Dear faculty and staff,

The start of Virginia Tech’s fall 2020 semester is just around the corner. Today, I am specifically addressing our university’s valuable employees and asking for your help.

Aug. 3 is the day we shift to modified operations to get ready for fall semester. For faculty and staff, jobs that require an on-site presence will ramp up.

To prepare for this shift, our university has worked hard to put protocols in place to keep faculty, staff, students, and visitors safe. Deep cleaning measures, classroom modifications, investments in protective equipment, and installation of signage are some of those measures. We have a comprehensive testing, tracing, and case management plan. We are investing in training and technology that will provide education about COVID-19 and help you monitor your health to minimize the spread of the virus.

We are confident these investments are providing a safe work environment – with your help.

My first ask of you: We need every faculty and staff member to work together, follow the protocols we have – wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain proper physical distance, stay home if you’re sick – and model our values of service and respect.

While Aug. 3 is a milestone, this does not mean that every employee automatically returns to the workplace that day. We expect about 50 percent of faculty and staff to be on-site on any given day. Others will continue to work remotely.

While not all jobs are right for telework, many are. When COVID-19 struck in the spring, we moved 80 percent of our employees to telework in a matter of days. That shift was not ideal because changes happened quickly, but we learned a lot.

Telework remains an option for jobs that can be performed effectively in a remote environment. It reduces the overall number of people on campus, keeping everyone safer. Telework also helps address some complicated issues like limited childcare options, changing school schedules, and family health concerns.  

We know these challenges are real. Where telework is not an option, we strongly support flexible scheduling and ongoing conversations to explore creative alternatives. Resources like Hokie Wellness and our Employee Assistance Program are also available to help.

My second ask of you: If you have concerns, talk with your department head or manager and take advantage of these resources. Virginia Tech wants to help you balance the demands of work and home. Leaders, listen to your employees, be empathetic, and work creatively with them to solve problems. Check out the Telework and Remote Work Suitability Guide, which takes managers and employees through several steps in determining if telework is an option for a role.

The Division of Human Resources is also ready to help any employee or manager who needs support.

We will be open for business on Aug. 3, even if “open” will look a bit different. Again, in order to ensure a safe work environment, Human Resources continues to encourage online, electronic, and phone interactions. To expand our services, we recently began holding virtual office hours where any employee can join a Zoom to speak to one of our representatives. For face-to-face help, we will also have team members on-site in our Human Resources offices.

Another resource, the Ready Resources for Employees website provides employees and managers a one-stop-shop for information on returning to campus. Watch the daily email over the next few days for news about Human Resources services as well as articles on topics important to employees.

With COVID-19, there are many new workplace questions. We are providing resources and avenues where questions can be asked, answers can be received, and needs can be addressed.

My third ask of you: Please take advantage of the services Human Resources has to offer. Our purpose is to serve the needs of our university’s employees and leaders and we are invested in helping you succeed.

Frank Shushok Jr., vice president of Student Affairs, said in a message to students last week, “We’re counting on you. Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) isn’t just a motto, it’s a calling. In the case of fall 2020 and COVID-19, I’m so glad we have this as our ‘true north.’”

We all need to BE COMMITTED. BE WELL. This is the call to action behind a new Community Wellness Commitment, which we publicly announced Monday, July 27. Virginia Tech developed this commitment in partnership with local health, public safety, education, and government agencies, which outlines 10 tenets based on well-known public health guidelines that community member can personally adopt.

My fourth and final ask of you: Make the Community Wellness Commitment and take it seriously. We are all in this together and together is how we will succeed. Virginia Tech is prepared for what’s ahead. With the help of every faculty and staff member, we will rise to the challenges we face and overcome them.

Thank you for everything you do,

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