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Prioritizing Well-Being This Summer

Dear colleagues,

As summer begins and we reflect on another successful academic year, I appreciate your tireless work to support our students, one another, and our university. At the same time, I know we are all mourning the recent tragedies in New York, California, and Texas. The sadness, fear, and anger that these continual tragedies bring weigh heavily on everyone.

Now more than ever, it is important to prioritize our own well-being and take care of those around us. The past two years have been challenging, and this summer is a time to rest, recharge, and take care of yourselves. It is also an opportunity to explore new ways of working aimed at increasing flexibility for staff while continuing to meet the needs of a residential campus.

Prioritizing self-care. I am asking supervisors to provide maximum flexibility with team members to take vacations, long weekends, and other time off. I encourage everyone to use the time they have earned to prioritize their own well-being, including mental health.

Wellness Wednesdays. In the month of July, I am asking everyone to recognize Wellness Wednesdays. This is a day to minimize email and refrain from scheduled meetings. Instead, let’s prioritize this time for heads-down work to think and innovate, for spontaneous collaboration, for continuing education and professional development, and for taking advantage of additional flexibility.

Email balance. Please refrain from sending email outside normal university business hours, including weekends, unless the need is truly urgent.

4/10 schedule. Current policy allows managers to approve employees to work four 10-hour days. I am asking supervisors to provide maximum flexibility for anyone who would like to pilot or take temporary advantage of such a schedule over the summer. I appreciate those who have already worked with their teams to make flexible arrangements for the summer months.

The peak times in our work schedules vary across divisions and units, and some employees cannot take as much time this summer to recharge because they are on the front lines of orientation, construction projects, 4-H camps, or other summer priorities. I am asking supervisors to be cognizant of that and to provide opportunities for those staff members outside the summer months.

Managers should talk with their staff members about what else they need to feel connected and recharged. Additionally, please work with your deans and vice chancellors to ensure that you are doing what you can to meet the needs of our employees. As you are supporting your team, I hope you will also prioritize your own well-being.

At the end of the summer, I encourage all leaders to evaluate these flexibility initiatives and consider how to incorporate what has worked on a more permanent basis.

Throughout the pandemic, we learned new ways to be flexible in where and how we work. We also blurred the lines between work and home in ways that can cause burnout and fatigue. Let’s use the summer months to take advantage of the best of what we have learned and reintegrate our work and home lives in healthy ways.

Thank you for all you do,

Donde Plowman