This message is being sent to staff, faculty and other academic personnel, and student employees on all University of Washington campuses.
During our July Back-to-School Town Hall, we reiterated the University’s commitment to supporting the needs of UW community members who have caregiving responsibilities. Many caregivers are under significant stress as they struggle to balance work and family responsibilities, with schools operating remotely and many support services reduced or unavailable. As COVID-19 has highlighted systemic inequities more broadly, the caregiving crisis it has spawned has exacerbated systemic inequities in caregiver roles, which fall disproportionately to women, as well as in access to child and adult care resources.
In addition to highlighting several resources for caregivers below, we ask everyone at the University to provide as much support, compassion and understanding as they can to those with caregiving responsibilities, including providing as much flexibility as possible when it comes to work demands and non-urgent deadlines. Our excellence as a University is defined by our people, and it is extraordinarily difficult to do our best work when also attending to family members’ urgent and emergent needs.
The COVID-19 Caregiver Task Force submitted its report last week. We thank the members of the task force for their work, and we agree with their statement that acting to support caregivers — such as by being flexible, demonstrating understanding and adjusting expectations — is aligned with our University’s values. We are working closely with our leadership team to act upon the group’s recommendations, which include additional support and resources for remote learning and caregiving, additional training and support for leaders and managers, an assessment of our caregiving programs, and establishing an ongoing advisory group on caregiving issues.
Managers, supervisors and academic leaders should provide employee and student caregivers with the maximum flexibility allowable, consistent with their position at the University. This includes continuing to support telework for any employee whose duties can reasonably be performed remotely. Additionally, please allow employees to modify their work schedules to the extent the job allows and help them understand and apply their time off and leave-of-absence options to best meet their families’ needs. UW Human Resources will continue to update and expand the following resources, which are available to all caregivers and managers.
We are in a global crisis that has changed work and learning for everyone, not only caregivers. Leaders and managers are being challenged to be creative with modest resources. Leaders and managers should work with their teams to prioritize and revise goals for the year to take current resources into account, and be clear about how success will be evaluated. And teams should evaluate how they can work as effectively as possible together to fulfill priorities. We should expect that family members will occasionally show up in online meetings and classes, as boundaries between work and family life are less clear.
For faculty, the option to extend the promotion and tenure clock has been continued for this academic year. Deans and chancellors should also continue to work with their academic leadership teams to identify opportunities to be flexible and support faculty members in these extraordinary times. Accommodations can include the reduction of service obligations, adjustment to teaching assignments, and availability of additional resources to support teaching or research.
We all need to demonstrate understanding and patience, proactively asking caregivers how they are doing and sharing relevant supports and wellness resources with them. It is important to recognize each family has its own unique challenges. Financial constraints, social supports or a lack thereof, family needs, work schedules, geographic location, technology access and more all fundamentally shape caregiving challenges during this unprecedented time.
Autumn quarter will continue to be an extremely challenging time for our caregivers. We will keep working on ways to reduce the work-life conflicts they are experiencing due to the pandemic’s effects, and we thank you for showing grace and compassion to all members of our University community.