Working during COVID-19

Support for staff on furloughs

The following information is meant to support staff whose position has been placed on a furlough as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 emergency.

Preparing for your furlough

Staff placed on an involuntary furlough will receive at least 7 days’ notice prior to the effective date. The notice period may be shorter if an employee has volunteered to be placed on furlough. During the notice period there are three important tasks for you to complete:

  • Update your personal email and phone number as well as your emergency contact information in Workday so we know how to contact you when it is time to return to work. If you need help, see the ISC’s Quick Guide for Editing Personal Information.
  • Review Maintaining your UW benefits while on furlough below for important next steps.
  • Check in with your supervisor to discuss any specific assignments to be completed or tasks to handoff before your furlough starts.

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Important work rules around furlough

A furlough is a period of unpaid time away from work. During the furlough, it is important that you do no work for your department, whether paid or voluntary. While you may receive and respond to emails related to your return-to-work plan with your supervisor or emails related to your UW benefits, you are prohibited from performing your regular work duties and should not be responding to work emails or accessing systems or otherwise performing your work. For many dedicated employees, this is one of the hardest parts of being on furlough. This rule is strictly enforced because it is based in employment law. For more information about work rules, review the temporary layoff policy.

There are other permissible ways to connect with UW during this time.

  • If you miss your colleagues, you are welcome to contact them personally.
  • Stay on top of UW news.
  • Follow The Whole U and participate in their virtual events.

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Maintaining your UW benefits while on furlough

Your UW benefits will be maintained by applying 8 hours of paid time each month, including paid holiday hours. While you are on furlough, you will continue to be paid for UW holidays and accrue sick and vacation time off.

If your furlough begins during a month you have already been paid for 8 hours, no additional action is necessary for benefits continuation that month.

If you have not already been paid for 8 hours, before you begin your furlough you must request eight hours of paid time off in your timekeeping system. It’s recommended that the time is entered and applied on the last scheduled workday in the month; this allows you to cancel the time off request if you return to work early.

If you need help, campus employees should review the ISC’s Quick Guide for Requesting Time Off or contact their department’s Time/Absence initiate for assistance entering information into Workday. Medical Centers employees should contact their HR consultant for assistance with Kronos entry.

If you participate in the following optional benefits, please review important information about continuing them while on furlough:

Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Healthcare Savings Account (HSA): Medical FSA or HSA deductions will continue while on furlough if you have 8 hours of holiday or other time off pay. You can continue filing claims for reimbursement while on furlough.

Optional life insurance: MetLife will mail a bill to your home address after they are unable to collect premiums for your MetLife optional life insurance participants after 3 pay cycles.

Optional long-term insurance (LTD): Premiums are deducted based on actual eligible salary as it is paid. So if you have 8 hours of holiday or other time off pay while on furlough, LTD will be deducted from your eligible pay. Otherwise, no premiums are required during furlough.

Auto & homeowners insurances: Contact Liberty Mutual to let them know you are on furlough and request that they bill you at your home address. Payroll deductions will resume when you return to pay status.

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Applying for unemployment

Unemployment benefits partially replace your regular wages when you are out of work, including while you are on furlough. See UWHR’s Unemployment benefits webpage for information on how to apply and an overview of the additional unemployment benefits enacted by the federal government as part of the COVID-19 relief effort.

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Applying for UW temporary opportunities

Your UW experience is valuable! While you are on furlough in your current department, you may seek temporary work in other UW departments.

UW Medicine is hiring positions critical to the COVID-19 public health emergency and we encourage you to review their current immediate hire opportunities. By doing so, you can make a direct contribution to excellent patient care and keeping our community healthy.

You can explore temporary employment opportunities at the University through UTemp Staffing.

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Finding another job while on furlough

We understand that you may seek new job opportunities either at UW or elsewhere while you are on furlough. Please know that UWHR and your department understand your need for secure and ongoing employment.

If you choose to resign from your current position, please communicate with your supervisor and your HR consultant. Your supervisor will work with you to complete necessary resignation steps. We want you to have a successful start in your next position, whethere here at UW or elsewhere, so don’t forget to let your supervisor know if you’ve included their name as a reference.

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Returning from furlough

You are expected to return to work on the date specified in your furlough notification letter. If your department is able to end the furlough earlier than anticipated, they will notify you of the return to work date as soon as it is known, using the contact info you have provided.

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Managing stress for those on an involuntary furlough

The following information is provided by UW CareLink to support you following notice of furlough. UW CareLink is available for all PEBB eligible employees and their families during their furlough.

It’s normal to feel a sense of loss when furloughed. You may experience heightened anxiety, increased uncertainty and feel a little lost without your daily work. It is important to remember that the furlough is not your fault or a reflection on your work performance.

