Post-pandemic remote work opportunities explained

With the guidance of campus and unit leaders, Indiana University is preparing to resume in-person learning for the fall 2021 semester and return to mostly normal operations. The availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is making it possible for a gradual return to campus with appropriate safety precautions still in place, according to summer and fall health and safety guidance.

For many, this means returning to on-campus work, but many units are also considering new or continued remote work opportunities. Inside IU asked Vice President of Human Resources John Whelan about remote work for staff at IU post-pandemic.

Question: How will work be different for staff post-pandemic?

Answer: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much about our lives, including how the university operates. In planning for the fall semester, we know that much of the university's work will continue in the way it did before the pandemic. However, the new normal may look slightly different from before, allowing us to rethink when, where and how our staff works, including expanded opportunities for remote work.

We know that many staff members who were required to work remotely during the pandemic have come to recognize some benefits of working from home, including the absence of a commute, enhanced productivity, greater flexibility during the day and more. Depending on campus and unit leadership decisions, it's likely that more remote work opportunities will be available than before the pandemic. Many remote work arrangements will be a hybrid situation, where staff members split time between home and office locations.

Q: Who determines the availability of remote work?

A: Each campus and unit is unique, so decisions about remote work will be made locally. The decision about the availability of remote work on each campus or unit lies with the chancellors, the vice presidents or those to whom they delegate decision-making. Ultimately, remote work options are influenced by your campus, unit and job duties.

Q: Is remote work available for all jobs?

A: Remote work will not be available for all staff jobs. Naturally, work arrangements differ according to the needs of units and the jobs being performed. There may even be differences within units, where remote work is available for some but not all roles. The goal is to meet the operational needs of the university and its students while maintaining the fundamental in-person character of the university.

While considering remote work opportunities, we should acknowledge that our staff plays an important role in the student experience and the character of each campus. Remote work is not suitable for every job. For example:

  • Faculty and staff presence on campus is necessary to provide in-person teaching and student experiences.
  • Many student-facing jobs require face-to-face services, and many jobs require an employee to be physically present.
  • Even non-student-facing jobs may require work on campus to ensure that the in-person character of campus is maintained.

In the end, we must ensure that our work is performed so the needs of the university's constituents -- especially students -- are fully met.

Q: How do I determine if my role is suitable for remote work?

A: Human Resources has developed policy HR-06-80, which establishes post-pandemic remote work guidelines for staff and temporary employees. This policy does not apply to faculty. It can help staff and their supervisors evaluate and discuss the following:

  • Whether remote work is suitable.
  • What equipment is necessary.
  • Space considerations.
  • Expense reimbursement.
  • Documentation of remote work arrangements.

This policy does not apply to academic appointees. Indiana University faculty, librarians and student academic appointees are governed by a different policy, ACA-83.

In general, full-time academic appointees are expected to participate fully in the life of the intellectual community of the campus and to fulfill assigned teaching, research, clinical, librarianship and service obligations. Substantial remote work by full-time academic appointees is only rarely permitted, and must be expressly approved by the appointee's chancellor or provost or, if delegated, dean or program director. Further details are outlined in the policy. Faculty with questions should contact the campus office for academic affairs.

If you have general questions about remote work for staff at IU, a growing collection of Frequently Asked Questions is available at the IU HR website. This webpage also has tools and resources to help staff and supervisors plan appropriate and successful remote work.

Q: Can I work from out of state or out of country?

A: Approval is required in advance if you wish to work remotely from another state. State regulations vary, which may limit remote work in certain states. Consult with your local HR representative to discuss out-of-state arrangements, as it may have tax and other legal implications.

Working remotely from a country outside of the United States will be rare. However, it may be considered if the work is mission-critical and a compelling reason to perform the work out of country exists. In that case, the approval of your senior executive officer and IU's general counsel is still required. Your local HR representative can assist you.

Q: How can I request to work remotely?

A: If remote work is available at your campus or unit, staff and temporary employees may make a request to their supervisor to continue or start working remotely.

Q: Do I have to document remote work arrangements?

A: All remote work arrangements will require official documentation within a university-wide online documentation system. This system will be available in July to request remote work, document arrangements, record approvals and periodically review remote work arrangements. Some units may require supplemental documentation, and this system does not replace any remote work arrangement system or process your unit may use.

I encourage staff to use the time before the launch of the documentation system to discuss and plan remote work arrangements with their supervisors.

Q: What other support is available to employees?

A: HR has resources available to support employees' mental and physical health, well-being and safety at Healthy IU's Return to Campus webpage. You can register for live webinars, view on-demand webinars or LinkedIn Learning courses, and find resources to help with this transition period.

HR also has LinkedIn Learning collections to support employees and people leaders in planning their return to campus. Please note, a login is required for LinkedIn Learning.

Finally, we know that times of change can cause heightened stress. If you or someone in your household needs help, please reach out. The Employee Assistance Program, available at 888-881-5462, offers free, confidential support for immediate mental health concerns employees or their household members may be experiencing.