The University of North Dakota is in a time of transition, planning for a fall semester that we hope signals a return to a more normal campus environment. What does this mean for how we come back together as a campus?
Delivering our vital UND mission requires a human touch. The personal connections we have with one another contribute to our unified, team-focused effort. As we work toward our common goal, we are simply better together. Being with our colleagues in the same space amplifies our innovation, our creativity, and our ability to respond to uncertainty. Thus, I would like to maximize the on-campus presence and face-to-face instruction. Of course, we’ll continue to closely monitor how the pandemic evolves, working closely with our local and state public health partners, just as we did last year.
UND’s Core Values provide the important basis for coming back together. The most obvious value stresses the importance of community, a spirit of collaboration, and connectedness across the University and beyond. The value of inclusivity means the University provides a welcoming, inclusive, and supportive environment for all. Personal relationships are the threads that bind us and make our University more inclusive. Fostering the value of discovery through an enthusiasm for inquiry, creativity, and innovation happens with the magic of human interaction.
An important perspective to consider is that of new students, faculty, and staff. Those just arriving at UND don’t immediately have the same personal connections that others who’ve been here for years have established. We must recognize the importance of building a sense of commitment and mission that makes working at and attending UND not just another job or another school, but something special.
Yet, we saw tremendous examples of remote work by units and individuals during the pandemic. Going forward, to what extent will we continue to embrace remote and hybrid work? There is no “one size fits all” solution that will work for every college, school, department, division, or unit on campus. It’s a mission-driven decision determined by each organization within the University.
The key is to find a balance between achieving our important team-oriented objectives together with the efficiency or quality-of-life opportunities that remote and hybrid work schedules enable. We are reviewing current UND policies so they reflect what we have learned through the pandemic and what we continue to learn throughout the upcoming year. This review will focus on the goal of achieving our educational, scholarly, and service missions while being great stewards of the state’s resources, making certain that we are fully accessible. Below, I offer several guidelines for achieving this balance.
Finally, we must also recognize that the pandemic isn’t over. We must remain flexible with our approach in the event we must return to an environment better suited to hybrid and remote education. Information from state health agencies and guidance of the CDC will direct us as we carefully monitor the COVID-19 trajectory. The need for testing, contact tracing, and safety precautions to protect public health haven’t disappeared. While the University cannot mandate vaccinations, I continue to reiterate that the most effective way for us to protect ourselves, the community, and the most vulnerable members of society is to get vaccinated.
Over the next few weeks as we all wrestle with the issues and challenges of coming back together as a campus, trust will be the most important aspect of how successful we are at transitioning from the habits and experiences to which we’ve become accustomed to once again making UND’s campus the thriving, vibrant entity it was before the pandemic. We must trust in one another to have the best interests of our students, our colleagues, our University, and our state at heart.
Guidelines for Remote and Hybrid Work
For those working remotely – whether it is regularly scheduled work or a one-time occurrence – please remember to:
- Be accessible by making it easy for people to reach you via phone, video, and email.
- Forward your campus phone to a phone where you can be reached
- Set up a Teams connection where you can be reached face-to-face
- Segment your time as though you are at the office and avoid outside responsibilities during work.
- Schedule your work during the core hours for your unit, which provides availability to your teammates and customers.
- Trust that those working in the office will keep you well-informed, but also seek to connect.
- Be flexible when your supervisor and teammates need you in the office, even on short notice.
- Set up your workspace with good health and safety standards in mind.
- Ensure your personal obligations are met without interfering with your work.
- Vacation is not remote work – you owe it to your family/friends to commit that time to them!
For all employees – on-campus, hybrid, remote – we should strive to:
- Put students first because they are the reason we’re here.
- Find opportunities to reconnect with all teammates.
- Welcome new campus members with warmth and openness.
- Reconnect with the University through the many activities at UND that you and your family can enjoy.
- Focus on being better communicators.
- Be certain to give teammates the appropriate “quiet time” to complete their work efficiently.
- Know how technology enhances the team’s effectiveness and take advantage of it in our work.
- Trust that all team members are working earnestly, even when we work in different places.
- Know that your health and safety remain at the top of our priorities.
- Sanitization of UND’s facilities continues.
- Plexiglass barriers will remain in work areas and classrooms.
- Masking policies could be modified, depending on the course of the pandemic and guidance from public health organizations.
A note to supervisors and managers: if you approve hybrid/remote work, you face a new reality. The needs of on-campus and hybrid/remote employees will differ, and how you manage them matters. As you design work schedules, make every effort to ensure that full team units and their subgroups are together several times per week for guaranteed face-to-face interaction in the office. Particular attention must be given to supervision and support to new employees and student employees. Supervisors should consider opportunities for flexibility during the summer months while still ensuring unit and individual work requirements are met.
For customer-facing units, put feedback mechanisms in place for customers to register concerns or offer praise. Make certain you have coverage of the services you provide and accessibility of your team members. Be sure to publicly announce – through website, signage, voice messages, apps, social media pages, and more – how and when your customers can reach you.