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COVID-19: Gradual Return to Campus

To:          BSU Employees

From:     Keri Powers , Vice President for Human Resources & Talent Management

Date:      June 12, 2020

 

Introduction

Bridgewater State University is commencing work for the phased return of employees to repopulate the campus. This phased return of employees follows the guidance provided by the Reopening Advisory Board, established by the Office of the Governor, and focuses on providing employees with a safe and healthy workplace. This guidance addresses the components necessary for planning a phased return – ensuring that the mandated safety standards are met, identifying a process for how to repopulate the campus, implementing workplace protocols, and training to ensure a safe & healthy workspace.

Safe & Healthy Workplace

The first step toward repopulating the campus and returning employees is the implementation of necessary health and safety protocols. To assure employees of its efforts to provide a safe and healthy workplace, the university will comply with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Mandated Safety Standards   for office spaces as identified by the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board. These safety standards include but are not limited to assessing office/workspace configurations, planning pedestrian traffic flows, practicing social distancing, implementing hygiene protocols, signage requirements, and cleaning & disinfecting best practices. Before the university can repopulate the campus, these safety standards must first be in place. To demonstrate our compliance with these safety standards, the university will complete the Commonwealth of Massachusetts COVID-19 Office Spaces Checklist  , the Commonwealth of Massachusetts COVID-19 Control Plan  , and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Compliance Attestation  . Both the BSU Control Plan (pdf) and the BSU Compliance Attestation (pdf) will be posted to the COVID-19 web page for public viewing.

Returning Employees

The Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board has established a phased approach to the reopening of the Commonwealth. The university will also be following a phased approach to the return of employees while also ensuring alignment with the framework provided for the higher education sector.

The return of employees will be phased over time in a coordinated manner to ensure appropriate social distancing, the availability of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, and adequate testing capabilities for COVID-19. Returning employees to campus will be based on mission-critical operations and the ability to control and manage work environments. The need to maintain a minimum number of employees on campus (de-densifying) will continue for some time and the expanded return of employees will be controlled and coordinated to mitigate potential risks and to ensure the safety of all employees and the BSU community.

Phase 1 will return employees to campus under a guideline of 25% per office (maximum) where physical distancing can be properly practiced. Department leaders will be assessing workspaces to ensure employees can return in a safe manner, which is in alignment with the standards established by the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board. In addition, department leaders will be determining which services are critical to the repopulation of the campus and those services that are critical to supporting students now and for the fall semester.

Department leaders will also be using a Safety Assessment Matrix to assist with determining an employee’s eligibility for return and a position’s effectiveness via remote work. For the purpose of the Safety Assessment Matrix, assessment of a position’s effectiveness via telework is not an assessment of an employee’s performance.

Employees will be responsible for responding to a list of statements/questions, which will rate their eligibility to return to the campus. Department leaders will then assess a percentage range to the position’s Productivity Working Remotely. The Safety Rating and the assigned percentage range for Productivity Working Remotely are then plotted on the matrix. The matrix then identifies a position as eligible for return, may be eligible for return, or not eligible for return.

The Safety Assessment Matrix provides an objective assessment for return with input from the employee, which allows them to provide information without disclosing confidential information.

As employees gradually begin to return to campus, department leaders may use any of the following options to maintain physical distancing measures, mitigate potential risks, and reduce population density within buildings and workspaces.

  • Staggered Reporting/Departing
    The beginning and end of the workday brings many people together at common entry and exit points of buildings. Staggering reporting and departure times by at least thirty minutes, where feasible, will reduce pedestrian traffic at these building points and help meet physical distancing requirements.
     
  • Alternating Schedules
    To limit the number of employees and interactions among those in the workspace, alternating schedules is an option. Department leaders can schedule partial staffing on alternating schedules to the extent possible. This option minimizes contact and mitigates risk.
     
  • Telecommuting/Remote Work
    The continuation of telecommuting/remote work, where feasible, is an identified practice within the Governor’s Reopening Plan. For those positions that have been identified as eligible to telecommute and the work performed remotely has been accomplished effectively, a telecommuting workplan can be continued to the extent practicable.

Telecommuting Workplans

As mentioned above, the continuation of telecommuting workplans, where feasible, is an identified practice within the Governor’s Reopening Plan. For those positions that have been identified as eligible to telecommute and the work performed remotely has been accomplished effectively, a telecommuting workplan can be considered for continuation.

The continuation of telecommuting workplans for employees in high-risk categories should also be considered, where feasible. The CDC   has identified individuals 65 years of age or older and individuals with underlying health conditions as candidates for continued telecommuting during this public health emergency. There may also be other circumstances that preclude an employee from returning to campus where an alternate work option may need to be considered – vulnerable family member within the household or childcare concerns. 

Employees who work in a position that has been identified to work on campus during Phase 1 and falls under the high-risk categories may request consideration for a telecommuting workplan via a confidential process through HRTM and the Office of Equal Opportunity.

