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COVID-19: Planning Guidance for the Gradual Return of Employees

Notice: This is an Archival Document

Please visit the Fall 2021 Safe Return site for up to date information.

To:          Divisional & Departmental Leaders

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

Date:      June 5, 2020

 

The university is commencing work for the phased return of employees to repopulate the campus. To be clear, our goal is to keep the number of people on campus to a minimum consistent with the need of the university to prepare for the fall semester, serve our students now and in the fall, and in recognition that there are positions that cannot effectively be performed remotely. 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 Control Plan and the Compliance Attestation 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 and the availability of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment for employees. Returning employees to campus will be based on mission-critical operations and the ability to control and manage work environments safely. 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 gradual, 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. Below please find guidance and tools to assist you in planning the return of department staff.

Office Workspace

Department leaders should assess their office environments to confirm that employees can safely return to their office and/or workspace.  Criteria to consider when assessing workspaces are:

  • Maintaining physical distance of six feet for employee workspaces
  • Ensuring employees can circulate within the office space while maintaining physical distancing – consider using signage to direct pedestrian traffic flows & minimize contact
  • Signage for hygiene protocols (currently being developed)
  • Adequate cleaning supplies to ensure high-touch surfaces can be cleaned after each use (will be provided to departments)

Confirming these criteria are in place in advance of employee return will allow employees to return to campus in a safe manner and will ensure alignment with the standards established by the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board.

If workspace modifications are necessary, department leaders should first consult with the Division of Operations.  Before making modifications to space, priority should first be given to maximizing physical distance, wearing face coverings, practicing appropriate hygiene protocols, and reducing common touch points.  Further, if underutilized rooms exist in a building, the Division of Operations may be able to offer alternate space.

Identifying Critical Services/Positions

In determining which positions should be considered for return to campus, department leaders should focus on those services that 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 should also identify those positions that cannot effectively be performed remotely and are better suited to being performed at the on-campus location.

Included with this memorandum is a Safety Assessment Matrix . This matrix has been developed to assist department leaders in gauging employee readiness for return while considering the 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.

The employee will be responsible for responding to the list of statements/questions in the Safety section of the tool. 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.

Some employees may prefer returning to campus during Phase 1. Department leaders may permit employees who are willing to return during Phase 1 to perform the essential functions of their position provided the office space has met the appropriate safety standards, the employee is eligible to return in accordance with the Safety Assessment Matrix, and the employee has completed Safe Return Training (see Training section below).

Work Schedules

To ensure physical distancing and minimize contact of employees, department leaders may want to consider flexible work schedules which stagger employee reporting and departing times. Alternating schedules is also an option which will limit the number of employees and interactions among those in the workspace. Departments considering flexible work schedules will need to document the schedules in writing and request approval in advance of implementation from their divisional vice president.

When considering staggered or alternating work schedules, Human Resources & Talent Management (HRTM) is available to consult with department leaders as they consider the best option for their department and its employees. While the health and safety of employees is first and foremost, being mindful of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreements should also be a priority.

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 during the week of June 8th.  Employees will be asked to read the Safe Return Training document and acknowledge their review of the content and relevant CDC guidance, as well as attest to the university’s Code of Public Health.  This must be completed by all employees before their return to campus. 

Telecommuting/Remote Work Option

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. 

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.  Department leaders should contact HRTM for consultation on the appropriate process to handle these cases.   

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.

Symptom Monitoring

Employees returning to the workplace should be advised about the importance of 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.  In addition, the supervisor and/or employee should be in touch with HRTM regarding the absence.  HRTM will advise the employee about their leave options.

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 supervisor and/or employee should be in touch with HRTM regarding the absence.  HRTM will advise the employee about 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.  Department leaders should advise employees to submit all medical documentation directly to HRTM. 

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. 

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:

AllOne Health
1-800-451-1834
www.mylifeexpert.com/login  
Company Code:  (Check Employee Email)

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

 

Questions & Further Guidance

To further assist with planning and preparation, a sample supervisor checklist is included below.  This checklist is a tool for department leaders to ensure they have considered relevant components for the return of staff to campus.

Supervisor Office Safety Checklist

  • Physical office space has been assessed and modified, if necessary, to allow for 6 feet or more of physical distancing.
  • Location(s) for departmental personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies have been identified and communicated to employees.
  • Proper signage exists to remind employees of hygiene and safety protocols.
  • Community water coolers, coffee makers, microwaves, and refrigerators (unless for medical reasons) are temporarily discontinued. 
  • All departmental employees have completed and acknowledged the employee Safe Re-entry Training before returning to campus.
  • Departmental occupancy is 25% or less than typical volume.  Employee schedules have been modified or telecommuting/remote work plans are in place to support this effort.
  • Current telecommuting/remote work plans are in place (where applicable) and have been shared with Human Resources & Talent Management.
  • Departmental leaders are aware of the process to notify (who) of any suspected COVID-19 cases.
  • A process exists to document employee schedules including visitors to the office for contract tracing purposes.

Please do not hesitate to contact HRTM staff with any questions you may have or if additional guidance is necessary.