The analogy is apt – it feels like we’re building the airplane while it’s in flight. UCSF is slowly and cautiously reopening even as the pandemic continues to surge, with some very concerning spikes in the infection rates across the country. It’s unsettling, but as we thoughtfully move toward a careful recovery in coordination with local and state public health officials, I think we will be well positioned to handle whatever the coming months may bring given all that we’ve done so far to protect the health and safety of our UCSF community and those we serve. To stay on top of policy and procedural changes in our ongoing response to and recovery from COVID-19, be sure to check UCSF’s coronavirus website.
Along these lines, this month I’m going to stay close to home with a look at what UCSF is doing to manage its gradual recovery toward resumed on-site operations both now and for the long term. We have already made significant progress in our three core mission areas: research, patient care, and education. Now comes the work to provide a more equitable recovery for our community ensuring we remain committed to our PRIDE Values. To accomplish this, several recovery and resilience task forces have been charged with 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day deliverables to make recommendations on specific topics and have already begun their work. The Integrated Recovery Committee, appointed by Chancellor Sam Hawgood, is a coordinating and advisory body that will bring together the leaders of ten task forces, along with other UCSF leaders, to provide guidance to help identify and avoid any unintended consequences of proposed changes and possible conflicting recommendations from the different task forces.
I will focus on three of the task forces this month. Each consists of a broad cross section of UCSF faculty and staff who have expertise and insight into the respective challenges and care deeply that we problem solve and pursue new opportunities as much as possible within the financial constraints we currently face:
- Child and Dependent Care Task Force: Helping all UCSF colleagues get back to work
- Administrative Space Task Force: Are you going to use that?
- Future of Telework and Managing Remote Teams Task Force: The newfound pleasures (and challenges) of working from home
On a closing note, we’re about to launch into the Fourth of July weekend. While you’re enjoying the holiday, please reflect on what you can do to help make our nation one where all people – versus a privileged few – are treated with respect and dignity. Given these tumultuous times, taking this on as a personal goal has never seemed more important.
If you have a topic for a future installment of Expresso, please drop me a line at [email protected].
To your health and well-being,
Child and Dependent Care Task Force: Helping all UCSF colleagues get back to work
The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on specific populations is being tracked and well-documented. Last month I wrote about the precarious balancing act many are facing to meet the demands of work while also keeping up with child and dependent care, and how that burden is falling disproportionately on women – often to the detriment of their careers. At a place like UCSF, there’s further fallout, as the disruptions to dependent care hurt our ability to conduct research, compete for funding, care for patients, and teach the next generation of health professionals and scientists.
Around the same time, Chancellor Sam Hawgood appointed the Child and Dependent Care Task Force to tackle this issue and develop strategies to support UCSF parents and caregivers. Its co-chairs are Laura Ishkanian, associate director of Family Services, and Elizabeth Ozer, professor of Pediatrics, director of the UCSF Faculty Equity Program, and chair of the UC Systemwide Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.
As a starting point, the task force has the following responsibilities for the immediate (30 days) and longer term (60-90 days):
Within 30 days
- Determine whether a study is necessary to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UCSF faculty, staff, and trainees with children and other dependents. If a study is necessary, determine the areas of focus.
- Assess current family support resources and recommend additional child and dependent care support services if needed through September 2020.
- Develop and implement communication strategies to ensure UCSF parents are aware of available support services. This includes recommending and reviewing draft communications related to the impact of child and dependent care issues on faculty, staff, and trainees. Partner with UCSF Office of Communications, Family Services, and other units.
- Identify information parents and caregivers need to make informed care decisions and tap UCSF subject matter experts to share emerging data to help guide decision-making.
Within 60-90 days
- Recommend and review draft policies and guidelines that aim to mitigate the impact of child and dependent care disruptions on the careers of staff, faculty, and trainees (such as how to address leaves from leadership positions, tenure and promotion, flexibility/equity guidelines for supervisors and educators to follow, etc.)
- Identify ways to organize the UCSF community to communicate current and upcoming dependent care needs to elected officials, government agencies, or organizations and advocate for supportive policies and programs. Partner with UCSF Office of Community & Government Relations.
- Consider current family support resources in light of what is expected for school and child care operations in the fall and recommend additional child and dependent care support services that may be needed beyond September 2020.
In the short term, Laura says, the task force is looking at the current state of child care at UCSF and hoping to identify the gaps. “What does our community still immediately need that we aren’t yet providing?” Longer term, the mission is to investigate how the University can provide ample support for parents as COVID-19 evolves. Although it is challenging for any organization to provide comprehensive child care for every member of its community, beyond a specific focus on child and dependent care, the task force will recommend policies and guidelines for UCSF to help mitigate detrimental effects for those who have caregiving responsibilities, and to ensure that our community feels supported by the University.
