Most classes are still remote at Hagerstown Community College, but staff and faculty have had VPN access revoked and must now return to campus to work. The village of Oak Park has given restaurants a reprieve by extending outdoor dining until Oct. 31, but one block won’t get to enjoy the benefits of the extension. By upgrading your mindset and your corporate culture, your business can reap the benefits by building a new future of work that is much suitable for a digital age. BayCare Health System, the leading organization dedicated to providing high quality and compassionate care to patients in West Central Florida, has been named one of the top companies in the United States by Great Place to Work and PEOPLE for supporting team members and the community during the COVID
Students at Hagerstown Community College in Maryland will be attending class online this fall, except for labs and hands-on disciplines. Many colleges are doing the same as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ebb and flow across the nation.
But faculty and staff members at Hagerstown are being required to report to campus, despite safety concerns. The college’s president says this is meant to protect the technological security of Hagerstown, but the move demonstrates tensions that can play out on college campuses where administrators want to see employees in offices instead of on Zoom. It also creates a tricky situation under employment law, according to one legal expert.
The college on Aug. 17 sent out an email, which was obtained by Inside Higher Ed, notifying faculty and staff that access to its virtual private network was being shut off. VPNs allow employees to use an institution’s private network while on public internet networks. Many companies and organizations require employees to use VPNs when working remotely for security reasons.
Staff at Hagerstown must now go into their offices to work because they can’t access the VPNs. The change was announced in a July email from the president, Jim Klauber. The same email also indicated the college would soon not require students to make appointments for services, once again allowing them to show up without warning.
“On Monday, August 17th we are going to resume a normal 5 day work week. It is time for us to be back on campus, full time, and ready to serve students,” the email said. “We are probably going to be moving away from the appointment only service model pretty soon (like before the 17th). So get ready for that. It is coming.”
Klauber also told faculty and staff to unlock their office doors when at work.
“We are a community college that serves the community. Few students are even in the buildings. I can only assume that when I come upon a locked office or department, the occupants are on leave. At that point, I will ensure that Human Resources charges them with that leave appropriately,” he wrote.
Klauber also said VPN access would be shut off in August, and laptops that were checked out by staff would need to be returned.
Starting at the beginning of September, faculty and staff were allowed to apply for VPN access. Access will be provided at the discretion of supervisors and human resources, who will determine if the employee requires it. Otherwise, they will have to report to work in person.
Access was taken away because it’s a security risk, according to Klauber. The college had also provided about 50 laptops to employees over the summer, but they’re now needed to stock computer labs for students, he said.
Klauber added that he believed a disgruntled employee had told Inside Higher Ed of the new policy. He said that employee likely will not get VPN access.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, some employees at Hagerstown had access to VPNs, he said, and most were provided access once the college shut down campus in the spring. The college decided to revoke all VPN access so it could review requests and bring the number of people with VPNs down to a manageable amount, Klauber said.
“We felt it would be better to reassess everyone’s need to have VPNs,” he said.
When asked to respond to those who may disagree with the VPN decision, Klauber said it’s part of their job.
“We have to make these decisions. We take into account all factors,” he said. “If an employee is disgruntled, then they’re disgruntled. We have to look at the total needs of the college.”
Inside Higher Ed provided copies of the emails it received to Hagerstown. A spokeswoman for the college provided the following statement:
“Since we have returned to in-person office operations, we stand by the decision to recall VPN access and reissue it on an as-needed basis, in order to protect the IT security of the college, employees and students. Upon return from remote operations, a few employees locked their office doors, which prevented student access in areas that were promoted as being open. This was isolated, contained and addressed through proper channels.”
Members of the Faculty Assembly did not respond to requests for comment.
Legally, the situation at Hagerstown is tricky, according to R. Scott Oswald, managing principal of the Employment Law Group, P.C., which represents employees and whistle-blowers.
“An individual does not have to return to work, even in a situation where the new leave laws do not apply, if they reasonably believe that their employer is not following federal, state or local guidance on creating a safe or healthful workplace,” Oswald said, referring to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires public companies with fewer than 500 employees to offer paid leave for employees who need to take care of family or children due to the coronavirus. “The fact that the university has affirmatively removed employees’ ability to work remotely suggests bad faith.”
