Guidance to Academic Programs Regarding Work-From-Home and Telework in Response to COVID-19

Posted March 17, 2020, 10:15 AM

Earlier today, President Wintersteen communicated to the campus community about flexible work arrangements including employee work-from-home and modifying schedules to allow social distancing. I am following up with guidance in the context of responsibilities within the Division of Academic Affairs.

Please share this information broadly and immediately within your colleges, departments, and units, and solicit feedback from your teams regarding local implementation issues.

Our top priority continues to be protecting the health and safety of faculty, staff, students, and visitors by reducing the transmission risk associated with COVID-19. This approach includes ensuring that University employees can work from home or another remote location whenever possible in the coming weeks. Some academic affairs employees will need to be present on campus for specific and critical operations that cannot otherwise be accomplished remotely. Such circumstances should be for a limited number of people, and only for as long as it takes to perform those critical tasks.

Supervisors within the academic affairs division are directed to implement the following procedures:

  • All employees who are able to work remotely, as determined by their supervisors, are to work remotely.
  • The same directive applies to all graduate students and post-docs, and undergraduate student workers.
  • All meetings that can be virtualized should be virtualized, even one-on-one meetings with colleagues having offices or laboratories in close proximity.

These actions should be taken immediately and to the maximum extent possible.

Employees should consult with their supervisors about specific job functions in order to determine what work can be done remotely. Supervisors should provide assignments, and access to the resources necessary, for employees to work remotely. The new webpage Working Remotely contains important technology information:

Work responsibilities for some employees may change – for instance, to work on a special project, to support a different unit, or to engage in professional development. Employees working remotely should check with the supervisors regularly, even if only via email, regarding assignments.

Regular leave policies and procedures should be followed for employees who are unable to work, or who wish to take personal time during this period. Sick leave should be used for employees who become ill (or other qualifying events) while working remotely.

When a work function must be performed on campus, or if the employee’s work is deemed by the supervisor to be critical for campus operations, face-to-face interactions should be minimized by reducing the number of attendees in a gathering and by providing social distancing space of at least 6 feet. In addition, supervisors should establish shifts and rotation schedules with a minimum number of personnel. This guidance applies to all functions within the academic affairs division, including research laboratories.

The Office of the Vice President for Research is working with academic colleges, the Graduate College, and other University offices to develop additional guidance for conducting research during this period. Research Continuity Planning can be found at:

This guidance will help faculty, research staff, graduate students and post-docs plan for disruptions and continue their research and creative activities as best as possible. The FAQ page will be updated as additional information becomes available, and communications will be sent to department chairs and other campus leaders.

Non-exempt (hourly) employees are eligible to work remotely with manager approval. However, they must adhere to the same accurate Workday time reporting requirements (including meal periods) and processes already in place with their manager and department. Non-exempt employees must receive advance approval from their manager before incurring overtime.

It is important to remember that the University remains open for business, but that campus will be staffed at a significantly reduced level. All administrative offices within the academic affairs division should establish protocols for working with the office by phone and email, and develop a staffing rotation and phone rollover system to ensure calls are answered and acted upon, during normal business hours. These offices include those of the provost, college deans, research, extension and outreach, library, enrollment management, and the Ames Laboratory. Academic department and similar-level administrative offices may or may not, at the discretion of the cognizant dean, academic vice president, or associate provost, be staffed by a single person, but in any case will have signage directing people where to call/email if the office is unoccupied.

In addition, employees should take the following actions:

  • Update voice mail to provide callers with instructions on how to receive assistance.
  • Prepare email auto-reply.
  • Place signage on the doors of offices indicating that the office is closed, and providing a telephone number and email staffed during business hours.

These protocols are in place until further notice.

If an employee or graduate student is ill, they should contact their supervisor, take the necessary medical precautions, and not report to campus. Further information, including a list of frequently asked questions from University Human Resources, is available at:

The university’s Emergency Operations Center has been active since late January, and campus leadership is continuously working this unprecedented challenge. I will keep you informed as additional information becomes available, and please remember that announcements may occur with little advance warning.

Colleagues, the events of just this past week have shown us that we are operating in a rapidly-changing environment. Take care, thank you for everything you are doing to help Iowa State and each other respond to COVID-19, and let me know how I can assist your work.