Gary King: A Welcome Back Update

August 19, 2021

Dear: IQSS Staff and Affiliates
From: Gary King, Director IQSS
Subj: A welcome back update
Date: 8/19/2021

Hello everyone! It’s hard to imagine that we have been away from CGIS for almost two years, with a few notable exceptions (thanks to the Client Support Services team and several others). We’re excited to finally welcome our full community back to campus with an official return the week of August 23rd.

The vibrant intellectual community we created at IQSS before the pandemic is unique, not only among Harvard groups, but throughout academia. We aim to preserve and grow this virtual community and reconstitute the physical one, while building on all we’ve learned about the benefits of workplace flexibility. The following  guidelines are meant to accomplish all these goals simultaneously.

The public health situation continues to be fluid, so please pay attention to COVID-related email updates from Harvard. The FAS website has all relevant information and is updated regularly but, as this site is detailed and complicated, we’ve summarized the key points we need to pay attention to below.  Over the last two years, we’ve all learned a lot about public health and epidemiology, but we benefit from the world class experts Harvard relies on to continually adjust best practices; we intend to follow this advice.

Our Goals

As you all know, the mission of IQSS is to understand and solve society’s greatest challenges through cutting edge, collaborative social science. Some of our collaborations are formal: affiliate faculty, institutional partnerships, relationships with other programs on campus, and spinning off various types of programs, nonprofits, and startups. But, as we’ve been working from our little zoom squares online, we’ve all missed how our community is enhanced through the informal in person interactions at the coffee maker, the mailboxes, while waiting to talk to one of our many research support teams, while sidling through the Dataverse team stand-up in the hallway, stopping in the Quantina, and in many other ways. These and many other physical happenstance conversations create opportunities for innovation, connections and partnerships; they foster the enviable intellectual buzz on CGIS’ third floor that attracts more people, produces more collaborations, and, in turn, generates better science.

We’ve also all learned about the remarkable benefits of working remotely. We’ve become much more efficient by stepping away from our desks for two minutes to deal with a toddler’s urgent issue or the cable guy knocking at the door; shutting ourselves away from distractions to write something (like this letter!) or track down a really annoying programming bug; and recovering time previously lost to a long commute. 

So our goal is to optimize both goals—the vibrant community we all seek and our staff are a critical part of, and the work flexibility we know benefits us individually and collectively.  To do this, we’ll have to design creative solutions in many situations, but creative solutions to social science problems like this is exactly what IQSS does.

What will day-to-day work at CGIS be like?

Thanks for all the suggestions and feedback we’ve had in building this plan. We’ll also be collecting feedback more formally after we get our sea legs.  Here’s the current plan.

  • I’ve asked the managers to be as flexible with your work schedules as possible, as long as the team is able to accomplish its agreed-upon goals, and so that we can ensure a continued high level of informal hallway interactions, keep up with the workload from off site, be as responsive as when on campus, and advance the overall mission of IQSS.
  • During set work hours, please be responsive on email, Slack, phone, or Zoom, depending on how folks contact you (and remember we are transitioning everyone to Slack wherever possible).  We understand that there are interruptions at home, just like there are in the office, and there will be times when you’re unavailable. The more visible you make your schedule and day to day activities, the easier it will be to accomplish your goals while working remotely.
  • We’re working on new calendaring and some other novel communication solutions, which we’ll communicate later.  We would also welcome novel approaches, technological and otherwise, that make it feel like we’re all here together. Let us know what you come up with; perhaps we can build another new product together.
  • When you’re in your office, please keep your door open (unless you’re eating or need privacy for some specific purpose).
  • Occasionally, you may be needed back on campus on a day you didn’t plan to be in. We’ll try to follow the standard practice for remote workers of giving three days’ notice when that’s necessary. Of course, you’re all professionals and so for the most part you will know when you’re needed here in person, and I know you will respond as you see appropriate.
  • Although you’re responsible for maintaining a high quality, high speed internet connection from your home or from wherever you work remotely, we hope to be able to provide you with a laptop, a second monitor, and job-related software (this depends on University approval, which we are waiting on).  We’ve asked IQSS Client Support Services to be flexible in providing any IT related advice you may need for a home setup.
  • We’ll also be launching a slew of new community events, programs, and activities - both in-person and remote. Stay tuned for details.

Where Will I Sit?

Initially, please return to your original shared space, but understand that this will change.  As social scientists, we know that the physical environment is crucial to building a strong community. We want to keep staff and faculty as connected as possible, and optimize informal collaborations.  People who are on campus full time will probably continue to have exclusive use of some space. For those who plan to work from home some or all the time, you’ll wind up time-sharing the space with others. This enables us to make productive use of scarce Harvard space resources, keep up the interactions in the hallways, and ensure that everyone has suitable space.

From our conversations so far, we estimate that about half of our staff will be in on any one day as compared to before the pandemic, and so roughly speaking the total staff footprint will shrink by about the same amount.  This will enable us to bring back more shared community spaces, as well as other students, staff, researchers, visiting scholars, affiliates, and faculty from across the University and beyond. We’ll provide tea and coffee in the Quantina as always, although University policies at present require that we drink it in our office or on walks outside. We’ll also pilot new efforts to make our common spaces more enjoyable and interactive. 

