Winter break is coming

It’s a time of year when many gather with family and friends, and Iowa State employees will have a chance to do that for an extended period during winter break.  

As has been the case since 2009, Iowa State leaders approved a partial closure of campus during winter break. Reduced services will begin Monday, Dec. 24, and continue through Tuesday, Jan. 1. 

Employees who use leave during this stretch, which includes three university holidays and a pair of weekends in Dec. 22-23 and Dec. 29-30, will enjoy a significant break. Taking leave on four work days -- Dec. 26-28 and Dec. 31 -- creates an 11-day winter break. This not only benefits employees with a better work/life balance, but allows for energy savings in buildings where thermostats can be lowered. 

How it works 

Offices aren't required to close, and employees aren't required to take time off. Workers who choose not to work during the shutdown period can use vacation time or take unpaid leave. Employees who take unpaid leave will be paid for the three university holidays. 

Many university facilities will be closed and locked during break, as they are on holidays. Facilities planning and management (FPM) staff who work during break use this time to perform project work, such as floor care projects, when staffing levels allow. 

FPM energy management manager Brian Housholder said last year roughly 55 campus buildings closed during the semester break. Twenty-three of those 55 buildings set their temperature back to the minimum 65 degrees while closed, Housholder said. 

University leaders determine workforce needs in the units they oversee and approve office closures or reductions in operating hours. Units or individual employees responsible for essential or ongoing work may be required to continue regular schedules. Examples of critical functions include public safety, snow removal and utility maintenance, as well as some research and customer-service jobs. In units closed during the break, supervisors may establish alternative work locations or projects for employees who elect to work. 

Supervisors in closed units may need to establish how to handle incoming phone and email messages. For example, messages could be routed to a single email and voicemail account checked by a designated employee. Communicating holiday hours on departments websites and in personal voicemail and email messages also is a good idea. 

Staffing questions may be directed to HR liaisons or university human resources at or 294-4800. 

Adding up 

The 2017-18 winter break accounted for electricity savings of almost $152,000 according to FPM utilities services director Jeff Witt. Approximately $64,600 of that savings was during the week following graduation and the reduced activity period. Extreme cold during that time prevented savings in steam usage. 

The amount of savings is dictated, in part, by measures taken by ISU employees before they leave for break. Here is a checklist that will help in that effort:

  • Shut down all computers, printers and other accessories. If possible, plug computers and printers into a power strip and then shut off the power strip. 
  • Leave your office computer on if you need remote access from home, but turn off the monitor, printer, speakers and any other connected devices. A computer's sleep mode uses less energy than full power, but shutting it off completely protects data. A machine may be left on during break if it's providing access to a critical application. 
  • Turn off and unplug copiers and small appliances, such as coffee pots and microwaves. 
  • Unplug chargers for electronic devices. 
  • Make sure faucets in restrooms and break rooms are turned off and not dripping. If you notice a dripping faucet, contact the FPM service center at 294-5100. 
  • If you can manually adjust the thermostat in your office, turn it down to 65 degrees. 
  • Shut down unnecessary climate-controlled plant growth chambers. 
  • Close fume hood sashes completely, if possible. Otherwise, open them only minimally. 
  • Shut down cooling water systems to eliminate potential flooding issues. 
  • Turn off office lights and public lighting, such as hallways, restrooms and conference rooms.
  • Check windows to make sure they're tightly closed.