Staff should think ‘outside the box’ on work that can be done at home


After 5 p.m. March 20, expect Pitt’s Oakland campus and regional campuses to be veritable ghost towns, but that doesn’t mean that the work of the University won’t be continuing.

David DeJong, vice chancellor for Human Resources, said those remaining on campus, particularly in Pittsburgh, will be those who are supporting the roughly 500 students who have opted to stay, including custodial and food service staff; those needed for public safety, such as Pitt Police; facilities staff, and those in the research community who are deemed essential.

Everyone else will be working remotely, he said. But they may be tasked to do different jobs than they’re used to.

“I'm encouraging everyone to think outside the box and keep everybody (working) at 100 percent,” DeJong said. “The basic stance is we're paying everybody, and so we want everyone to be as occupied as possible.”

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher in his message to the Pitt community on March 18 and at the March 19 Senate Council meeting made clear that all faculty and staff would continue to get paid and there would be no furloughs. He also said Pitt is working with its contractors to keep people employed. All student workers, even those who aren’t on campus, will continue to get paid through the end of their employment period.

But keeping everybody busy might mean, for instance, for Facilities Management that they start on some deferred maintenance. DeJong said he heard that staff were on ladders in the Cathedral of Learning Commons Room earlier this week cleaning the light fixtures; something that couldn’t be done with students in the room.

For those who aren’t on campus anymore, but can’t effectively do their job at home — such as a receptionist or someone who deals mostly with students — DeJong said they are thinking about creating a list of big projects that units are working on, but that might need more manpower, then seeing if there’s a way to lend staff to different departments.

“That's a great opportunity to pick up some new skills and work with people you don't get to normally on a daily basis,” he said.

There are professional development opportunities that HR hopes to offer online at some point, but DeJong said that creating virtual classes for students is taking precedence.

HR is providing guidance to supervisors to help motivate remote staff to remain engaged and productive. Those suggestions and other updates from Human Resources can be found on the office’s COVID-19 resources website.

He also is talking to Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for community engagement, about ways that Pitt staff can get involved virtually with community projects.

For faculty and staff who are identified as essential and must be on campus to support critical activities, all appropriate measures are being taken to ensure that on-site activities can be performed safely and in a manner intended to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus.

These steps may include minimizing staffing, staggering schedules, requiring minimum distances between individuals, disinfection, personal protective equipment; and other strategies.

Supervisors will be providing detailed guidance to these employees, and any affected faculty and staff can reach out to the Environmental Health and Safety team at 412-624-9505 with questions or concerns.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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