Please talk with your manager to help us accomplish our overall goals and to ensure that you are comfortable, productive, and engaged.  

Public Health Procedures

We’ve boiled down all the University public health procedures to these 8 items.

  1. SAFETY AWARENESS: Before returning to campus, please review the COVID-19 safety awareness training (see the Harvard Training Portal and the EH&S website). Also review the EH&S COVID safety document and guidance for on-campus activity on the EH&S website that describes important things for you to be aware of pertaining to COVID safety on campus, as well as the University Coronavirus information page and FAQs.

  2. VACCINATIONS: In order to have any on campus presence, you must be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless you have received a medical or religious exemption (reported through Crimson Clear), and you must upload an image of your vaccination card to HUHS. HUHS will keep this information private, including from IQSS leadership. If you are not vaccinated, your testing cadence will be more frequent than those vaccinated; your colleagues and I would also appreciate you choosing to let us know.

  3. MASKS: These are required on campus indoors for everyone. Masks can be removed when working in private offices with the door closed, but where possible we would prefer if the door were open to facilitate interaction. Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a face covering outdoors and may remove their face coverings outdoors as long as they can consistently maintain six feet of distance from others. Everything you could possibly want to know about face coverings and their usage at Harvard can be found on the EHS website on pages 14 and 15. IQSS will be purchasing approved masks in bulk, which will be available in the Quantina as well as the main office (K350).

  4. TESTING: Virtually all of us at IQSS who have a regular on-campus presence will be tested every week, ideally beginning the first day you arrive back on campus. In order to be tested, you must create a Color account (for COVID testing, tracing, and obtaining your results; see detailed instructions). To see your testing cadence, login to Crimson Clear using your Harvard Key. You will receive text and email notifications when it is your day to test or when you fall behind on testing. (If you’re not planning to come in on the day you’re scheduled for a test, do not make a special trip; just get tested the next time you’re on campus.) Use only your Harvard email address when setting up your Color account.

  5. HUID and Keys: Upon returning to campus, please remember to bring your Harvard ID and your office key. From August 23rd to August 30th, access to CGIS is available via swiping your ID. Beginning on August 31st, swipe access is only required for after-hours entry.

  6. EQUIPMENT: Many of us brought home equipment to use during the pandemic and intend to work this fall in a hybrid mode, with some days on campus and some remote. For the most part, staff are using laptops, which you will carry back and forth depending on where you will be located on any given day. If you brought home a printer that is normally used by multiple people, return this to the office. If you brought home a printer that is for your use alone and have access to networked printers in the office, you may choose where it will be most effectively utilized. Similarly, for the time being you may choose whether a monitor that you brought home would be most effectively utilized remotely or in the office. However, please return standing desks and chairs to the office, as partially occupied offices will be shared with other members of the community, who may need this equipment.

  7. EATING AND DRINKING:  Guidance around eating and drinking on campus can be found on the Harvard University guidance for on-campus activity on pages 11 and 12. Here are the specific rules as they apply to CGIS:

    • You may eat and drink in a private office with the door closed;
    • You may eat and drink in a shared office if you are the only person in that office and if you are certain that no one else will enter the office. This applies, for example, when the other people you are sharing the office with are not scheduled to be on campus that day;
    • You may eat and drink outside anytime you wish.
    • You may eat and drink in the CGIS Fisher Family Commons (a.k.a. the first floor cafeteria), which is a designated eating area (although be aware that, unfortunately, the administration has closed the café). Please review EHS guidance on eating and drinking in designated areas to be aware of best practices.
    • You may remove your mask to take a quick drink in shared offices as long as a mask is promptly donned afterward. This means you may not sip a cup of coffee over the course of half an hour in a shared office with others present.

    We will be stocking table cleaning and disinfection supplies to facilitate cleaning in private and shared offices after consumption of food and beverages. IQSS has petitioned building operations to erect a tent behind CGIS to allow for eating and drinking outdoors, even during inclement weather. However, we do not expect this to be approved by the start of the fall semester (if ever).

  8. USE OF THE QUANTINA, REFRIGERATOR, AND KITCHEN SINK: Eating and drinking will not be permitted in the IQSS Quantina (kitchen), except insofar as a person may briefly remove their mask to take a quick drink before donning the mask again. Since this is a locus of high activity outside a classroom, as well as a pedestrian corridor, it is impossible to maintain six feet of distance between individuals who may be consuming food and drink. Gathering without food or drink is permitted as long as University guidance around masking is adhered to. Harvard University guidance for on-campus activity states, on page 14, that “With limited exceptions, physical distancing is no longer required indoors or outdoors. Harvard community members are reminded to be respectful of those who may choose to maintain their distance from others, as well as those who choose to wear a mask” (for example outdoors). You may use the refrigerator to store your breakfast or lunch. However, to provide for additional cleaning, you must remove all items each Friday as anything left will be discarded. The kitchen sink may only be used to clean dishes, cups and utensils. We will continue to offer coffee and tea free of charge, but will only be allowed to continue this if you take it to your office or outside. Or even better, how about inviting someone for a coffee break on a walk around the neighborhood?

I can’t wait to see you all. Good luck preparing for the return, and thanks so much for all you’ve done over the last two years!