HR News

Syracuse University Begins Welcoming Phase One Faculty and Staff Back to Campus

Earlier today, Syracuse University began welcoming back members of its campus community, an important milestone to safely bring back students, faculty and staff after the monthslong work-from-home effort during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As announced earlier this week by Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Andrew R. Gordon, Phase One faculty and staff arrived on campus this week as the first of four carefully planned phases to resume more normal operations.

“The Return to Campus Working Group for Faculty and Staff has collaborated with various teams and departments from across the University, too many to name, over the past several weeks to prepare to welcome folks back to campus in a safe and smart way,” Gordon says. “I am grateful to the many faculty and staff members who have assisted with these efforts. Many cross-functional teams continue the work of ensuring that campus is a safe and healthy place for all in anticipation of additional faculty and staff returning over the coming weeks, not to mention our students who will be back in August.”

Earlier this week, the Office of Human Resources also released comprehensive guidance on its website for faculty and staff returning to campus. This guidance encompasses topics like masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing requirements, expectations of faculty and staff in monitoring and reporting any COVID-19 symptoms, cleaning and sanitation protocols, and more. Some key highlights include:

  • Face masks or coverings will be required on campus while in the presence of others and anywhere social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A required daily health screening questionnaire, which faculty and staff must complete at home before reporting to work on campus.
  • A new shared responsibility to clean and disinfect personal workspaces and surfaces in common areas to supplement the enhanced day-to-day efforts of our custodial staff.

Faculty and staff, including those who are not yet scheduled to return to campus, are advised to review the Return to Campus Information Hub for Faculty and Staff to become familiar with new requirements and expectations for on-campus work.

“It falls on all of us to follow the guidance and protocols established for faculty and staff to ensure the health of our community,” Gordon says. “I thank everyone for their shared commitment to balancing how we work, move and interact with the entire University community on campus with the necessary goal of maintaining the well-being of every campus member.”

Syracuse University will continue to provide frequent updates via email communications and on Syracuse.edu/coronavirus, which will be the most up-to-date resource as the University navigates the evolving impact of the pandemic. The campus community can expect continued messages from University leadership, including Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie, who for the last three months has led a policy team to respond to the pandemic and prepare for the return to campus.

Important Update for 2020 Flexible Spending Accounts

Original expectations about your health and dependent care expenses for 2020 may have significantly changed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. As a result, you may want to change your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) elections for 2020. Effective immediately, eligible faculty and staff are allowed to change health and dependent care FSA elections for 2020 without having a qualifying family status change.

Allowable changes must be made on a prospective basis and include new elections as well as increases or decreases to existing FSA elections. If an election is made to reduce your health care FSA contribution, the reduced contribution must be no less than claims that have already been reimbursed or approved for reimbursement.

Additionally, beginning this year, the maximum amount of unused health care FSA contributions that can carry over to the next year has increased from $500 to $550, and will be adjusted annually for inflation.

If you wish to make a change to your 2020 FSA election, or have any questions, contact HR Shared Services at hrservice@syr.edu or 315.443.4042.

Update on Return to Campus Plan for Faculty and Staff

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Thank you for your patience as the cross-functional working group of deans, faculty and staff has further developed and solidified our plans for returning faculty and staff to campus.

I write to share an update on our phases of return and where we stand with approval from New York State and local public health authorities.

Additional critical information follows for all faculty and staff to review as we look toward returning more faculty and staff to campus over the coming days, weeks and months.

Phase One of Return to Begin June 3

We have received guidance to start welcoming a limited number of faculty and staff back to campus on June 3 who have been designated by their dean or senior vice president to return in Phase One. As previously communicated, this includes primarily all essential personnel, who have been on campus since March, plus additional research faculty and staff identified by their deans in consultation with the vice president of research. Those faculty, staff and graduate students scheduled to return in Phase One will receive a separate communication from their dean or senior vice president by tomorrow morning with detailed procedures that need to be followed upon campus return.

As noted in my communication from May 21, moving ahead to Phases Two through Four will require ongoing monitoring of public health guidance, campus density, and the health of our faculty and staff members on campus. The subsequent phases of return are tentatively scheduled to commence every two weeks following the successful implementation of Phase One.

As we move through this process, we will continue to communicate with deans and other senior leaders, who will advise faculty and staff of their likely return date or continued remote work arrangement.

Critical Information for Faculty and Staff to Review Before Returning to Campus

The working group has worked closely with our partners—including the Public Health subcommittee of the Fall 2020 Open Work Group, Campus Safety and Emergency Services, Facilities Services and Campus Planning, Design and Construction—to develop guidance for faculty and staff returning to campus.

This guidance encompasses topics like masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing requirements, expectations of faculty and staff in monitoring and reporting any COVID-19 symptoms, cleaning and sanitation protocols, and more. New York State requires all employees to conduct a daily health assessment, including taking your temperature before coming to campus. It is not only a state requirement, but it is the right thing to do to keep everyone on our campus healthy and safe.