Acknowledge your feelings. Let yourself feel what you feel, and find a healthy way to release some of the emotion. Physical activity, writing down your thoughts or talking with others can help let this energy out and prevent the distraction of negative thoughts and self-defeating behaviors.

Reflect and refocus. It’s important to remind yourself what you are grateful for, and express gratitude, such as “I still have my ability to think, my special talents and my aspirations. I’m grateful for my relationships.” Take an unrushed walk or a bike ride or a quiet activity to ask yourself some powerful questions, such as “What opportunities do I have during this time? How will I take advantage of those opportunities? What does my ideal week look like? What could I do to realize that? Who could help with that?”

Make a plan. Start thinking about what you want to focus on during this time. Piece together a plan outlining what you would like to accomplish and how you might do it. For example, you may have been thinking about creating a blog for years; now you have time to really concentrate on this project. Establishing short term and long-term goals and structure can give you greater control over your next steps. Involving your family or friends (using social distancing, of course) adds accountability and fun.

Get into action. Put your plan into action. If you are finding it hard to start, work backwards from your goal until you find something small enough that you can do the next day or the next week. Identifying first steps and finding the right people for encouragement and support will help you realize your goal.

Learning that your position will be part of a furlough can be a traumatic experience. That’s because you are away from an important part of your life for a period of time for reasons beyond your control.

Don’t panic. It is likely your initial reaction to the announcement was shock, even though you may have known it was possible or understand the reasons for work reduction. You may have trouble concentrating, and feel a little anxious. You may be angry or sad.

Give yourself time to think about your situation. Sometimes we react emotionally and wish we had not done what we did or said what we said. You may be hurt, but don’t do something you’ll regret. Instead, take a timeout. It works for the pros on the field and it can work for you. Give yourself time to plan your strategy—you’ll come out ahead.

Stay in control. Try to label your feelings and if you feel you might lose control and do something harmful to yourself or others, get help. UW SafeCampus is available to you while on furlough.

Take care of yourself. Get enough rest and eat regular meals. Your sleep and healthy eating give you the energy you need to put your plan into action.

Maintain your daily routine. This will also give you a feeling of control over your life. Healthy routines promote mental health, and provide structure to each day.

Be honest with your family. As difficult as it might be, share important information with your spouse or partner. Recall your first reaction; remember how you felt. Your partner probably feels the same way. They may feel anger, shock or even betrayed. That’s ok. This is a difficult time for families, and giving each other more support and more grace can strengthen these relationships.

Share your feelings with your family. Let them know how you’re doing and how you feel as you are moving forward and that you need their support. Include your children in this process. It will ease their fears and they can learn from your example.

Set short-term goals. Get something accomplished around the house. Get a small project out of the way. Accomplish short-term goals. You’ll feel better for it.

Be sensitive to your stress levels. If you feel particularly stressed, take a walk or do something to relieve your tension. Find a space at home where you can exercise. Try to cut down on caffeine and alcohol. They can add to your stress level.

Realize there will be ups and downs. When your emotions are charged up, what may usually be minor bumps in the road may take on undue significance.

Recharge. Make the most of the time you have to recharge yourself before starting something new. Listen to music; read a book; complete an online training, or take time to journal your thoughts.

Give yourself permission to feel. Express your feelings as they arise. Take time to cry, if needed. Don’t repress any recurring thoughts or emotions. Talk with others about how you feel. Write your thoughts down. Negative thoughts and emotions will diminish over time.

Find someone you trust. Call a family member or close friend to share what you’re going through. Remember that they care about you. Talking about it will help you move through stages of coping more smoothly.

Practice relaxation and meditation. Find some quiet. You can’t always get away from a situation, but you can visualize a quiet scene or a walk along the beach. Such visualization will give you a break from stressful periods.

Take one thing at a time. At this time, any ordinary workload may seem overwhelming. Do not overwhelm yourself by over-tasking. Perform one task at a time.

Allow extra time. This will help reduce pressure. If you usually plan half an hour to complete a task, schedule forty-five minutes to complete it. Do the best you can. Don’t be too critical of yourself.

Create a positive environment. Surround yourself with things you enjoy, such as music, nature, or a space for creativity.

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Getting help with questions and finding more support

The following contacts may be useful while on furlough:

Your HR consultant: Your HR consultant can answer questions about the terms of your furlough. For campus, visit the HR Consultant service team list.

Integrated Service Center: Available at ischelp@uw.edu or call us at (206) 543-8000 for Workday or benefits eligibility.

UW CareLink: UW’s employee assistance program is available to you while on furlough as well as your dependents and other household members. UW CareLink is available nationwide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 866-598-3978. Service is offered in multiple languages.

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