Dear York Community,
Let me start by thanking you for your continued commitment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has disrupted our lives at both work and home, and I am both proud and grateful to be part of a community that continues to put our students first. Since March, I know you have adjusted to new work and family arrangements, sometimes including long and irregular hours. Whether you are working remotely or continue to be required on our campuses, there have undoubtedly been some challenges, including work-life boundaries when working remotely, conflicting demands, and other personal and professional matters. According to an Angus Reid survey (available at http://angusreid.org/covid19-mental-health/), over half of Canadians say their mental health has been impacted by COVID-19. This is an important reminder for us to pause and think about our individual and collective well-being.
As we look ahead to our province re-opening and our gradual return to campus, we will certainly need to be increasingly adaptable to changing circumstances. We need to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, and York’s senior leadership team is putting some measures in place to make it easier to do just that.
Below are some measures we are implementing, effective immediately. While I know that implementing these changes may be easier said than done for many of us, I am committed to working together to prioritize harmony in our work and home lives.
Book meetings in 50-minute increments or less
Back-to-back virtual meetings prevent us from being able to get out of our chairs and stretch, move, and take breaks. Keeping meetings to a shortened time allows us to build breaks into our schedule.
Meetings conclude by 6 p.m.
As the physical divide between work and home is increasingly blurred, there is a risk of extending workdays into evenings and weekends. While appreciating that there may be employees who require some flexibility regarding their work day, setting timeframes for when meetings are held can help create boundaries that support mental well-being. I ask that you therefore take all reasonable measures to schedule meetings during core business hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and concluding no later than 6 p.m. where needed to accommodate flexible work hours. Please adjust accordingly for employees who start their day before 8:30 a.m.
No expectations regarding evening or weekend emails unless urgent
When people receive emails during these times, they may feel pressured to respond to show that they are present and attending to the needs of the University. I ask therefore that you avoid sending emails after 7 p.m. unless it is an urgent matter. Please remember to lead by example – if you are working late you can use the automatic send features in Outlook to schedule a time for your email to send, or save your emails as drafts and send them during core business hours. If you do send emails, it should be clear that there is no expectation that they are read until the following work day.
Meeting-free lunch hour between 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. for the remainder of the summer
I would like to remind colleagues that we earlier asked for a lunch hour free of all meetings. Assuming a core work week that starts at 8:30 a.m., I am asking that you take all reasonable measures to leave this one hour free of meetings.
Schedule focused time each week to complete tasks
Scheduling focused time in your calendar in order to complete paperwork, accomplish tasks, and move projects forward is important to maintaining a balanced work week. Of course, there may still be urgent meetings that occasionally usurp some of that set aside time, but all reasonable measures need to be taken to ensure that time is set aside each week for focused work.
To create an environment where all employees are empowered to take these steps, it will be important for those in leadership roles to model these new behaviours. To that end, I am asking all senior administrators and managers to practice the measures outlined above while demonstrating flexibility and understanding.
In the coming weeks, Human Resources will continue to send weekly wellness-focused messages and collect your input and questions. I encourage you to share how these measures are working and any additional ways to support faculty and staff in managing multiple responsibilities. You can do so by contacting Health, Safety and Employee Well-Being at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I encourage you to explore the resources available on our web pages to support remote work and your health, safety and well-being. Please visit https://yubettertogether.info.yorku.ca/important-links-resources/.
I hope that by implementing these new measures, you can harmonize your work and life and prioritize your and your loved ones’ well-being. We will continue to look at ways we can support you as we work towards the Fall semester.
Rhonda L. Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor