You are here: American University President Announcements April 26, 2021

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community,

As we look to the fall and the return of students to campus and the classroom, planning is actively underway to build a framework that supports our faculty and staff. When envisioning what our workplace environment will look like, we know that fall 2021 will not be like February 2021, but it will also not be like February 2020. We are building the foundation for a new way of working at AU, guided by our goals of advancing our critical teaching and research missions, enhancing the student experience, ensuring that AU is a great place to work, and supporting the health and safety of our community.

When we first moved to remote work in March 2020, we did so quickly and without knowing how long we would be working in that modality. The AU workforce took incredible steps to maintain our high-quality work and support our students, and we are grateful for their dedication. Over the last 13 months, we have learned important lessons about what works, and what does not, in our approach to remote work, and we are incorporating those lessons into our framework for fall 2021. The planning effort also builds on best practices from our community and from other organizations to help ensure a productive workplace, avoid misunderstandings, reduce burnout, and capitalize on collaboration.

Today, I want to update you on our process for developing the new workforce framework for fall, our timeline, and how you can provide input. Our team members are critical for a successful return to campus and the classroom, and we are taking care to create an environment that advances their work and supports their needs.

Fall 2021 will likely feature multiple work modalities that support university functions, student needs and services, and our workforce. These modalities will include full time in-person presence and a range of hybrid workplace approaches where people work part of the time in person and part of the time remotely. It is our expectation that almost all employees, including those in a hybrid workplace modality, will have at least some regular on-campus presence in the fall. Different offices and teams may employ a variety of work structures. The assignment to a modality will be based on a position’s responsibilities and university needs. As units determine the appropriate modality for each member of the workforce for the fall, HR will collaborate with them to ensure equity across similar positions in different parts of the university.

The transition to this new way of working is not just about determining work modalities. A mixed-modality working environment requires new thinking and flexibility in many aspects of our operations. As part of this transition, we are committed to developing new norms and expectations in areas such as schedules, communication, meeting processes, and use of space. We are also committed to providing training and other resources to managers, staff, and faculty that support the new norms and expectations as we evolve our working frameworks.

Our comprehensive planning and engagement process includes vetting draft workplace frameworks with university stakeholder groups, collecting feedback, reviewing the plan with university leadership, and beginning implementation during the summer. Some key upcoming dates and activities include:

  • Over the course of April, the workforce planning group has been meeting with representatives from a wide range of AU stakeholder groups to receive their input.
  • staff survey was disseminated on April 20, with responses requested by April 30.
  • Focus groups will be conducted with staff in May to gather additional input on effective implementation of hybrid workplace modalities.
  • A final workforce framework and related guidance for units to identify staff work modalities will be completed by May 28.
  • Department level workforce planning will begin on June 1.
  • Department workforce plans will be submitted to HR by June 18.
  • HR will work with units on their plans, including to ensure equitable treatment for similar positions, from June 18 to July 1, and departments will finalize their plans by July 12.
  • Employees will be notified of new working arrangements by July 16.
  • The transition to on-campus presence within new hybrid workplace modalities begins on August 16.

The temporary provision permitting employees to perform work duties outside of Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia will conclude with the transition to the new work modalities. Employees seeking to continue working remotely from outside the DC region must discuss this arrangement with their managers and submit their requests through AU’s employer of record partner, nextSource, in accordance with the Out-of-State Employment Policy. Working with employees, managers and departments will determine if out-of-state remote work arrangements can continue based on university and job position needs. Additional information will be available during the department planning stage.

We look forward to completing this process with extensive input from our faculty and staff. As the pandemic continues to evolve and new work arrangements are implemented, we will address additional questions that arise. Additionally, while the new framework will guide our fall operations, some of the key assumptions and constraints will change with the spring (such as the parameters for conducting business meetings via Zoom or other virtual platforms) as the public health guidance is updated.

The creativity and dedication of our faculty and staff helped make our transition to online learning and remote work a success. Our engagement as a community helped us live our values during a crisis with many waves buffeting our forward progress. Thank you for every challenge you accepted over the past year and your ongoing commitment to our students, our scholarship, and our community. Now, as we begin the return to campus and our new workplace frameworks, thank you for your continued flexibility and innovation.

If you have questions or feedback about the planning process for fall, please contact

Be safe and be well.