View the Return to Campus Information Hub for Faculty and Staff.

Additionally, I encourage you to review information on the Environmental Health and Safety Services website to learn about Universitywide measures that have been taken to keep members of our campus community safe and healthy.

We look forward to beginning to welcome faculty and staff back to campus.

Sincerely,

Andrew R. Gordon
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

Important Update About the Return to Campus Plan for Faculty and Staff

Dear Faculty and Staff:

As announced yesterday, Syracuse University will resume residential instruction in August 2020, which includes an accelerated academic calendar. Simultaneously, a cross-functional working group of deans, faculty and staff is working to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for returning our workforce to campus over the coming weeks and months. This plan—which prioritizes the health, wellness and safety of all members of our community—is informed by the critically important work of the Public Health subcommittee. I want to express my appreciation to all members of the working group, subcommittees and the many faculty and staff members who have provided their expertise and input.

To promote social distancing, reduce campus density and ensure the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing capabilities, faculty and staff will return to campus using a phased approach. I write today to share an outline of that approach and a preview of what you can expect in terms of upcoming communication and guidance.

In anticipation of clearance from state and local health officials to resume campus operations, deans, senior vice presidents and other leaders have assigned faculty and staff from each of their respective schools, colleges and units to one of four campus return phases. Some of the factors used by leaders to make these assignments included the nature of employees’ job duties, seating arrangements and the ability to successfully perform work remotely.

Please note: Our phases are subject to change as we continue to monitor public health guidance, campus density, employee health and the effectiveness of social distancing in the workplace.

Phase Zero
Essential personnel only on campus. We have been in this phase since March 16.

Phase One (tentatively planned for no earlier than June 1)
About 30 percent of faculty and staff will return to campus. This will primarily include all essential personnel, plus additional identified research faculty and staff needing to continue their research in on-campus laboratories.

Phase Two
An additional 10-15 percent of faculty and staff will return in Phase Two, about two weeks after the successful implementation of Phase One. This will allow time for adequate monitoring of the health and safety of our campus.

Phase Three
An additional 10-15 percent of faculty and staff will return in Phase Three, about two weeks after the successful implementation of Phase Two.

Phase Four
An additional 25 percent of faculty and staff will return in Phase Four, about two weeks after the successful implementation of Phase Three.

Continued Remote Working
If employees can remain fully productive at home, supervisors are strongly encouraged to continue to arrange for faculty and staff to work remotely for the next couple months to maintain reduced campus density.

Fall 2020 Return
Additionally, about 15-20 percent of faculty will not return to campus until the Fall 2020 semester begins.

As soon as the University receives approval from New York State and local government public health authorities, we will communicate with deans and other senior leaders, who will advise you of your likely return date or continued remote or flexible work arrangement.

What Faculty and Staff Can Expect Next
Next week, we will have an informational hub and comprehensive list of frequently asked questions go live on the Office of Human Resources’ website, hr.syr.edu. There, you will find useful information about returning to campus, including:

  • new cleaning, safety and social distancing protocols;
  • guidance on personal protective equipment (e.g., face masks or coverings) and other public health measures;
  • options for flexible, remote, staggered and alternate-day work arrangements that will help departments adequately social distance in the workplace; and
  • what will be required of each and every one of us to keep our campus safe as we prepare to bring additional faculty and staff members back to campus, and especially as we look toward welcoming our students back for the Fall 2020 semester.

Thank you for your continued understanding and patience as we work to balance our desire to welcome back our faculty and staff in a way that protects the well-being of our entire campus community. We will provide you additional guidance and updates by email as more information becomes available.

Sincerely,

Andrew R. Gordon
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

Summer Office Hours Modified

Traditionally, Syracuse University has transitioned to summer office hours beginning on the Monday following commencement. In accordance with New York State orders, a very limited number of staff designated as essential personnel are working in offices on campus at this time. As such, faculty and staff should continue to work remotely and for the hours arranged with their supervisor or manager. For essential personnel, please check with your supervisor about your hours. Additional information will be provided as New York State and local governments make decisions about return to on premises working hours.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Human Resources at 315.443.4042 or hrservic@syr.edu.

Early Education Child Care Center Brings Smiles to Children (and Relief to Parents) Stuck at Home

With the children they provide care for safely at home with their parents, the EECCC teaching staff has put their creative skills to use by creating a library of over 100 videos on their YouTube channel. The videos, initially conceived as a work-from-home project while the center was shut down, feature teachers reading books, singing songs, cooking and baking, leading STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities, leading kid-friendly yoga and more.

