Q&A: UCF’s Return to Normal Operations and Remote Work Options
Guide to Our Return to Normal Operations
General Remote Work FAQs
What are UCF’s plans for the Summer B and fall terms?
On June 23, UCF will begin operating more closely aligned with the way we did before the pandemic. This date is a few days before the upcoming Summer B academic term, when we are expanding our classroom capacities leading up to a return to full on-campus class schedules in the fall. It is critical for our students that we are prepared to welcome them back, as we know our campus vibrancy benefits their success.
Who is required to return to the office June 23?
All employees are expected to return to their pre-COVID schedules and their on-campus workspace by June 23, or by that date have in place an approved alternative work arrangement that follows UCF’s Remote Work Arrangements policy. Employees and supervisors should begin to discuss the return to campus as soon as possible.
Instructors, lecturers, assistant and associate professors and professors will return to pre-COVID schedules beginning in Summer B if they are teaching a face-to-face course during that term or August 8 if they are teaching in the fall.
What is remote work?
Remote work is an arrangement in which some work is performed from home or another approved off-site location with the university’s approval. In general, regular office hours are worked and deviations from that schedule require supervisor approval.
When is remote working an option for employees at UCF?
Remote working is an option for employees when working arrangements benefit both the organization and employees, are in line with UCF’s mission and guiding principles, resources can accommodate the requests and supervisory discretion allows for the employees to work from a remote workspace.
Who can work remotely at UCF?
Eligibility to work remotely is determined based on job duties and essential functions of the job, satisfactory performance, and time with the university. Some positions require the employee to physically be on campus to perform essential job duties and to maintain continuity of operations, and therefore, may not be eligible for remote work. For more information and a list of roles that may not be eligible, see the “Eligibility” section in the Remote Working Arrangements Policy EP-20-6. In addition, departments’ need to be sufficiently staffed, including at the on-campus work location, to deliver high-quality services to students, faculty and staff; this will in many cases limit the number of employees who can work remotely, even if their job duties can otherwise be performed remotely. Approval of a remote work arrangement is a privilege, and employees are not guaranteed the opportunity to work remotely.
Why can’t some employees work remotely?
Employees in positions needing in-person contact/customer service or that rely on specific equipment or supplies are likely to be required to work on site. Similarly, management and/or supervisory roles may be excluded from consideration for remote working arrangements unless a department finds such an arrangement practical in meeting job responsibilities.
Not all employees will have the opportunity to work remotely given their roles and responsibilities, including the need for on-campus, in-person interactions. Working at a remote workspace instead of the normal campus workplace may be offered to employees as an alternative when such requests meet the eligibility criteria established by Remote Work Arrangements Policy EP-20-6. Criteria include that the position’s duties can be performed at an alternative site, the employee’s performance is at a satisfactory level, the working arrangement benefits both the organization and the employee, the arrangement is in line with UCF’s mission and guiding principles, resources can accommodate the request, and supervisory discretion allows for the employee to work from a remote workspace.
How much time can an employee work remotely?
Our expectation is that remote working arrangements will be hybrid schedules, meaning hours completed at both the central workplace and the agreed upon remote workplace. Agreements should at most be two days remote, and most often only 20 percent of a work week. Full-time remote work will be approved only in rare situations.
How long can a Remote Work Arrangement remain in effect?
A remote work agreement can be approved for up to a year. At that time, the agreement must be evaluated and re-approved to continue. The employee or department may, at its discretion, implement, continue, discontinue or modify remote work arrangements at any time. The employee should be given notice two weeks prior to changing or discontinuing a remote work agreement, but an employee can agree to less notice. Further, where a department establishes a rotating remote work schedule involving multiple employees, regular rotations under that schedule will suffice to provide notice to the employee of changes to the remote work arrangement. Changes or discontinuation of the remote work arrangement must also be submitted to Human Resources.
Will I be able to work from home?
We encourage you to speak with your supervisor, keeping in mind the eligibility criteria established by Remote Work Arrangements Policy EP-20-6 and the information in the above answers. Please recognize that your supervisor may not be able to answer all of your questions immediately.
What if I need remote work due to my own personal medical condition?
The UCF Remote Work Arrangements policy is not intended to provide a medical accommodation. An employee (not a family member) may have limitations due to a medical condition that qualify for an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The university will use our usual request process for those cases – namely, if you have a medical condition requiring an accommodation please complete the Reasonable Accommodation Request form and submit it to the Office of Institutional Equity. For more information about the accommodation request process, please visit the OIE website (https://oie.ucf.edu/#accessibility) Please note that being at increased risk of severe illness related to COVID-19 alone does NOT qualify for an accommodation under the ADA.
Who can approve remote working arrangements?
The decision to allow limited or hybrid remote work arrangements lies with the Dean, Director, or Department Head (DDDH) or designee. Requests for more than 2 days remote or for any period of out-of-state work also must be approved by the Provost or appropriate Vice President (VP).
Where can I find UCF’s policy governing remote work arrangements?
You can view the policy here: EP-20-6 POLICY REMOTE WORK
Where can I go for more information?
