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K-State Today

August 13, 2020

Flexibility guidance for supervisors, faculty and staff

Submitted by Jay Stephens

Dear faculty and staff,

A new semester at K-State is beginning and it is unlike any other that came before it. We are in Phase 3 of our Reopening Plan, part of which states employees are encouraged to work remotely as much as possible. In the development of the Reopening Plan, we looked to a set of guiding principles that served as a foundation to our actions in this pandemic and will continue to guide us.

Our guiding principles:

  • Preserve the health and safety of our university community and our host communities.
  • Maintain and deliver our land-grant mission through teaching, research and extension/outreach.
  • Preserve and maintain university operations necessary to support mission-critical activities during reduced operations status.
  • Preserve financial capacity of the university to deliver mission-critical activities for the long-term fiscal health of the university.
  • Honor K-State's unique culture. Students, faculty and staff are at the heart of this university. 

The question for many faculty and staff is, "How do I balance the commitment to our mission and all of the at-home responsibilities and challenges that have come with this pandemic?" This is particularly true for those who have caregiving responsibilities. 

In an earlier communication, Provost Taber and I stated the university's position as, "We are committed to a compassionate and flexible approach to working with all employees. We encourage our supervisors to be as flexible as possible with employees' schedules." 

What might a compassionate, flexible approach look like?

Faculty and staff are facing enormous challenges in their home lives, particularly as caregivers to other family members, including children, parents, etc. We acknowledge that this is an extraordinarily difficult time and a flexible approach is not only needed but is critical to our success. 

The following guidance is directed especially to our supervisors:

  • You have a critical role to play in helping faculty and staff to feel valued and to be successful. I have said many times that morale is most impacted by how employees are treated by their first-level supervisor. In our Principles of Community we affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person. Supervisors, please commit to this by recognizing the challenges employees have during this time, particularly as caregivers. Talk to those you supervise to understand and appreciate their unique challenges. 
  • Please recognize and understand that pre-K and K-12 school is going to look very different this year, just as K-State will look very different this year. Our employees have children in just about every school district in the area. Those school districts may have different approaches that necessitate different caregiving. Have a conversation with your employees about their needs and how to develop a work schedule that assists with those needs and serves our shared mission. Keep checking in as the semester goes by. 
  • If your employee can successfully work remotely and does not need to work in person to provide campus support, unit/department heads, please assist and continue to assist that employee in working remotely. This is the case even if the employee would have been on campus at this time in years past. Importantly, this approach helps the university de-densify its campuses — an important step in mitigating the current risks we face. Information Technology Services has excellent resources for phone connectivity and other remote work support. Reasonable department expenses related to COVID-19 and remote work may be reimbursed. Please check with your unit’s business officer.
  • For employees whose duties require them to be physically present on campus, please make sure your department/unit has worked with campus operations to have supplies in place for cleaning workspaces. Make sure that your workspaces are set up to maintain social distancing. Limit person-to-person interactions and appointments by using email, telephone and videoconferencing to the extent possible for your area. If your employees bring concerns to you about these practices not being followed, please listen to them and follow up on their concerns.
  • Employees may have a need to use leave related to COVID-19. A new leave program, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or FFCRA, may apply to employee's personal or family circumstances. Employees may also need to use other forms of leave. Your HCS liaison or the HCS Benefits team, benefits@k-state.edu, can assist with questions.
  • With respect to schedules for employees working on campus and remotely, a flexible and compassionate approach may not adhere to a traditional 8-5 schedule. For some that may be just fine, for others maybe not. Please keep in mind that employees who are non-exempt and those employees who may be taking administrative furlough in less than full week increments do need to record all hours worked, but that doesn't mean those hours must happen between 8-5 or at the same time each day. Work together with your employees to develop the work schedule that makes the most sense, balancing mission and the needs of employees as much as possible. 
  • Supervisors and employees who would like additional guidance and assistance navigating these challenges may reach out to Employee Relations and Engagement

What resources are available for faculty and staff who have caregiving and other needs?

  • Human Capital Services has created a page on its website with resources for supervisors and employees.
  • We have a K-State specific webinar scheduled for Sept. 10, provided by our Employee Assistance Program, to support employees as children return to school. More details, including registration and time, on this will be forthcoming. Please check back on the HCS resources page for details under the Employee Resources and Support for Families section.

Our Employee Assistance Program offers help to state of Kansas employees and their families to help with child care assistance. This is individualized for each employee based on their specific needs. The employee can request this information by either calling the SOK dedicated number at 1-888-275-1205, Option 1 or by submitting a request on Guidance Resources Online, using the "Ask a Guidance Consultant" option.


Jay Stephens
Vice president, Human Capital Services