If an employee believes, in good faith, that the college isn’t following proper guidelines, they can protest, Oswald said. The college would either have to change its policies or allow the employee to work remotely.
“If the employer fires an employee under that circumstance, the employer better be right,” he said. “If it violated any state or local mandate, it will now be in a situation where it’s facing a potential wrongful discharge suit.”
Employers in Maryland are required to ensure people follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. Klauber made mask wearing inside buildings mandatory starting July 27.
“As I told you a couple of weeks ago, I had high hopes of keeping mask wear optional. Actually, I would have liked to be done with it all by now, but that is not where we are. After listening to your concerns, starting on Monday masks are required in all buildings on campus,” he wrote in an email announcing the move. “The only exceptions are your personal office space and common work areas (such as behind the counters in Financial Aid or Admissions) where employees are socially distanced from students and one another.”
Campus visitors are also required to check themselves in using the Go Evo phone app, which has students and employees check in and self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms. If the person is at risk of spreading the virus, the app will tell them to stay home and alert their supervisor automatically.
Klauber remained optimistic in the college’s ability to stay open in an email sent to staff last week, writing that the college may get an enrollment boost as residential campuses again switch to remote learning.
“Dormitories, COVID parties, and university life just do not mix with the virus, and that university model is very different from our own. They are closing and going remote while we can probably get by,” he said. “Now that does not mean we get lax in our activities. To the contrary, we need to step up everything we are doing. Use the app, check the app with your students or visitors, make sure people are wearing masks and are social distancing. Wash your hands!”
He also told staff to be patient with students as they get comfortable with using the health-screening app.
Madeline St. Amour
Lake Street work stokes restaurant fears
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Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 12:42 PM
By Stacey Sheridan
The village of Oak Park has given restaurants a reprieve by extending outdoor dining until Oct. 31, but one block won’t get to enjoy the benefits of the extension. With construction about to descend on Lake Street from Oak Park Avenue to Euclid Avenue, restaurants are reeling with financial anxieties over the impending loss of precious outdoor seating.
“It’s just devastating. I mean, it really is painful,” said Patrick O’Brien, owner of Scratch on Lake, 733 Lake St.
The section of Lake Street between Oak Park Avenue and Euclid Avenue will close Sept. 8 for completion of streetscaping and sidewalk reconstruction. The work necessitates the cessation of outdoor dining for the majority of the block’s restaurants.
“It just doesn’t seem fair when we’re already dealing with this COVID crap,” said O’Brien. “We finally found a way to keep some people employed, to ring our register and they’re going to yank it two months early.”
One of O’Brien’s servers created an online petition to delay the construction until Halloween. As of Sept. 1, the petition has amassed almost 300 signatures.
According to Village Engineer Bill McKenna, delaying the work is impractical due to the possibility of inclement weather during the fall and winter months.
“It’s not feasible to do that during the weather conditions and then things get delayed, it gets more expensive,” said McKenna. “Work rolls into 2021 and has a longer impact.
McKenna’s reasoning did not fly with O’Brien.
“This is crazy. It’s not major construction. It’s the sidewalks,” said O’Brien.
During a June meeting with Hemingway District stakeholders, attended by O’Brien, McKenna gave three scheduling options for work on the block. O’Brien chose the option to delay construction until after Labor Day.
“Well, it was the latest option we got!” O’Brien said.
Scratch on Lake has spent over $5,000 in tents, televisions and lighting to create a safe and pleasant outdoor dining experience for customers, according to O’Brien. When he received the letter from the village that outdoor dining was extended, he was thrilled.
“I emailed right back, ‘Thank God, that’s the best news we’ve got all year,'” said O’Brien. “Then two days later, we’re told to take everything down on the eighth of September.”
O’Brien believes that construction crews can complete concrete work during the winter without major issue. He said he spoke to outside contractors that supported his belief.
“They can work on concrete in cold weather,” O’Brien said. “They are costing me alone a couple hundred thousand dollars and about eight employees with nothing to do when that whole dining room comes down to a month early. Insane. Insensitive. Ridiculous.”
McKenna and project spokesman Jim Prescott said they would be reaching out to the restaurants on that block to clear up confusion about the start date of construction. O’Brien has yet to hear from them.
