The revised policy enables a flexible approach to remote work in August 2021 and beyond in situations where a hybrid or fully remote work modality meets operational and business needs and is agreeable to an employee, their supervisor, and their department. It helps ensure that important IT and compliance measures are in place to safeguard restrictive, sensitive, and internal data and to reduce cybersecurity risks. It also allows the Dean’s office and SMPH HR to be aware of such agreements to ensure alignment with the UW–Madison Remote Work Policy, and to help us understand patterns of work modality across the SMPH employee community. The latter informs practical matters such as communications planning; selecting and developing resources for supervisors and employees; and modality-tuned IT support.
After all we have experienced as an SMPH community over the past year, this transitional period seems simultaneously exhilarating and disorienting. We as an organization will prepare over the next few weeks to shift from “approval processes are required to authorize on-site work,” to “approval processes are required to authorize ongoing remote and hybrid work” in August and beyond. Pragmatically, this transitional period is necessary. Work modality changes require careful planning and preparation. While we did not have the luxury of time when transitioning from mostly on-site to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic, we do have an opportunity for intentionality as we enter this next phase.
Right now, about 4,000 SMPH employees (approximately two-thirds of our workforce) are engaged in some level of on-site work on at least intermittent basis. These experiences give meaningful insight into topics such as facilitating health and safety in a common physical environment. One-third of SMPH employees are currently working 100% remotely, which informs topics such as how to facilitate effective telecommuting in SMPH. And hybrid modality requires additional knowledge, which is often very specific to disciplines, units, and teams.
This is what you can expect regarding our school’s implementation timeline for the campus remote work policy:
- Starting today, the UW–Madison Remote Work Policy is available for employees to review. This policy does not go into effect until August 1, 2021.
- By early June, the SMPH Office of HR will release implementation guidance, including an assessment tool to help supervisors and employees evaluate the suitability of remote work for a specific employee role. This tool will be designed to help guide decisions and discussions between employees and supervisors about remote work agreements.
- Later in the summer (between June and the end of July), an SMPH Remote Work Agreement form will be released. This is the formal agreement that will need to be authorized by a supervisor in alignment with departmental expectations regarding remote work and submitted to the Dean’s office under the new policy.
I encourage us to approach the summer with a mindset of curiosity and experimentation. We anticipate that some employees who have been working remotely may want to begin working on site during the summer. It is helpful and reassuring to know that the positive COVID-19 test rate in the campus community is exceptionally low, with zero cases reported for on campus tests among students or employees on the most recent reporting date of May 9, and a 7-day positivity rate for both populations of 0.1%. Also, as the Chancellor stated, reopening physical offices is an undertaking that we don’t expect to happen overnight. Increased on-site presence requires planning for support from units including IT, custodial services, and facilities. We are working on streamlining the existing SMPH Return to Onsite Work Form so that it is tailored for this summer transitional phase to allow notification of intent for on-site work prior to August.
This is an excellent time for us to reflect on all that we have learned about pursuing our school’s missions during the pandemic, including how to approach our work from a lens of equity and inclusion. It is an opportunity for meaningful conversations between supervisors and employees, and for continual improvement. If you have practical ideas and insights that might be useful for the broader SMPH employee community, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your partnership. Be safe and be well.
Hope Broadus, JD
Associate Dean for Human Resources
School of Medicine and Public Health
University of Wisconsin-Madison