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Telecommuting and Student Worker Guidance for Employees

March 20, 2020

Dear colleagues:

Thank you for your continued flexibility and understanding as we work with Chancellor Plowman and other university leaders to make decisions on campus operations. These are unprecedented times, and we are working diligently to gather the information needed to provide detailed guidance to employees.

We’d like to share updates and specifics on a few topics we know are of interest to many of you.

Social distancing and telecommuting

It is critical that we continue to practice social distancing. Please refrain from gathering with friends and large groups, avoid public spaces as much as possible, and keep yourself healthy so we can keep our community healthy.

Right now our goal is to minimize the number of people physically on campus. Please remember that the university remains operational. We should all continue to support our students and our core educational and research mission.

The decision on how to implement telecommuting is up to each campus unit and its leadership. Employees who can telecommute are being encouraged to do so. Employees who are at high risk as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are especially encouraged to have conversations with their supervisors about telecommuting.

We are asking supervisors and managers to do the following:

  • Work with individual positions and employees, including currently employed student workers, to develop a telecommuting and/or flexible scheduling plan to go into effect immediately.
  • Determine technology needs for employees whose work is conducive to telecommuting. Anyone who has technology needs should send requests to their supervisors. Each vice chancellor will collect technology requests from their division and prioritize the needs. The university has purchased hundreds of laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots for loan. In filling technology requests, students are our top priority, followed by employees in high-risk categories and then by employees whose work from home is essential as determined by their supervisor.
  • Determine what you need to keep your business going. Financial transactions still need to be processed, payroll deadlines remain the same, and students will need assistance.
  • Think outside your own department or unit and position. Are there tasks that can be given to others? Can you share the work with multiple employees? What can your currently employed student workers do remotely?
  • Consider flexible options and transformational work for those who can telecommute. Are there special projects that can be completed, procedural manuals that can be created, processes that can be documented, or professional development that can be completed or developed?

Below are some flexible considerations to keep on-site staffing levels at a minimum (fewer than 10 individuals in the office during any period of time, consistent with current CDC guidelines).

  • One employee works in the mornings; another in the afternoons.
  • One works one day and the other works the next day. Perhaps the department opens for six days a week in this scenario (no overtime or comp time would be generated during this time).
  • Couple staggered shifts with telecommuting. For example, an employee works in the office some hours and telecommutes for the remainder of the work day.
  • Modify work hours for employees who use public transportation to travel to work. For example, employees could work four 10-hour days per week.

Student employees

Chancellor Plowman has been very clear that any student, including federal work-study students, who wants to continue working still has a job with the university. Supervisors are responsible for coordinating continuing work for current student workers and should contact their students to discuss their assignments. Student workers should avoid coming to campus when possible. If student workers can telecommute, supervisors are expected to be flexible with finding work for them to do.

We have established a student temporary help pool to be used as a last resort if you have no work for students to do. The responsibility for managing student employees, even those who may be assigned to work through the help pool, remains with their immediate supervisor. Please work with your human resource officer if you need to discuss utilizing the pool.

The above process does not apply to federal work-study students. Those students and their supervisors will receive a separate email communication from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Securing campus

Beginning Monday, March 23, all campus building doors will be locked 24/7 to ensure security with fewer people on campus. This is not a lockdown. Campus is still operational, and all building keys and access cards will continue to work as they would during the weekend. Additionally, all employees will have daytime access, using their VolCard, to all campus buildings. This will ensure continuity of mail service and other mission-critical activities.

Students will not have the same level of daytime card access to campus buildings as employees. If you have a student worker or graduate student who needs daytime access, ask them to complete an access management form.

Self-isolation and quarantine

The university is following CDC and federal guidance for self-isolation and quarantine. If you fall into one of the specific categories below, you are required to self-isolate or quarantine for at least 14 days:

  • Anyone who has had close contact with someone known to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Close contact means you were within about six feet of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time. Close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health care waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case. Close contact also means having direct contact with secretions (typically coughs and sneezes) from a person with COVID-19 case.
  • Anyone arriving back in the US after traveling abroad.
  • Anyone arriving from a cruise ship (ocean or river).
  • Anyone traveling from New York City.

If you show any symptoms of COVID-19 during your time of self-isolation, contact your health care provider immediately.

If you are self-isolating based on the above guidance, contact your supervisor. Managers will provide further instructions on what additional steps you need to take, including completion of a self-isolation form and notification to HR.

If you have questions about telecommuting, flexible staffing, student employees, or tracking self-isolation, contact HR at 865-974-6642 or

Thank you again for everything you are doing to support our students and one another. Take care.


Mary Lucal
Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.