Employees are encouraged to reach out to UCF Human Resources with questions about working remotely, benefits, and leave. HR will update its FAQs with answers to new questions and available resources as needed.
What’s most important to starting a productive remote work arrangement?
Clearly outlined and executed remote work arrangements can prove beneficial to employees and supervisors alike. Supervisors should articulate clear procedures regarding check-in times and hours of availability. With proper planning, communication problems can be minimized.
Which factors should departments/units consider when determining if remote work arrangements are possible or suitable for the department/unit?
• Operational requirements
• Security of work data
• Technological capabilities and equipment necessary to perform job duties
• Accuracy of records reflecting time worked by non-exempt employees
As a supervisor, what do I do now?
Offices should individually assess whether offering later hours, additional days or expanded virtual services will better support our campus community. Evaluate your positions to see who needs to be on campus to support in-person services for students and employees based upon their duties. If there are positions that can work remotely, discuss with your Dean, Director or Department Head what your plan would be to permit remote work. Some examples might be an A team and B team who rotate being on campus and working remotely. Another option might be to allow similar positions to work one day remotely each week, leaving the bulk of the staff available to be in-person. Determine what flexibility there might be for scheduling if remote work cannot be arranged.
Can I hire someone who lives in a different state and allow remote work from that state?
No. Only the Provost or appropriate Vice President can make an exception to the in-state residence requirement.
As a supervisor, how can I make sure I’m managing remote employees effectively?
Remote work works best when employees and supervisors communicate clearly about expectations. The following checklist will help you establish a foundation for effective remote working, continued productivity, and service to the University community.
1. Review technology needs and resources.
Identify technology tools employees use in their daily work and determine whether the resources will be accessible when working from home. Also, ensure employees know how to access the appropriate technical support, should they need assistance.
- Confirm that employees know how to set up call forwarding and how to access their voicemail from home, if available. The UCF Cell Phone Policy may apply.
- Determine which platform(s) you will use to communicate as a team, clarify expectations for online availability and confirm everyone has access to the technology tool(s). UCF employees have free access to Skype for Business, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and your department may have additional tools or resources.
- Ensure alternative worksite safety.
2. Review work schedules.
Remote working can be confused with flex work. Be clear about your expectations with employees for maintaining their current work schedule or if you are open to flexible scheduling based on employee needs.
- For employees who are eligible for overtime, certain activities are included as hours worked.
- OPS employees should continue to work, as long as there is work available, as agreed to by department/college head and HR lead. Timesheets or LAPERS will be managed through email as attachments to ensure employees will be paid for their remote work leave and hours worked. Submit LAPERs and timesheets to your supervisor and payroll processor.
3. Draft a work plan.
Review the questions below as a general assessment of the department needs and staff, and work through answers together, as appropriate, with employees requesting remote work arrangements.
- What routine responsibilities/tasks cannot be fulfilled while working remotely and how will it impact operations or other people? What are ways to reduce any identified impacts?
- Are there cross-training opportunities to identify backup employees who can do critical work within or between departments? Plan for employee absences.
- What key processes have been identified for each area/or department? Will there be specific platform access necessary to fulfill these processes?
- What routine responsibilities/tasks require regular communication and collaboration with others? Proactively contact each other to confirm how you will communicate if employees are working remotely.
- Are there critical work activities that are vulnerable to the absence of a small number of key employees?
- Identify which teams or individuals have limited or no experience with remote work.
- What training will be necessary for remote work tools and technology?
- Identify and agree on strategic priorities during this time.
- Implement a test exercise to test your plan.
- Sometimes employees experience fewer interruptions while working remotely. Are there any special projects, tasks or online training that the employee can advance while working remotely?
- What events or meetings are scheduled during the time in which the temporary remote working arrangement would be in place? Will they be postponed or canceled, or will they take place using technology?
- What follow-up should occur due to postponements or cancellations? What circumstances require on-site attendance?
- Identify employees who may need special requirements or currently have work accommodations, and plan accordingly.
- Identify employees who will have access to the building, labs or facilities.
- Provide resources or the process for technical support.
4. Make a communication and accountability plan.
Supervisors should tell employees how often they should send updates on work plan progress and what those updates should include. Supervisors should also communicate how quickly they expect the employee to respond and the best ways for the employee to contact the supervisor while working remotely. Current performance standards are expected to be maintained by employees.
- If you normally make daily rounds to visit employees at their desks, you can give them a call during this period. Maintain team meetings and one-to-one check-ins, altering the schedule if needed to accommodate alternative schedules that have been approved.
- Conduct regular check-ins. Consider starting each workday with a phone, video, or instant message chat. Your employees will be eager for connection and information during the disruption, and the structure will help everyone create a positive routine. Every other day or weekly check-ins may be fine, so long as you are in contact frequently enough that your employees are in sync with you and/or with one another.
- Prepare an emergency communication plan. Identify key contacts (with backups), chains of communications for tracking business and employee statuses.
