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FAS, Central Administration to Pilot Remote Work for Staff

Staff across several units of the University will attempt a transition to remote work.
Staff across several units of the University will attempt a transition to remote work. By Aiyana G. White
By James S. Bikales and Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writers

Schools and administrative units across the University will pilot a remote work system for staff next week to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pilot for Faculty of Arts and Sciences staff will last from March 16 to March 20, after which FAS administrators will evaluate its success and decide further steps, FAS Dean Claudine Gay wrote in an email Thursday.

“Faculty and managers will need to lead efforts this week to think about how critical processes will be handled remotely and to support students, postdocs, and staff in their efforts to prepare for next week’s pilot,” Gay wrote. “Department administrators will receive additional guidance via Zoom conference.”

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an email that Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp asked central administration leaders to launch a similar program next week and to provide her with feedback after the initial pilots.

“As the University continues to prepare for and manage the rapidly changing impacts of this public health emergency, these efforts will be critical to planning for any potential large-scale move to remote work in the future,” Swain wrote.

The Division of Continuing Education will also pilot a similar program next week, according to DCE spokesperson Harry J. Pierre.

Several other schools have not officially announced shifts to remote work, but are highly encouraging employees to work from home.

Harvard Medical School Dean Lisa M. Muto ’79 wrote in an update to staff that unit and department leaders should shift nonessential staff to work remotely “as soon as possible.”

“The reason we are providing this guidance is to follow University and public health guidelines around social distancing in order to deter the possible spread of disease,” Muto wrote.

Harvard Graduate School of Design staff will attend meetings via Zoom “to the fullest extent possible” by Monday, per an update on the Design School’s website.

Likewise, Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf and Executive Dean Janney Wilson wrote in an email to staff and faculty that they should prepare to work remotely for an “extended period of time.” If they are equipped to work remotely, he encouraged them to do so by Friday or Monday.

Harvard School of Public Health Dean Michelle A. Williams encouraged affiliates to work from home next week in an online announcement.

Harvard Law School Dean for Administration Matthew Gruber wrote in an email to staff that the situation is “fluid” and “subject to change.”

“We expect that a large proportion of our staff will have no need to work on campus next week, and for that number to possibly grow beginning the week of March 23,” Gruber wrote.

Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers President Carrie E. Barbash said she supports the FAS pilot, adding she hopes it is continued for “as long as we need to do it.”

“This is an unprecedented situation that I think needs to be taken really seriously and this is definitely a good step in that direction,” Barbash said. “I think it’ll be great to see every school sort of moving in this direction as soon as possible.”

Under the University’s most recent policies, Harvard staff may apply unearned sick days if they become sick or quarantined due to coronavirus or if they have to take care of a family member affected by it. They may also exceed annual limits on dependent care days.

Harvard will also guarantee pay to non-remote employees for a “a defined period of time (e.g., 30 days)” if their department is closed or quarantined, according to the guidance.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at james.bikales@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at michelle.kurilla@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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Central AdministrationFASHealthFAS AdministrationCoronavirus