Professor helps students learn more about bones in an Anthropology lab

The return to campus this fall has been highly anticipated by many within the university community. Faculty members will finally return to their classrooms, first- and second-year students will get to experience the UofL community in person and campus will once again be the bustling social hub it was before the pandemic.

In preparation for the return to campus, President Bendapudi and Provost Gonzalez stressed the importance of in-person work through a communication to faculty and staff on May 5.

“This fall, we expect to offer a majority of in-person classes and highly engaging experiences on campus that support the whole student body. To do that, we must have a strong, welcoming presence in our classrooms and student-service areas. This means front-facing and student-service positions will need to have a consistent presence on campus,” the communication noted. 

Although many have eagerly awaited the return to pre-COVID conditions, the impending transition back to in-person work has left employees throughout the nation feeling anxious. Over the past year and a half, individuals rose to the occasion and adapted to the difficulties of isolation and remote working conditions. Just as employees have fully adjusted to these changes, employers are now requesting personnel to return to in-person operations. Several universities have proposed stringent policies that will make remote work difficult for employees, which has caused mounting tensions and high turnover rates among university workers nationwide.

While there is an emphasis on in-person work at UofL, leadership has been committed to providing flexible work options for employees when possible. The Remote Work Policy went into effect on July 1 and allows UofL employees to request remote work arrangements with their respective department leaders. To help supervisors and employees navigate the process, HR provided a series of training sessions during the month of May to review both the Remote Work Policy and Remote Work Agreement.

The flexibility offered through UofL’s Remote Work Policy intends to lessen the anxieties of both faculty and staff as they resume on-campus work. Employees like Kevin Ledford, enterprise systems programmer with Information Technology Services, see potential for lasting positive changes for employees at UofL.

“During COVID-19, our staff has been largely acting remotely and been doing a fantastic job in the face of challenges. We have proven that a number of our workers can work remotely and be as effective, if not more so, than they were before,” Ledford stated. “Allowing workers flexibility goes a long way towards making UofL a great place to work. Giving the worker the flexibility to request what works best for them and work with their department to come up with a plan is a good step forward.”

Despite the flexibility of working from home, many faculty and staff members have been yearning for in-person interactions with students and colleagues. Sherri Wallace, professor of Political Science, is among the employees eager to return to campus this August.

“I’m looking forward to the energy I get from my students during in-person instruction, the looks on students’ faces that indicate where they are and the dynamic discussions that emanate from being in the moment or in the room. I’m looking forward to the casual or vigorous intellectual exchanges that occur in the hallway or on the way to a meeting with colleagues and staff,” Wallace said. “I realize and appreciate virtual or electronic discussions are now part of the norm for communication; however, nothing can or will ever replace social interaction from working in-sync and in-person with those around you.”

Whether employees are returning to campus, continuing remote work or some hybrid fashion of the two, a cautious optimism is felt throughout as UofL begins transitioning back to pre-COVID operations. For more information on the Remote Work Policy and the return to campus, students and employees can refer to the Human Resources website. All remote work requests should be submitted and finalized by Aug. 1, 2021.