Staff return to campus will be ‘unit-by-unit decisions,’ DeJong says


David N. DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations, told the April 22 Staff Council meeting that “July looks like a good time to begin” to transition back to office work.

“I don’t know the timing” exactly, he said, but “I think the critical pivot point” will be reached when there is more vaccine supply than demand, “and everyone will have gotten the chance to get the vaccine who wants to.

“It will be nice to have the transition mostly under our belts when students come back,” DeJong added. “I’m looking forward to whatever the new normal is going to be for all of us.

“We’re still going to be working with tremendous uncertainty concerning the continuing effects of COVID-19,” he said. “Everything we do is subject to the caveat that conditions will be important to monitor…” Nonetheless, the staff will be moving from the time when most staff members are encouraged to stay home to a period when supervisors will decide on “what business arrangements will be optimal … to meet our business-critical needs.”

These will be “unit-by-unit decisions,” he said, and the University as a whole still will be “open to flexibility,” since use of current technology has shown that “folks can be productive and highly engaged with remote working arrangements.”

The current Pitt policies and procedures governing telecommuting are now being revised to cover what University working arrangements may look like after this, he said. Two new sets of training modules are being developed for employees returning to in-office work — one for staff and one for supervisors — and two town halls will be scheduled to discuss the transition.

“We want to make sure all supervisors are aware of our interest in offering flexible work arrangements” when the job allows it, DeJong added. This may mean that not everyone will have a dedicated office, but instead “hoteling spaces” and “plug and play” options will be instituted for staff who will not be in the office 9-5 every weekday, he said.

DeJong assured Staff Council that, should an individual staff member differ from a supervisor concerning whether working in the office was the correct decision, “we’ll work through those issues with folks.”

He also said he planned to discuss faculty expectations of staffing levels with outgoing University Senate President Chris Bonneau and incoming President Robin Kear.

DeJong said new flexibility in parking will be offered soon as well. Before COVID-19, most parking permits were monthly leases. Although some employees will want to keep such a lease, others will be given the chance to switch to more flexible arrangements via a Pitt parking app, which will include daily lot access options with different prices, depending on the time of day. The University also plans to develop more park-and-ride opportunities.

He said new childcare options are still under development, in partnership with UPMC. “We probably won’t be one-hundred percent where we want to be by fall but we will be moving in that direction,” he added.

Mark Burdsall, deputy vice chancellor of Human Resources, announced that the annual staff recognition program, which has been delayed, will be done via a prerecorded event during Faculty and Staff Appreciation Week in early June. He also noted that anniversary awards, which honor staff longevity, will be sent to staff honorees’ homes.

The next Staff Council meeting is May 19. At that meeting, candidates for the five Staff Council officer positions will be answering questions in a town hall event.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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