The challenge is large. Before the virus hit, UCSF offered care for 525 children at four sites on or near our campuses, which still did not meet demand. With the shutdown, two of them temporarily closed. As families stayed home to shelter in place, the number of children served dropped to 140 across both centers. Now re-enrollment is on the rise, and the situation has changed rapidly. Three months ago, few people felt comfortable sending children to a day care setting. As we’ve learned more about the virus and as society has started to reopen, care facilities have established plans for sanitation and physical distancing, and many parents are ready to put their children back in care – at least for now.
To support that shift, Family Services, in partnership with the UCSF Committee on the Status of Women and the Committee on Family Services, organized a panel in June to address what information parents need to drive decisions around child care. I encourage you to watch the recording. The discussion shows that parents really want more information to make justified choices.
It’s always been challenging for working parents and caregivers to strike a balance between their home life and working life – not to mention self-care. COVID-19 has amplified all the issues already present in our society in relation to child and dependent care, so we are working hard to provide support and a roadmap to equitable recovery.
Administrative Space Task Force: Are you going to use that?
The “new normal” of the coronavirus pandemic has shown many of us that we can work from home and still be productive. But if a person is no longer occupying their space in a UCSF building, what happens to it? Alicia Murasaki, associate vice chancellor of Campus Planning, is leading our Administrative Space Task Force, which is examining that very question as UCSF plans for short- and long-term recovery.
“There are multiple, interconnecting things to think about as this becomes a new way to work,” Alicia says. The scope of the task force is broad, from considering the cost of operating empty buildings to the utilization of smaller spaces, e.g., a clinic waiting room or classroom. So, it will be asking, could a conference room become a classroom? Can we flip vacant office space and repurpose it for activities that must occur in-person but now need more space due to physical distancing requirements and safety protocols?
This task force has the following immediate (30 days) and longer term (60-90 days) deliverables:
Within 30 days:
- Provide input regarding how to prioritize and/or repurpose the use of space that is vacant due to telework and provide strategic guidance for determining how to manage equipment in repurposed areas.
- Prioritize key opportunities to improve our business model and business processes for space utilization in an environment of ongoing telework for many administrative employees.
Within 60-90 days:
- Recommend and review draft policies and guidelines that can be made available for all control points.
- Provide strategic guidance regarding how UCSF might effectively use space and save money given that many administrative workers will continue to telework for an extended period of time.
Short of a COVID-19 vaccine and its widespread distribution, we’re still many months (if not a year or more) away from returning to our work spaces en masse, meaning we’ll be living with this new normal for quite some time. While a mere three percent of UCSF workers telecommuted before the pandemic, that number has skyrocketed, and no one expects it to return to single digits when the vaccine comes and society reopens fully. (More on that in the next item on the telecommuting task force.)
Yet we also know that space – the size, design, configuration, and location – can trigger strong reaction from many at UCSF. Planners had tried a new model with Mission Hall, moving away from private office space toward a more open floor plan modeled on the layout of many Silicon Valley companies. The thinking was both to boost efficiency – rather than having offices sit empty for hours – as well as foster collaboration. That culture shift from academic- to corporate-like office space was not popular with some, but popularity aside, we now need to look at the open plan configuration in a new light. How do we collaborate when huddle rooms and conference rooms cannot accommodate physical distancing? How do we protect employees sitting near each other in open work stations when proximity potentially increases exposure?
Sarah Fidelibus, a program manager in the Program Management Office, is providing project management and facilitation support to the task force. She says task force members have been extremely effective collaborators, working on a very tight deadline to deliver the expected outcomes, and Alicia concurs. “One of the things that I continue to be inspired by across UCSF,” Alicia says, “is there is such a depth of caring and investment in doing the right thing. Of course, we need to be fiscally responsible, but that’s not at the expense of treating people correctly. Whatever level of the organization I work with, people really care. It’s not just about nuts and bolts. It’s about what’s the right thing to do.”
Just as cities are converting parking spaces and sidewalks into outdoor dining venues, UCSF can be as creative. With crisis comes opportunity, and I am quite sure that looking at our administrative space through a different lens will yield some very exciting and valuable innovations.
Future of Telework and Managing Remote Teams Task Force: The newfound pleasures (and challenges) of working from home
The coronavirus has changed many aspects of life, and perhaps none more than “the room where it happens.” And these days, for many of us, that room is often the dining room, with all the benefits and challenges working from home brings. The pandemic has forced UCSF and other employers, in the midst of a major recovery, to find new ways to inspire productivity and facilitate getting our work done.
“It’s an incredible experiment coming out of something horrible,” says Shelley Patton, director of Labor and Employee Relations. With Katharine Tull, chief of staff to the chief human resources officer, Shelley co-leads the Future of Telework and Managing Remote Teams Task Force appointed by Paul Jenny, senior vice chancellor of Finance and Administration, and Mark Laret, president and chief executive officer of UCSF Health.
