From the Senior Vice President
and Senior Vice Chancellor

November 20, 2020

As you know, we had hoped to implement a plan of increasing our presence in the workplace to at least 50 percent in December and January. However, with cases emerging at a rapid rate across the US and in Tennessee, we are delaying these plans at this time. Please continue working as you have been, in consultation with your supervisor. We will continue to monitor the situation and make future plans accordingly.

We also know it's always important to monitor, understand, and respond to the needs of our faculty, staff, and students. When navigating the uncertainty of a pandemic, your feedback becomes a critical consideration in developing our overall approach. I appreciated having Doug Bohner, UTIA human resources officer join us for today's Fireside Chat to share an overview of the recent Pandemic Engagement Pulse Check.

Doug highlighted that despite the challenges we've faced this year, nearly 80 percent of our UTIA workforce is actively engaged. These are employees who are energized and passionate about their work and exert discretionary effort. The vast majority of you are also proud of the work you do and believe your contributions are important to the success of your department. Doug shared that across the Institute we're performing well in engagement drivers that are directly related to COVID-19 and Manager Relationships, both important aspects under current circumstances. Although still rated highly, our scores do drop slightly when it comes to Readiness to Return to Work. Based on your feedback, we'll continue our efforts related to innovative solutions for flexible work arrangements, ongoing communication and transparency in decision making, and prioritization of the health and wellness of our workforce.

Doug also touched on our progress related to flu shot attestations. To date, 970 UTIA employees have completed the process though IRIS Employee Self Service, with 88 percent having received the flu vaccine. Finally, as more and more people are beginning to experience “PPE fatigue,” Doug stressed the importance of remaining vigilant when it comes to sanitation practices, maintaining social distancing, and most importantly, wearing a mask.

With this in mind, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday and case counts across the state and the nation continue to rise, I recognize that many of you are facing difficult decisions regarding holiday travel and whether or not you can safely join, or host, gatherings of family and friends. While these are personal decisions, I encourage you all to take a few minutes to review the recently released CDC holiday guidelines.

Enjoy the time off next week to recharge and celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in the safest way possible. Wishing all my best to you and your families.


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University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
2621 Morgan Circle Drive  ·  101 Morgan Hall  ·  Knoxville, TN 37996