COVID-19: Finding the Next Normal

A pandemic is a powerful, disruptive force, and COVID-19 has proven to be as catastrophic for businesses, communities, and the lifestyles people enjoy as it can be for one’s health. Of course, there are preparations that can be made to mitigate the overall impact a pandemic can have, but it’s difficult to predict how long and how devastating a pandemic will be when there is so much disagreement over the best ways to respond and when those responses will be activated.

Stay Well While Working Remotely

The Wellness Initiative has compiled resources and information that may help you to relieve stress and anxiety, move more, stay connected with one another and breathe a little deeper during this period of uncertainty.

Why Relationships Matter (Maybe Now More Than Ever)

The quality of our relationships is the single biggest predictor of our happiness—more so than business success, physical health, wealth, status or fame. While we may be in the unique position of either spending a bit too much time with others lately, or striving to maintain connections with those we love from a safe distance, it does all of us good to focus on and prioritize our relationships to set the foundation of a happy, healthy life.

To further explore this topic, we chatted with positive psychology expert Jaime Weisberg, founder of Northbound Coaching & Consulting and facilitator of the Thrive! well-being series offered through the Syracuse University Wellness Initiative. The upcoming workshop, “Other People Matter: Strengthening the Foundation of Happiness,” will be held virtually on April 28 or April 30 at noon, via Zoom. Faculty and staff can sign up today!

The Benefits of Human Connection

“I think we all intuitively know that if we think about the happiest times in our lives, they usually include other people,” Weisberg says. “There is also a lot of science and various mechanisms that help explain why relationships are such a strong predictor of human happiness.”

She points to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies to look at adult males throughout the life span. It found that the quality of the connections subjects had with others over the course of their lives was correlated with both increased happiness and increased longevity—suggesting that relationships impact not only our emotional, but our physical health.

Emotionally, having the support of others, feeling connected and having a sense of belonging all elevate feelings of positivity and self-worth, thereby contributing to increased happiness. But, according to Weisberg, there’s also some neurobiology at play. “When we’re in connection, we release a neuropeptide called oxytocin, which stimulates the ‘calm-and-connect’ response,” she says. “This is the antithesis of the ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response. There’s a neurochemical process that unfolds when we’re in relationship to others that’s very calming. It builds trust, soothes our nervous system and helps buffer the stress response.”

“The emotion of loneliness is actually felt in the same center of our brain where we feel physical pain,” Weisberg says. “So when we’re lonely, it physically hurts. It’s thought to be a protective mechanism, to keep us in connection with one another.”This is thought to be an evolutionary response: simply put, we are wired to be in connection. When we are babies, being connected to our parent or caregiver helps ensure our survival, Weisberg says. When we get older, finding a mate and procreating help ensure the further continuation of our species. In tribal settings, we commonly lived in community with one another and shared responsibilities for hunting, gathering and child-rearing. Although our society has grown increasingly isolated from one another—not to mention the current experience of forced isolation, in many cases—we are not designed to live this way. As has been widely publicized in recent years, loneliness can have devastating consequences to our health.

Focus on Good, Healthy Relationships; Romantic and Otherwise

It’s not just our romantic relationships that benefit us, either. Connecting with your children, friends, other family members, coworkers and even strangers can all invoke these feel-good chemical reactions in the body.

“Even micro-moments of connectivity that we have with other people—say a stranger on the subway—can stimulate this burst of activity, almost like taking a quick vitamin, involving something called mirror neurons in the brain,” says Weisberg. “The same parts of our brain and their brain light up at the same time, and we can share a really calming, connected moment together.”

Some of the hallmarks of healthy, productive relationships? According to Weisberg, they’re mutually supportive, in both bad times and good; there’s an ability to be authentic and vulnerable with one another; and there should be shared experiences that are not only enjoyable, but novel.

“If there are relationships in your life that are feeling very negative and toxic to you, it’s OK to step away from some of those and focus on ones that are more nourishing to you—especially right now,” she says. Because we tend to mirror or pick up the emotions of those we spend our time with, a concept known as “emotional contagion,” we should nurture relationships that are supportive, positive and celebratory and spend less time and energy on those that are dominated by negativity, gossiping or complaining.

During this period of social distancing and juggling home and work responsibilities, Weisberg emphasizes the importance of being truly present with those we care about and not multi-tasking. “It may be a little harder, especially not being in physical connection, to stay present in relationships—but presence is a big factor when it comes to trust, and trust is hugely important to quality relationships,” she says. “We need to carve that time out to be truly present, to actively listen, and to show up for people and honor that connection.”

The bottom line: our relationships are important and require the same level of prioritization and commitment as any other area of our lives. Join the next Thrive! well-being session to learn more, including tools and strategies we can use to strengthen and be more present in our relationships.

Virtual Support Groups

To help you cope with the sustained stress of the pandemic, Carebridge is offering online stress check-in support groups. Attendance will help improve your ability to thrive during this challenging time and enhance your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Habits, beliefs and behaviors that promote resilience will be highlighted.