Support for Staff and Faculty Caregivers
Dear Kenyon College staff and faculty,
Among the topics taken up by the working groups this summer is what we — the College, as well as supervisors and colleagues — can do to support staff and faculty who face new challenges in balancing responsibilities at home and at work as a result of the pandemic. As most of you are aware, many Ohio elementary and secondary schools are starting the year with remote or hybrid instruction, numerous child care facilities are operating at a reduced capacity, and senior centers remain closed. We recognize the increased demands this puts on caregivers and have sought to ease the burden where possible by building flexibility into our policies.
As I have said and written before, with so much changing at work and at home, and with very real concerns for the health and welfare of our loved ones, we can all expect to struggle to find and maintain equilibrium this year. While our commitment to providing a challenging and rewarding education for our students is unwavering, we recognize that juggling personal and professional responsibilities will be an imperfect balance. Indeed, one of the most important things we can do this year is extend one another, and ourselves, a degree of grace. This year more than ever, we need to be in regular conversation with our colleagues and supervisors about what is working and what is not, and to be open to making adjustments.
As outlined in the Return to Campus Protocols for Employees, we encourage the continuation of telework arrangements wherever possible. Not only does this support our efforts to keep the density of campus low, it offers added flexibility in how we conduct our work. We also encourage employees to explore flex time options with their supervisor for duties that do not need to be completed during traditional business hours. Please keep in mind that the demands of every position and office are different, in part because the nature of the services we offer are different. While some responsibilities are necessarily bound by time or place, we believe that giving offices and departments some autonomy in deciding how best to meet needs under the current conditions will yield both better service and better working environments.
Division heads, program directors and department chairs have been asked to make fostering a supportive and flexible working environment a priority this year. This will no doubt impact the agendas we set for our divisions, our departments and ourselves. We encourage employees and supervisors to consider what work will contribute most to the success of the year, and what might be done differently in order to accommodate flexible schedules. For faculty, this may include assessing departmental meeting routines, rescheduling external reviews or modifying senior capstone experiences and should be done in consultation with the Provost’s Office and the appropriate faculty governing body. For staff, this may mean reassessing individual goals or changing how meetings or other collaborative projects are conducted; please make use of quarterly check-ins and other meetings with supervisors to engage in a two-way dialogue about expectations.
We encourage caregivers to make use of tools such as Switchboard and the all-emp email distribution list to crowd-source resources and strategies for meeting personal and professional responsibilities. Please also be reminded that benefits-eligible employees may access a set of external support services through Kenyon’s Employee Assistance Programs, which include financial and caregiver support, counseling and crisis services, and career assistance, among other programs.
We know from our experience over the past six months that Kenyon’s staff and faculty are capable of extraordinary feats. Our work now is to create conditions that will allow us to take care of our students, our families and ourselves in ways that are by no means ordinary, but sustainable through the next phase of the pandemic.