Employees who work in a position that has been identified to work on campus during this phase and has childcare concerns or has a vulnerable person at home may also request consideration for a telecommuting workplan via a confidential process through HRTM.  Department leaders and/or employees can contact Suzzette Chaves (s2chaves@bridgew.edu) for process and request guidelines.

Training

Regardless of when, employees returning to campus will be required to complete training and attest to the university’s Code of Public Health.  This includes important health & safety protocols identified within the Governor’s Reopening Plan.  Topics to be addressed will include:

  • Stay at Home When Sick
  • Maintain Physical Distance
  • Wear Face Coverings & Masks
  • Practice Good Hygiene

This initial training will be available to employees on June 12th. Employees will be asked to read the Safe Return Training document and acknowledge their review of the content and relevant CDC guidance. This training must be completed by all employees before their return to campus.

Assessment & Progression

On-going assessment of Phase 1 will occur to verify that the return of employees to campus was successful.  Department leaders should be monitoring the return of their staff and assessing the workplace protocols that have been implemented. 

Progression to Phase 2 will be at the discretion of the Governor. In addition, the university will need to verify the success of Phase 1 and implement appropriate adjustments, as necessary.  As the phases of return are assessed, departments will be provided with additional guidance regarding the expanded return of employees. 

Departments should not increase staffing beyond the guidelines set forth in this guidance. 

Symptom Monitoring

Employees who return to the workplace will be required to conduct symptom monitoring every day before reporting to work. Employees reporting to campus for work must be free of any symptoms related to COVID-19. The following resources are available to employees to check symptoms:

Employees who are not feeling well or believe they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should contact their doctor. Employees should not report to work until seeking guidance from a medical professional. Medical professionals will advise on treatment, testing, and whether self-quarantine may be necessary

Employees who do return to campus should be reminded that if they feel ill, they should stay home.

Employee Exposure or Potential Exposure to COVID-19

An employee who has been diagnosed positive with COVID-19 or an employee who comes into close contact with an individual who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, should not report to work. The employee should notify their supervisor and report their sick leave absence in accordance with established university policies and practices. In addition, the employee should be in touch with HRTM so they can be advised of their leave options.

The disclosure of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis is necessary so the proper cleaning and disinfecting of the employee’s workspace can be done. In addition, the university will trace contacts in the workplace and will advise those employees who had contact to isolate and self-quarantine.

All communication will follow appropriate confidentiality measures prescribed by the American Disability Act (ADA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) related to the protection of personal medical information.

Workplace Protocols

All employees will be expected to comply with all policies, protocols, and guidelines established by the university to provide for a safe and healthy workplace. 

  • Face Coverings/Masks
    All employees who return to campus will be required to wear face masks or coverings when social distancing cannot be practiced. Appropriate use of face masks or coverings is critical to minimize the risks to others and aligns with the Executive Order signed by the Governor.

    Disposable masks will be provided by the university, if needed. Employees may also wear their own cloth face mask or covering.

    Employees who are not able to wear a face mask due to medical reasons should be in contact with HRTM and the Office of Equal Opportunity.
     
  • Hygiene Protocols
    All employees will be asked to practice good hygiene. Good hygiene includes:
    • Washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds.
    • Using an alcohol-based hand gel if soap and water are unavailable.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and moth.
    • Regularly clean high touch areas – doorknobs, office equipment, counter tops, etc.
    • Cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze, use a tissue or your inner elbow rather than your hands.
    • Avoid sharing or passing items within the workplace. 
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  • Building Access
    To minimize exposure and limit interaction, employees who do return to campus should be mindful about only accessing the building in which their workspace is located.
     
  • Building & Pedestrian Traffic Flows
    Employees should follow institutional measures to physically separate and increase distance between individuals. Employees should watch for visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape, and signs. Hallways and stairwells will have directional signage for one-way designations and up and down directions.
     
  • Meetings & Gatherings
    During the gradual return of employees to campus, meetings and gatherings should follow the guidance outlined in the Governor’s Reopening Plan. Phase 1 meeting sizes should be limited and physical distancing of six feet should be ensured. Meeting sizes should not exceed ten (10) participants. Remote participation is encouraged. Employees should wear face coverings and/or masks. 
     
  • Restrooms
    Use of restrooms should be limited based on size to ensure at least six feet of distance between individuals. Further guidance will be provided within each building.
     
  • Elevators
    There should not be more than one person in an elevator at a time.

Wellness & Support

Employee wellness is a priority for the university, always.  During this public health crisis, it is even more important to ensure our employees have the support they need during this stressful time. Whether transitioning to telecommuting, balancing work, life, & home responsibilities, or caring for others, this crisis has impacted everyone.  Please be certain to check in on employees during this time and ensure they know the resources available for support.  The Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) available to employees are:

Mass 4 You
1-844-263-1982
www.liveandworkwell.com