5. Be positive.
A positive attitude and a willingness to trust employees to effectively work remotely is key to making such arrangements successful and productive. Working remotely presents an opportunity for supervisors to become better managers. Instead of focusing on how many hours your employees are working, re-emphasize a focus on measuring results and reaching objectives—regardless of work arrangement. The employee’s completed work product is the indicator of success, rather than direct observation. By focusing on the employee’s work product, supervisors will improve their organizational abilities and their own skill in managing by objectives.
For additional tools and resources related to managing and leading remote teams, visit HR’s Supervisors and Managers Resources page.
If I worked remotely before the pandemic under an approved arrangement, will that continue?
You should speak with your supervisor about whether you can continue the arrangement. You must submit a new Remote Work Arrangement Request to continue the arrangement.
If I work in a student-facing area, can I work remotely?
Students attend classes and live on campus, making it important that many services be offered in-person and on campus. As such, student- or employee-facing departments are required to maintain an appropriate level of staffing at the campus work location. That may mean either no or limited options for employees in those offices to work remotely.
Can I work remotely from another state?
No, not without Provost or Vice President approval. Employees who move out of state while working remotely must notify UCF immediately.
Can I work 100 percent of the time remotely?
The university’s expectation is that remote working arrangements should be at most two days remote weekly, and most often only 20 percent of a week. Full-time remote work will be allowed only in rare situations, and only with approval of the Provost or appropriate vice president.
Can I work remotely if I am ill?
Communication with your supervisor is more important than ever when you are working remotely. You should keep your supervisor informed about your health status and decide together whether you are well enough to work remotely or need to use accrued leave to cover any hours not worked.
I am supposed to be working remotely, but my supervisor wants me to come in on that day. Do I have to come in?
Yes. The supervisor can require that you come to the central workplace during a regularly scheduled remote workday.
Does the policy apply to me if I am part of a collective bargaining unit?
The policy applies except to the extent that it conflicts with any provisions of a collective bargaining agreement.
Can my work arrangement be discontinued?
Yes. The employee or the department can discontinue the remote work arrangement at any time based upon the needs of the department or the employee’s performance.
How are student employees impacted by the remote work policy?
The remote work policy does not apply to OPS student employees. However, we encourage supervisors to speak with their student employees about their departments’ plans and what they mean for student employees.
Where is the form I should fill out if I want to submit a request for a remote working agreement?
The Remote Work Arrangement Request Form can be found here.
What are some tips for working remotely?
Define your workspace
Establishing a workspace, even if it is your kitchen table, gives your brain a cue that it is time for work. Wearing the same attire you do to the office even if it is your “casual Friday,” may be a helpful cue. You should remain capable of reporting to work if your presence is requested by your supervisor.
Master the basics
- Set up call forwarding and be sure you know how to access your voicemail from home, if available. The university’s cell phone policy may be applicable.
- Know how to remote into the UCF network and other online tools you use regularly.
- Use Skype for Business, Zoom or another instant messaging client to stay connected to colleagues. Additional support for campus employees can be found at it.ucf.edu/faculty-and-staff-support
- Plan for video calls/meetings by making sure you know how to turn on your computer’s camera (if available) and microphone and being aware your colleagues may be able to see the background behind you.
Set daily goals, track them and share your progress
Consider starting each day of remote work by writing down what you need to accomplish and then tracking your progress. Pay attention to how long tasks take you and start adjusting your daily goals to match your current rhythm. Communicate with your supervisor and/or colleagues if you think your telecommuting plan needs to be adjusted.
Home can mean pets, children or a favorite hobby are only a few feet away. Depending on your living arrangement, you may need to hang a “do not disturb” sign so your family members don’t interrupt you. Pets often need a closed door to keep them away, and you might need headphones to block the noise.
Whether you are in your home or a common area, take five minutes to assess the privacy of your workspace. Can someone standing behind you read your computer screen? Are your windows open so your neighbor can hear your phone call? What information do you need to secure before grabbing a cup of coffee or heading to the restroom?
Your personal privacy matters too, so see if there is anything around you that you would not want visible during a video conference with your boss or colleague. Keep in mind the work employees do while working remotely, even on their personal devices for university work conducted, remains subject to university and other applicable regulations, including public records laws (Florida Statute 119).
Continue to employ best security practices
Situations like these are prime phishing opportunities. Remain vigilant for security concerns and be sure to report suspicious emails as recommended by the UCF Security Incident Response Team (SIRT).
- Caution needs to be taken when dealing with personal health information and HIPAA matters while working from home or another off-site location. If you have questions, contact your department/division HIPAA officer or HR Lead.
- VPNs can also allow you to safely connect to a remote network of computers as if you are there. If you are dealing with sensitive information and want to explore VPN, you can learn more on the UCF IT UCF Virtual Private Network (VPN) Access page.
- Additional information can be found within the UCF Faculty and Staff Guide for Working Remotely.
- You are expected to follow the telecommuting equipment safeguards outlined in the university’s Telecommuting Manual.
Many people say they do not call or instant message colleagues who are working remotely because they don’t want to bother them. Remember, they are working, not vacationing at home. You should feel confident about calling or messaging an employee who is working remotely anytime you would walk to their office or call them if you were working on-site.