Boise State employees adapt to new challenges this semester

COVID-19 changed many aspects of life at Boise State, affecting various classroom and campus experiences. Yet, there is another change that has altered student employee positions and staff members within the university. 

Joey Prizina is a junior health science major. Prizina says his work experience has changed and left him feeling less interactive in his duties.

“[COVID-19] took hard effects on working at the information desk and now everything is mostly done digitally. Overall, it is much less busy at the desk and not even close to as many social interactions like I used to have,” Prizina said. “To make things stranger, aside from wearing masks, there is now a huge glass safety guard for talking with people.”

The information desk hours have been shortened by a few hours each day to help with sanitization concerns, according to Prizina. Boise State has also set up a two-week paid quarantine for those who contract COVID-19.

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a lot of uncertainty on how things were going to unfold over the next several months. Both the university and the state of Idaho enacted a hiring freeze that essentially created a couple other additional approval steps coming from the State Division of Human Resources (DHR) and State Division of Financial Management (DFM) in order to review and approve recruiting and hiring requests for essential positions. As of July 6, 2020, evaluations for essential positions from state agencies are no longer needed. 

Another main topic of discussion within university administration was how to help ensure a smooth progression towards student degrees in the first semester back.

Jordy LePiane, employee relations team member at Boise State’s Human Resources Office (HRO), discussed the sudden halt on the hiring process.

“We wanted to make sure this would work and that positions continued to be filled, but the hiring freeze really kind of pushed the pause button on the majority of hiring activity, and you’re probably seeing a little bit of dip on the hiring process right now,” LePiane said.

Life on and off campus has changed for everyone, students and staff alike. The budget for all state agencies and universities has been adjusted to take  greater care of students on a collective level, making sure that student needs are served first, while also prioritizing resources for other staffing needs and hiring commitments.

Associate Vice President of Human Resources Shawn Miller spoke about actions taken in recent months due to the sudden hiring freeze and unemployment of staff members at the university. 

“We had a hiring freeze in the spring leading up into the middle of summer. A group of our employees were furloughed,” Miller said. “We had a structure based upon salary amount to determine how many furlough days someone needed to take. We expanded the time in which to take that [time] from May through the end of July.” 

The university held a series of town hall meetings to answer people’s questions and worked with furloughed employees to file for unemployment. 

Kaysi Parke, communications employee engagement specialist, explained one of the top requests were flexible hours and the ability to work from home. 

[Photo of the Information Desk in the Student Union Building on Boise State Campus]
Photo by Drew Marshall | The Arbiter

A couple of supervisors at the time did not think people would be as productive from home. However, when staff members were forced into an at-home or remote status, they found that productivity for many faculty members increased, and many felt that working from home provided extra stability. 

Hybrid work brings a new idea that roles can be versatile and flexible in a work environment.

“I speak as a mother homeschooling a kindergartener and a third grader, while also having my 13-month-old go to daycare. I have had to shift my hours a lot as there is always work to be done and sometimes I have to work a little bit on the weekend to get all of it done,” Parke said. “Honestly, the flexibility of my team and the support of my team has been monumental for me; feeling that I can be a successful parent and employee.” 

Parke has also created a website called Wrap Around Resources that provides information for students and employees related to wellness. The site provides information about resources on and off campus that can help students deal with the uncertainty of the pandemic. 

The resource list labeled “Hierarchy of Needs” recognizes that it is impossible to focus on anything when your basic needs are not being met. In these strange times, knowing what one needs from themself and the people around them is crucial to general mental and physical wellbeing. 

The Boise State Human Resources team cares about people and their needs. HRO expressed that whatever the case is, they encourage employees to explore their resources and reach out if they need help.

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