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Remote Work During COVID-19: Guidelines for Supervisors 

Date: 3/16/2020 Last update: 3/16/2020

LTS has prepared the following guidelines to help Lehigh supervisors adapt to a remote work arrangement. They complement Human Resources's Best Practices for Leading Remote Teams, the Business Continuity Guidelines, and recent Human Resources Communications on this topic. As a reminder, we are all acting quickly but always with the two goals of (1) promoting the health and well being of our students, staff, faculty, families, and community; and (2)  maintaining the academic and business continuity of our university. Please bear in mind that the many changes we are making across the university are temporary, made in response to a quickly evolving situation. We will revisit these guidelines as circumstances change. Always check with your supervisor to learn how these guidelines are being put into practice for your area. And be sure to share with your team the Remote Work During COVID-19: Guidelines for Lehigh Staff​​​​, together with your team- or area-specific guidelines.

  1. Make a Communications Plan with Clear Expectations - Clearly state how you will communicate with your remote team and what your expectations for response times are. Managers should confer with your Associate Director or Director to decide the appropriate expectations of responsiveness. Everyone on your team should know the best, quickest way to get in touch with each other.

    Some examples (these are examples, NOT required policy):
    • Email - Everyone is expected to respond to routine emails within the same business day. Emails with “URGENT” in the subject line should be responded to [promptly/immediately/within the hour/etc].
    • Virtual Communications - We will use [Slack/Google Hangouts]. When tagged, respond [within the hour/within two hours/as soon as possible]. 
    • Phone - Some staff have VPN phones, others have provided cell/home phone numbers. Answer calls when possible and return voicemails [within four hours/within one business day]. If appropriate, forward your business phone to your cell or home.
    • Zoom - We will use Zoom for meetings that we would normally have in person. It is important we continue this practice to keep connected. We will have a [daily/twice-weekly/MWF/weekly] team meeting to touch base on critical issues. Let’s all follow basic Zoom best practices and etiquette during meetings.
  2. Develop and Communicate Schedules - Everyone should know what the team schedule is. You could use a shared document or shared calendar that can be accessible by everyone and that is updated daily to keep everyone apprised of the team’s current work schedule. To keep things working well, individual schedules may shift during this period. The realities of remote work are that personal needs may arise during the day; those should be accommodated when possible, but they cannot consistently prevent us from completing our work.
  3. Clearly communicate expectations - Managers should establish priorities with their team and with each individual on the team. Pay particular attention to team members who have work assignments that have dramatically shifted due to the change to remote work. Increase the feedback you provide to your team and team members. Much of the feedback we typically give and receive is non-verbal; find a way to create virtual equivalents when everyone is physically isolated. A brief phone call, email, or message can go a long way to keeping people feeling connected to you, to each other, and to their work.
  4. Prepare to Report on Progress. Establish a simple-to-use system for formal or informal progress reporting, an approach that is common in traditional work environments and should be continued in a virtual one. Depending on the nature of your work, you could use work logs, end-of-day (or end-of-shift) reporting, or some other approach. The reporting should not be onerous but should be consistently required.
  5. Time Away From Work.  Everyone should report or request time away from work--sick days, vacation days, medical leave, etc.--just as they otherwise would. If you as supervisor are unable to work for any reason, inform your supervisor and your designate, then communicate with your team about who will be supervising during your absence.
  6. Be Flexible, Adaptable,  and Responsive. These are uncertain times.  All of us are facing unique pressures on all sides.  Bear in mind that what was true yesterday may not be true today for our university, our areas, or for the staff on your teams. Stay informed and be prepared change quickly.