison Remote Work Policy that covers situations where employees request opportunities to work off-site (unlike circumstances which have limited on-site work during the pandemic).

The policy grants colleges the ability to, “determine the specific procedures for evaluating and approving or denying a remote work request in a manner consistent with this policy and the university’s goals of equity, inclusion, and diversity.”

As we develop the college policy in CALS, we are seeking a balance: providing flexibility to employees while still maintaining a high-quality, in-person experience for the CALS community that advances our mission of research, teaching, outreach, and service.  CALS expects most job responsibilities to be carried out mostly onsite. At the same time, the business necessity of each unit may either constrain or encourage remote work, so each circumstance will be considered on a case-by-case basis (factors to be considered are given in section III of the campus policy).

This is a transitional year as employees and supervisors once again test new approaches to work, following the unplanned and sudden need to move to remote work due to the pandemic. We will evaluate the efficacy of college remote work policies and procedures based on experiences during this transition period to determine whether adjustments need to be made.

In early July, we expect central campus to clarify the process for routing remote work agreement requests for approval. CALS will have our companion procedures ready to announce around that time.

One important distinction: this new process will be used for any remote work requests that include off-site work that is following a regular, repeated schedule. This process will not be used for workplace flexibility requests that are sporadic in nature (e.g., when an employee requests to work remotely one morning because an appliance is being delivered). Workplace flexibility requests are up to supervisor discretion.

Thank you again for your ongoing dedication.