The task force has the following immediate and longer term deliverables:
Within 30 days:
- Recommend and review draft policies and guidelines for remote work.
- Provide input to determine steps the University needs to take to preserve data/information security in a distributed work environment.
- Prioritize the development of key strategies and leader behaviors for effectively managing remote teams and teams that may be partly remote and partly onsite.
- Recommend and review draft policies and procedures for conducting remote onboarding and remote separations.
Within 60-90 days:
- Provide strategic guidance regarding key opportunities for how UCSF might improve our business model and business processes with remote teams.
- Identify needed revisions for policies or practices relating to liability, work-related injuries, or other related issues.
“We have heard some surprise at just how popular working remotely has been with folks,” Katharine says. “People are productive, and it works better than expected in many cases, so I started to hear some discussions around whether increased telework could and should outlast shelter-in-place. Managers have asked about reducing our real estate footprint and saving money. We may be able to support better work and life integration. We can support our talent strategy and pool, by looking at where UCSF employees work physically in a different way.” And one other benefit: It could help reduce UCSF’s carbon footprint, as we take many commuters off the road. By that same token, ask anyone who commutes about getting out of traffic and getting back a few hours of their day!
However, telework comes with many complications – from barking dogs to weak WiFi as multiple users in a house compete for bandwidth. One of the biggest and most important is equity. “Not every job can be done remotely,” Katharine notes. “And even for those that can be, not every employee has a good setup at home nor the privacy or sometimes even the internet bandwidth to do this. We don’t want to overlook the different needs and situations across our workforce.” And, privacy, as she notes, is a big one for a health care organization. We have to ensure that health information is protected at all levels.
As for an employee’s office setup, UCSF does have ergonomic information available online, and you can contact the Office of Environment, Health, and Safety for help. I encourage you to do this – a poor ergonomic setup like sitting in your bed or at a dining room table on a laptop all day can put a strain on your body! Fortunately, some folks are able to take some of their ergonomic items home, but you want to check with your supervisor or your facility manager before you cart a UCSF chair or monitor out of your office.
Moving further into recovery, surveys continue to be particularly important to this task force, which wants to ensure its recommendations and subsequent decisions are data-driven. Some departments have surveyed their teams, and so far, people seem to like the flexibility as well as the ability to take breaks at home, but they do feel a sense of isolation from colleagues, which is probably made worse because they’re also physically separated from friends and family. Further compounding the effect, people are starting to experience Zoom fatigue, switching from one videoconference to the next, which lacks the pre- and post-meeting connection we get with in-person meetings. A lot of collaboration and communication used to happen in spontaneous hallway encounters. Folks also tend to be logging in earlier and logging out later. Obviously, we’re confronting a serious dilemma, but we should not let telework force people to put in longer hours and regularly working through evenings and weekends.
While the future of work will include a lot more telecommuting with managers and supervisors working differently with their teams, it certainly won’t be 100 percent. We’ll need to support managers with ways to motivate their teams and learn the skills to have constructive conversations in this new environment. People miss their colleagues and will likely need some physical proximity at least some of the time, and part of the task force’s mission is to figure out how to achieve that balance. And some people just have to be physically on campus (and for some it’s safer due to home conditions). A health professional needs to provide direct patient care. Students need hands-on clinical experience to fulfill graduation requirements. A scientist needs access to specialized reagents and equipment. Facilities and custodial staff, shuttle drivers, and so many others need to be onsite to do their work.
A year ago, Shelley participated in the Ready, Set, Chase! Lunch and Learn event, about how UCSF would cope when the Chase Center – the Golden State Warriors’ new arena – opened and our Mission Bay neighborhood filled with people and cars. Could some employees work at home on those days? Many folks in our organization resisted widespread telework. “Getting UCSF to change its culture around telework has been slow,” she says. “While the pandemic has been very painful for us, it has given us the ability to think differently about work.”
It’s a new day and a new dawn for UCSF, one which many of us will continue to experience from home!
Dan’s Tip of the Month
I realize that most of you have been immersed in the seemingly universal conversations about race in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, as we all should be. But I urge you to read “What Is Owed,” a masterful, sweeping essay written by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones (the amazing person behind the 1619 Project and podcast). The piece places our current experience in the context of the history of Blacks in America, unflinchingly laying out the case for reparations and powerfully demanding we face that truth. As the author says:
If black lives are to truly matter in America, this nation must move beyond slogans and symbolism. Citizens don’t inherit just the glory of their nation, but its wrongs too. A truly great country does not ignore or excuse its sins. It confronts them and then works to make them right. If we are to be redeemed, if we are to live up to the magnificent ideals upon which we were founded, we must do what is just. It is time for this country to pay its debt. It is time for reparations.
This perspective needs to be a part of our conversations about the future…