Extension of Telecommuting in Response to COVID-19

March 20, 2020

(Sent March 19, 2020)

Dear Brown Faculty and Staff,

We want to thank all who work at Brown for the extraordinary measures you have taken to respond to the pressing public health emergency presented by the spread of COVID-19. Through your truly exceptional and collaborative efforts, we have taken heed of crucial guidance from campus, state and national health officials and reduced population density on campus, while also ensuring that Brown remains operational, and teaching and learning can occur remotely.

In light of evolving information about novel coronavirus, as well as local, state and national measures to limit personal contact, we are writing to share the University’s decision to extend Brown’s telecommuting status through April 3, 2020, for all employees scheduled to work. As we wrote on March 14, Brown remains open, only essential personnel should report to work in person, and all other employees who can telecommute are expected to do so.

Although a new category of leave time specific to this public health crisis called “Paid Special Leave” has been created and provides for 10 business days of paid leave, there is no need to request this leave through April 3. Please read this communication in its entirety for further important guidance.


The only faculty or staff who should be working on site at their Brown work locations are those whose work has been deemed essential and can only be performed on campus (faculty require permission from the Office of the Provost, and staff require permission from their managers). We understand that telecommuting during this time may be occurring also when you need to provide dependent care, and the University’s policy that allows telecommuting with pay allows for such care.

The decisions to have students relocate, transition to remote instruction and telecommuting for all employees, and ramp down bench research have been extremely difficult to make. Now that we have taken these steps, it is incumbent upon all of us to do our part. At every level of the institution, regular meetings should not be canceled, but held instead using Zoom and other technologies. For many, this already is working well. So, if you have not already done so, take the steps to work remotely, and require that employees in your areas do so also.

All of our actions have been taken to promote the health and wellness of our community, and to take active responsibility for contributing to public health more generally. Medical experts at the Rhode Island Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization advise that stemming the growth and impact of COVID-19 calls for limiting non-essential personal contact.

The FAQs on the Workforce page of Brown’s COVID-19 website provide guidance for those in the following areas:

·       employees scheduled to work and whose job duties require them to work at a University work location in person;

·       employees scheduled to work and whose job duties require them to work, but work can be done with an approved telecommuting work arrangement; and

·       employees scheduled to work and whose job duties do not allow them to telecommute.


We know that many of you are already telecommuting, and we thank you for this. One thing that has become clear — and it’s not surprising — is that staff and faculty are working incredibly hard to rise to the challenge facing us all, and to support academic and administrative continuity.

Given this propensity for excellence, which we all value, we must also encourage best practices in this online work environment to promote healthy and sustainable habits. This includes being attentive to regular work hours and ensuring breaks from screen time during the course of a day. Please review this Telecommuting guidance page, which offers best practices to follow.

University Human Resources continues to offer health and wellness programs that can be followed remotely, and many offices are devising creative ways to maintain community. In the coming week, the Workforce section of the COVID-19 website will be updated with guidance and resources for maintaining community remotely, including holding virtual activities.


The following guidelines and information remain in effect to assist employees in regard to the impact of COVID-19:

●      Departments are encouraged to conduct meetings virtually (and to continue to plan thoughtfully to maintain social distancing for any meetings deemed essential that must take place in person).

●      To confirm Alternative Work Arrangements (AWA) during this time, an employee can rely on their supervisor’s communication regarding telecommuting arrangements (rather than the standard University Human Resources process). Supervisors should finalize telecommuting work arrangements if they have not already done so.

●      Employees who are not sick but must provide dependent care due to a school closure can continue to telecommute.

●      Employees who are not sick but need to quarantine can continue to telecommute.

●      Employees who are not sick and need to provide care for a dependent or a household member in need of isolation can continue to telecommute.

●      Employees who cannot telecommute to perform their job functions (or other duties as assigned by their supervisor) will continue to be paid.

For security during this telecommuting period, doors for all Brown buildings will remain locked at all times, accessible only by individuals with existing card or key access. The exception is Page-Robinson Hall, which will be open during normal business hours through Friday, March 20, 2020. Requests to have buildings with access control remain unlocked during business hours must be submitted to [email protected], and requests to have buildings with key-access only remain unlocked should be submitted to the Department of Public Safety.

University policies may continue to be modified as more information about the impact of COVID-19 becomes available. Please continue to consult Brown’s COVID-19 website for regular updates. Employees can direct questions to University Human Resources at [email protected] or (401) 863-2141.

We are deeply and sincerely grateful for all that the Brown community is doing to ensure the University is positioned to fulfill its mission during this unprecedented period. We know that this is taking place when members of our community have many additional personal and family demands and responsibilities. Please prioritize your personal health, and thank you for the support you are demonstrating for one another.


Richard M. Locke, Provost

Barbara Chernow, Executive Vice President for Finance & Administration