By SUSAN JONES
In a message to the Pitt community this week, David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business & operations, said the transition of staff back to campus will begin in earnest sometime in July, instead of early June as originally anticipated.
“While infection rates continue to decrease, vaccination rates have not yet increased to the level we previously anticipated,” he said in explaining the delay.
Each unit and department will develop return plans specific to their area, DeJong said. He has previously said that when and who will be working on campus will be a unit-by-unit decision.
For instance, Pitt Information Technology plans to continue operating in a hybrid capacity after campus fully reopens. This means that most staff will remain “remote first” rather than return to assigned workspace at the University. “Instead, we will shift to flex space with shared ‘hotel’ offices and workstations that individuals may reserve when they have a need to be on campus,” said Brady Lutsko, manager of communication and training for Pitt IT. “We expect that Pitt IT will be able to cut space requirements to nearly half of our current occupancy over the coming year and recognize associated cost savings.”
The Office of the Chief Financial Officer also is planning a hybrid workplace where dedicated workspaces will be replaced with unassigned cubicles and offices that can be reserved for on-campus work. A survey of the office’s employees late last year found that nearly all staff wanted to continue remote work at least some portion of the work week, and 70 percent indicated they wanted to mostly telework.
Spokespeople from both Pitt IT and the CFO’s office said that offering more remote work will enhance opportunities to attract and retain talent.
“In addition to this being an added perk that helps staff maintain a work-life balance, this allows Pitt IT to be more competitive and cast a wider net geographically when looking to attract top-notch technical talent,” Lutsko said.
DeJong said in February that Beth McGrew, associate vice chancellor for Planning, Design and Real Estate, and her team are working with certain units to determine space needs going forward, but so far no specifics have been released.
The Office of Human Resources also is working on a variety of resources to support ongoing remote and hybrid work arrangements, including a new flex work agreement, supervisor training and technology. Details will be shared when they are finalized. A virtual panel will be held in late June to share updates.
Check out the new Business and Operations website for operational updates, including what’s happening during the summer, what to expect on campus, building access, transportation resources and FAQs.
The Pittsburgh campus moved from Elevated to Guarded risk as of May 20, on the recommendation of the Emergency Operations Center and the Healthcare Advisory Group. Since the student population has largely dispersed since the end of the semester, this change in risk levels won’t have much of an impact.
Employees are now automatically granted more access to enter campus spaces, including academic buildings, libraries, dining facilities, and their office/lab buildings.
For those who are authorized to return to campus, Pitt’s health rules remain in place, including wearing masks inside and outdoors and maintaining social distancing.
On May 13, the federal Centers for Disease Control said that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
Pitt says its health rules will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months. “The University is reviewing evolving guidance and will make changes as appropriate for our overall population and will provide an update when standards and guidelines are changed,”
In make the change to Guarded status on the Oakland campus, the advisory groups said that no students or employees are currently in isolation, and Allegheny County incident rates and hospitalizations are also improving.
Vaccinations also are readily available, including at walk-in clinics on the Oakland campus. The clinics will continue throughout the summer; dates, locations and times may vary.
Pitt is strongly recommending that everyone get vaccinated, but has not said if it will require students and employees returning to campus this fall to have a COVID vaccination.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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