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Update on operational and financial planning

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

As we continue to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the University and our workforce, I write to share a few updates regarding University operations and finances, as well as updated workforce programs and policies.

Managing financial impact and voluntary workforce programs

Across the University, we continue to take steps to evaluate the disruption to our normal on-campus operations and activities due to the pandemic and the resulting financial impact. As previously reported, we are projecting a revenue shortfall of $750 million compared to the original budget plans for fiscal year 2021, which begins on July 1. This follows an estimated reduction of $415 million relative to earlier projections in the fiscal year ending this month.

In previous messages, we have indicated that Schools and Units may need to consider potential workforce actions, including furloughs and layoffs. Given the uncertainty around the University’s plans for the fall semester, the need to assess the impact of those plans on our staffing needs, and our commitment to minimize negative economic impacts on employees, we will not be pursuing any furloughs or layoffs of our employees at this time. We are also extending the guarantee of pay and benefits continuation beyond June 28 for our directly employed staff and contract workers whose work has been idled due to the pandemic, including those who provide dining, custodial, and security services. We will continue to assess Harvard’s capacity to sustain this commitment and will communicate any changes.

We have previously announced steps to help manage the financial shortfall we’ve experienced, including freezing hiring, as well as salaries for all faculty and exempt employees, and canceling or deferring all discretionary spending. As we continue to work to identify ways to reduce costs, while ensuring we can carry out mission-critical activities and obligations, we are announcing today three new voluntary workforce programs available to University employees:

  • 2020 Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program: This program enables eligible staff the opportunity to retire sooner than they might have otherwise planned by providing an additional benefit equal to one year of pay, in addition to Harvard’s generous retirement benefits. Eligible staff will receive a personalized calculation of the benefit in late July. More information and eligibility criteria have been posted on HARVie
  • Voluntary Vacation Balance Reduction: By significantly spending down their accrued vacation balances during summer and fall 2020, staff can help reduce costs for their local departments. This program is open to all benefits-eligible, non-temporary staff members. It allows employees to help their departmental budgets while maintaining their regular pay and benefits with the use of their accrued vacation time. More information is posted on HARVie
  • Voluntary Time Reduction: Under this program, interested staff may submit proposals to reduce their work hours and pay by 10 to 50 percent, for a minimum of two months. This voluntary program offers an option for employees, under terms they propose and as approved by their manager, to take time away from work, providing flexibility for personal/caregiving responsibilities, personal renewal, stress reduction and wellbeing, a transition to early retirement, or simply enjoying more of the summer. More information is posted on HARVie.

We hope that everyone will contribute to Harvard’s financial sustainability and eventual financial recovery, either through participation in one of these voluntary programs, or backing up and covering for coworkers who may elect them. We all have a role to play.

We will continue to assess the effectiveness of the voluntary programs and other cost-saving measures we are enacting to determine if we can continue to manage budget shortfalls or if we need to consider other steps, including workforce actions, in the future.

Phased campus re-opening and updated workforce policies

Aligning with Governor Baker’s plan for the phased re-opening of the state, the University, as well as individual schools and units, are developing plans to safely bring students, faculty, other academic personnel, and staff back to campus as conditions allow. That work is being guided by teams who are focused on testing and tracing, campus facilities, and dining services, among many other important aspects of Harvard’s recovery.

In the meantime, as we wrote last month, most of us will continue to work remotely, through at least the end of the summer, unless directed otherwise by your local leadership and managers. We hope this additional information will be helpful as you continue to navigate the impacts of the pandemic in your professional and personal life.

A limited number of workers have been reporting to campus in an essential on-site role. Additional workers have begun to return to campus this week under the state’s plan, including those participating in the re-opening of laboratory facilities. Employees returning to campus as well as the rest of us who will continue to work remotely should review the updated University workplace policies on HARVie.

Impact on University employees

As I announced earlier this month, we have also established the Harvard COVID-19 Employee Emergency Relief Fund to provide financial support to employees facing economic hardship due to the pandemic. I am grateful to the community members who have contributed thus far. If you are interested in supporting this Fund, please visit the University Giving Page, see “University-Wide Response,” and select “Employee Emergency Relief Fund.”

I want to close by acknowledging that in addition to the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the last several weeks, following the death of George Floyd, have laid bare the trauma and pain of racial injustice across our country and in our campus community. As President Bacow has written, now is a time to listen to those who are hurting and to support members of our own community who face indignities every day. We are listening and are committed to the critical work ahead.


Katie Lapp
Executive Vice President