McKenna said some restaurants could put dining in the back of the restaurants. Curbside pick-up will be able to continue as well.
“We’ll work with them for any potential opportunities that they want to explore for dining,” McKenna said.
Losing two more months of outdoor sales will be a detrimental blow to Scratch on Lake. Per COVID-19 restrictions, Scratch on Lake can seat only 25 percent of the restaurant’s capacity inside. Without outdoor dining, O’Brien expects the restaurant will have a five percent chance of making it all the way to March or April.
Christiane Pereira of Mulatta, 136 N. Oak Park Ave., plans to ask the village if Mulatta can put tables outside on Oak Park Avenue since they will lose their outdoor dining on Lake Street. Outdoor dining, she said, has been a crucial revenue source.
“The outdoor dining has been extremely helpful because our patrons have been preferring to sit outside,” said Pereira.
If the village doesn’t allow Pereira to put tables on Oak Park Avenue, she worries customers won’t want to come to the café.
“Losing the outside is going to be very challenging, like it was in the spring when COVID first hit,” said Pereira. “I don’t want to go back to that.”
The intersection of Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue closed earlier this spring for infrastructure work.
While COVID-19 has resulted in crews carrying out certain portions of Lake Street reconstruction at a faster pace, the entire project’s completion is still scheduled to end just before Thanksgiving.
“I don’t want to undersell the amount of work we have to do in the network,” McKenna said. “It’s still a big construction project.”
The project includes all new traffic signals, landscaping, pavement, lighting and irrigation systems.
“It’s a lot of work to compress in three months,” McKenna said.
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Council Post: It’s Official: The Future Of Work Is Distributed
Co-Founder and CEO of PicsArt, a social photo and video editing platform with more than 150 million monthly users.
At my company, we decided early on to have a distributed workforce that would provide us the flexibility to stretch beyond the restrictions of a traditional office environment. The arrival of Covid-19 expedited the need for remote working for businesses of all sizes. But it’s important to remember the many benefits that you can unlock for your business by thinking differently.
The speed of technological change is moving at breakneck speed. But leaders are also constantly reminded that it will never move this slowly again. Optimizing your current workforce to make it fit for a digital world where everyone can work anywhere is just one undeniable benefit. Here are a few other examples that have enabled us to turn the unpredictability of technological change into an opportunity.
Access To A Global Talent Pool
Leaders need to stop thinking of the workplace as a physical space that is occupied during office hours. A glance across the digital landscape reveals how we all now reside in an always-connected environment. Employees now connect to virtual office environments to collaborate, communicate and connect with their colleagues, irrespective of geographical locations.
According to McKinsey & Co, superior talent can be up to eight times more productive than average workers. By thinking bigger than location-dependent teams, you can break down geographical talent barriers to gain access to the best developers and technical employees in the world.
As Steve Jobs has been credited with saying, “A small team of A-plus players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
Diversity Of Thought
At my company, we consider ourselves very fortunate to serve a diverse global audience. It’s our responsibility to ensure our workforce is as diverse as the communities we serve. With offices and employees in Yerevan Armenia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo and India, our teams thrive through the diversity of thought that is the lifeblood of our business.
Every business is continually challenged to create new products and services that evolve with its customers’ unique requirements. Embracing talent from a variety of different backgrounds and cultural affinities makes it easier to drive innovation and creativity. The good news is that when you stop hiring from just your immediate area, your access to diversity grows exponentially.
Diversity is often described as the mother of creativity. Diversifying your team’s thinking and daring them to explore ideas beyond their comfort zone and worldview is usually where the magic happens. A distributed group of employees with unique experiences and insights play a significant role in our success.
Now that our entire workforce is working from home due to Covid-19, we allowed staff to set their own working hours. They can work early in the morning or late at night, depending on when they feel most creative. I admit that I was initially concerned that this approach would have an adverse effect on productivity. But it’s done the opposite.
During the lockdown, we quickly learned that employees are more motivated by the fact that they can choose to work during the hours they feel most productive. Digital tools such as Slack, Google, Zoom and Skype make it incredibly easy to collaborate and remain connected. Ultimately we can get the best work out of the most exceptional talent available in the world by simply creating a new future of work.
