Monday, May 8, 2020
A Special Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President
How is it already May 2020?
In the past few weeks, we have closed a remarkable spring semester and successfully opened our summer term classes. We made personal phone calls to more than 35,000 students to check in and offer support. We have seen the state of Florida start the slow process of “reopening” and have decided that for us, we will go even slower, with August as the earliest that most of us will consider returning to our on-campus workplaces since the College will be closed through at least Friday, July 31, 2020. Through it all, each of you has contributed to this effort in a substantial way. I continue to be humbled and awed by your great work.
As we make the turn out of crisis operations and into a more regular routine of business, albeit remotely for most, the personal toll of so much change and stress is worth noting. Finding boundaries between home and work, normally separated by logging off for the day and commuting home, are harder to find. Some may find the stress and isolation of being at home for weeks on end difficult to manage. For those of you with school-aged children at home, finding new routines that allow you to be present with your children as they navigate online learning and missing their friends are complicated by always-on, remote work. In short, we are learning to live without the regular boundaries that brought order and cadence to our lives.
Personally, I am struggling more than ever to shut work down for a few hours a day. I have tried many strategies and those that have been the most helpful to me include:
- Actually closing the computer down and either leaving my at-home workspace or putting the computer out of sight for a while. That means allowing emails to sit unread for a few hours.
- Getting regular exercise and eating healthy meals (and some unhealthy meals).
- Paying particular attention to a regular pattern of sleep by going to bed at about the same time every evening and getting up, getting ready and starting work at a normal time.
- Allowing the strength of the team to carry us through, knowing I do not have to do everything myself.
One additional kind of self-care is to take some time off from work (beyond the evenings, overnights and early mornings). Our “half-day Fridays” were originally conceived as a chance to give you a few hours back in your week during summer – to avoid the Friday afternoon commute and to have time with family. Though that same rationale does not work this summer, I am serious about each of you getting some real downtime. So for this summer only:
- The College will not close for Friday afternoons. This is an important time for our students to receive timely support, and we need to be there for them through more, not less, time. We will remain open for our extended hours to serve students well.
- We will continue to provide all full-time employees with four hours of leave with pay each week, beginning the week of Sunday, May 17 and will continue through Saturday, July 25, 2020. The four hours of leave with pay each week is to be scheduled with your supervisor based on the operational needs of your team and availability of services to those who are counting on us during this time. Although we will not be able to support everyone being off on Friday afternoons, we can support a half-day break for each of you during this time period.
- Please note that the time must be used within the week it is provided; it cannot be banked for future use, as this leave is non-cumulative and non-compensable.
I hope these strategies help you as you put together a plan for working remotely for at least the next few months. We are ready to provide as much flexibility as we can and ultimately, it is up to you to turn the computer off, enjoy a technology-free meal with your family and rest. Caring for your physical, emotional and mental health during this time is essential.