From Vice President of Human Resources Bryan Garey: Workforce planning for summer and fall
It’s hard to believe that spring semester has just ended. True to form, the Hokie Nation banded together to keep our academic and research missions going strong during the 2020-21 academic year, resulting in the graduation of more than 6,000 students during spring commencement.
We should be exceedingly proud of the roles we have all played toward Virginia Tech’s success, despite circumstances that – at times – were really difficult, and I thank you. From receiving vaccinations to participating in testing to serving and supporting our students and each other, this year has certainly been unlike any other.
Just ahead is the start of a new academic year and a fall semester where our goal is to provide students an in-person experience. In support of that goal, we must adapt to ensure that all operations and support services are aligned consistent with our plans. With this planning in mind, we understand that employees are looking for guidance on what work looks like – for the individual, the team, and the university – this summer and fall.
Human Resources is working with leaders across campus to understand each college and department workforce plan as well as listen to the concerns employees and managers have and what support HR can provide. We are also piloting some “Future of Work” options that will help determine what flexible scheduling and remote options might work here at Virginia Tech long term. In the meantime, summer is the time to prepare for fall.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” workforce approach given the diversity of roles at Virginia Tech. Following are some recommendations to help prepare for fall:
- For academic and research faculty and graduate assistants, working with your supervisors and leadership in your college or business unit, your unique roles may give you some inherent flexibility in how and where you work as you use the summer to transition to an in-person fall semester, welcoming students back to the campus and the classroom.
- For staff, A/P faculty, and wage employees who have been working on-campus, thank you again for the diligent in-person service you have provided throughout the pandemic. Those who have been working on-site will continue to do so and, as fall approaches, will be joined by others who will be planning for the return of students to campus.
- For staff, A/P faculty, and wage employees who have been working remotely, summer provides transition time to migrate back to on-site work – at some level and based on the needs of your team. For those who have been working 100 percent remotely, this shift will be the biggest for you. It is important that managers and employees begin working together now to discuss work options based on what the operational needs of the college or business unit will be in the fall. We recommend supervisors consider hybrid options as colleges and units assess the best work plans for the longer term.
Flexible scheduling remains an option that employees can explore with their managers and HR partners. It is important to remember that the decision to request or approve a flexible schedule be grounded in the nature of the role and the operational needs of the team. We will offer in-person support services to our students this fall, which means we will need employees on-site to provide those services.
Our commitment to exploring and experimenting with flexible work options is strong, with the understanding that these work models must and will support and complement in-person academic programs. There is balance that can be achieved that will give employees the flexibility they need while providing robust support for the university, as long as we all recognize that flexible work arrangements are fluid and must be regularly assessed and adapted to business needs.
While approval of flexible or hybrid schedules lies with supervisors and leadership for that college or business unit, the two-way conversations between employees and supervisors is an important part of creating a flexible work environment.
What may the future of work look like? It will likely be one of great flexibility that embraces in-person experiences that enrich and expand us while leveraging opportunities for hybrid and remote work, allowing for higher levels of productivity and greater levels of employee engagement.
We are optimistic about this future just as we still have some uncertainty to navigate. Virginia Tech monitors daily for shifts and changes from the CDC and federal and state governments, such as mask wearing guidance for fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals. We will communicate relevant information to you as it becomes available. While we are optimistic with our decline in COVID-19 cases and we are encouraged that people are getting vaccinated, we need to realize that it is up to all of us to continue to keep our community safe for the return to normal activities.
Together, with grace, flexibility, and understanding, we are emerging stronger than before the pandemic to support our students and each other in the spirit of our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
Thank you and stay well,
Vice President for Human Resources