Continuity of UM operations with remote work wherever possible

March 16, 2020

TO: University of Montana Supervisors

FROM: Seth Bodnar, President 

As we continue to deal with the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, we remain focused on preventing further spread of the virus and protecting the health and safety of our community. To this end, this memo outlines steps we will take to maintain continuity of services while encouraging remote and flexible work arrangements. As we navigate this situation, we must acknowledge several important points:

  • Our campus provides essential services for our students and our community. Though we have moved to remote instruction and the number of students on campus will be reduced greatly, many students will remain on campus and in residence halls, and those students will need access to key services that in some cases cannot be delivered remotely.
  • Certain functions – payroll, IT, facilities, HR, finance, research, to name a few – are critical not just for students, but also for all UM employees. Some of this work cannot be done remotely.
  • The current situation regarding COVID-19 is unlikely to be resolved in a matter of days. We must take appropriate steps to be prepared to operate for an extended period of time under conditions that are not “normal.” 

Our goal, therefore, is to ensure continuity of operations for our campus while encouraging and enabling remote work to the greatest extent possible. It is important to note that a key reason for encouraging remote work arrangements for positions wherever possible is to lessen the traffic on campus thereby limiting potential exposure to health risks for our essential service providers whose responsibilities cannot be fulfilled off campus.

This memo provides you with guidance for:

1.       Assessing continuity of service

2.       Identifying employees eligible to telework based on their duties

3.       Reporting operational plans to the executive leadership and, ultimately, to the campus community.

Assessing Continuity of Service

The University must remain open and continue to offer an appropriate base level of service. To this end, sector leadership has been asked to review each department, program and service within their sectors to determine if there are modifications required, including, but not limited to: reduced hours of operations, condensed services or adjustments to accommodate remote delivery of required work. Sector heads should work with the leaders in their areas to ensure accurate assessments (see “Operational Planning and Notification of Changes” section below).

Identifying Employees Eligible for Teleworking

To further improve the type of distancing and optimal space encouraged by health agencies to limit community spread of COVID-19, we encourage departments to use greater flexibility in work-from-home or telework arrangements, where feasible, while still maintaining a base level of service proportional to reduced campus-based activity and traffic. 

Supervisors should reach out to notify their employees that teleworking may be an option. Employees should then initiate a discussion about remote work possibilities with their supervisors. A Telework Agreement form that establishes expectations for employee-supervisor contact and accountability during the temporary off-campus work arrangement is available on the Human Resource Services website. The telework agreement is important for tracking purposes and legal matters such as worker’s compensation coverage. For this reason, faculty who are able to perform their work as a telework arrangement will need to complete a faculty-specific Telework Agreement as well.

While policy states that probationary employees are not eligible for telework, this will not be a deciding factor under the current circumstances. For those who supervise student employees, you may also explore telework options and complete a Telework Agreement for your student employees. 

We understand some duties often cannot be performed remotely, e.g., the work some employees perform in residence halls, dining services, university police departments, student health clinics and physical plants. We encourage supervisors to explore alternate work scheduling or accommodate other reasonable requests to meet the needs of employees during this time

Operational Planning and Notification of Changes

Sector, department, program, and service area leaders should conduct informal assessments of the departments, programs and services within their areas and adjust operations to maintain continuity of core services. These adjustments to operations will be communicated to executive leadership. Significant operational changes will be communicated both internally and to the community as appropriate.

The assessment for each area should include the following teams: 

  • Brief description of department, program or service;
  • Discussion of use of telework options to complete required work;
  • Summary of operational adjustments, disruption of services, changes to hours of operation or changes to delivery that will impact students and employees.

Here are two examples:

Department/Program/Service

Telework options

Summary of operational adjustments

ASUM Child Care

This service cannot be delivered remotely.

Due to lack of trained personnel and CDC recommendations for social distancing, ASUM Child Care is closed until further notice.

University Marketing

Yes, most employees have the capability to work remotely as long as they have access to the Internet and computers.

All marketing personnel will be available via email. This department does not have a front-facing, walk-in or service desk that would require staffing during the normal workday.

 

Sector leaders will work with supervisors who will submit their operational adjustments to sector leadership by 5:00 pm on Wednesday, March 18. Additionally, employees will be asked to work directly with supervisors and Human Resource Services to implement Teleworking Agreements as appropriate. HRS will provide a summary of teleworking employees to the leadership team and update it as needed.

In closing, please refer your employees to the Keep on Working website for answers to frequently asked questions. This website, which is being updated on a regular basis, is designed to address questions that both faculty and staff may have regarding work arrangements.

These are challenging times for our University, our state and our nation. Please work together to provide for continued service to our students, faculty, staff and community members who remain on campus, while minimizing risk for all employees to the greatest extent possible.