Impacts Of Covid-19
Every employee is different. Introverts might prefer working from home, and extroverts often prefer the buzz of the office. Equally, others prefer the flexibility of both working methods depending on the task at hand. To obtain a better understanding of what our people want, we sent out a company-wide survey to gauge people’s interest in going back to the office and found that across all our offices, more than 50% of our 600-plus employees preferred to work from home indefinitely.
The second most popular response was a blended schedule of working from home a few days a week and going into an office for only two days a week. Predictably, Zoom fatigue was cited as one of the challenges experienced while working from home. But we’ve since made a concentrated effort across all teams to have shorter meetings.
To combat videoconference fatigue, we now follow a memo style meeting where we send a template of the agenda in advance. This format works well because the memos are straightforward and communicate the meeting’s details and what is expected of all participants. Identifying the problem and putting this simple change in place can help you remove the pain points that many associate with meetings, whether they be online or offline.
Work-From-Home Office Setup Stipends
At the beginning of the year, many employees would have seldom worked from their home or taken a Zoom call. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, millions were expected to transition overnight from the office to home working.
We wanted to make this daunting prospect much easier. We gave all our full-time employees (and full-time contractors) $200 to use toward any WFH-related expense (extra office supplies, movies or books to reduce stress, etc.) While we still have office space, we will likely keep an indefinite distributed workforce and WFH policy in effect for the long run as it’s proven to work for our team. Doing something similar for your workers will definitely make an impact.
Working apart but together can be challenging. However, there is no going back to the old way of working, and that is something that we should celebrate rather than fear. Flexible work environments that enable everyone to work from everywhere at a time when they are most productive is a huge step forward in terms of progress.
It’s now easier than ever for a business to have a distributed workforce. By upgrading your mindset and your corporate culture, your business can reap the benefits by building a new future of work that is much suitable for a digital age.
Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?
Author: Hovhannes Avoyan
BayCare Named One of the 2020 PEOPLE’S “50 Companies That Care” by Great Place to Work® and PEOPLE
CLEARWATER, Fla., Sept. 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — BayCare Health System, the leading organization dedicated to providing high quality and compassionate care to patients in West Central Florida, has been named one of the top companies in the United States by Great Place to Work and PEOPLE for supporting team members and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BayCare has been named one of the top companies in the United States by Great Place to Work and PEOPLE for supporting team members and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BayCare ranked No. 6 for its critical role in responding to COVID-19 and how it impacted the community and team members. The ranking is based on survey feedback from more than 4.7 million employees across the country.
“I am proud of how our team members have stepped up and served our community during COVID-19 and it’s wonderful to see others recognize their effort, too,” said Tommy Inzina, president and CEO of BayCare. “We have strived from the start of this pandemic to protect the health and safety of our patients, team members, physicians and our community.”
BayCare was one of the first health systems in West Central Florida to launch multiple drive-thru testing sites across the region, testing about 50,000 patients for COVID-19 since mid-March. As the pandemic continued, BayCare worked with local health leaders and government officials to address the impact of the virus on long-term care facilities. BayCare also provided innovative ways to help the community access information about COVID-19, including pioneering an online screening tool, launching a nurse triage hotline and providing extensive information via a dedicated website.
Like other industries, COVID-19 impacted the system’s bottom line and disrupted normal workflows. Despite those challenges, BayCare maintained its team member workforce intact and provided emergency assistance funds for personal financial hardships. BayCare also shifted team members whose normal jobs were dormant during the crisis to other assignments.
“Best workplaces like BayCare are showing up for their employees and communities during this unprecedented time and they’re able to do this because of the strong investments in their cultures leading up to this point,” said Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work. “Having a foundation of trust has allowed these businesses to find innovative responses to COVID-19.”
PEOPLE partnered with Great Place to Work, a global people analytics and consulting firm, to analyze employees’ survey feedback on how their workplaces make a difference in their lives and communities. This year specifically focused on how companies responded to the COVID-19 crisis to take care of their employees, their communities, and the world. The 2020 list will be featured in the Sept. 14 issue of PEOPLE, which hits newsstands nationwide on Sept. 4.