UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In an effort to control campus populations to comply with social distancing guidelines and also to remain informed on which units need to return to campus, Penn State’s Return to Work Task Group has created an authorization form for unit leads to fill out and request to have employees on site at any campus.
While most University employees should continue to work remotely, there are a number of faculty and staff, who because of the nature of their work, may need to return to their respective campus or another University work location (either regularly or intermittently) to effectively complete their tasks or to prepare the campus for phased opening and mission-critical work to occur. Some examples of mission-critical functions that may be required to take place prior to any return to campus include facilities maintenance, landscaping and lawn care, some administrative functions that are not otherwise possible to accomplish from home – such as Bursar or Registrar services — and information technology support.
In addition, an integrated Return to Research process for researchers who have a critical need to resume their work on site also is underway. There are separate actions that must be taken by unit leaders for research-related on-site work to occur. When filling out the authorization form, unit leaders involved in research (deans, chancellors and institute directors) will be directed to the required research form for “Gradually Increasing On-Campus Research-Related Activities at Penn State.”
“While the University has not yet made final determinations on timing of a return to work on site nor on the entire return-to-work process itself, we do know that some functions must be completed on site and in a coordinated manner to allow other functions to follow, such as cleaning of some areas or IT set up,” said Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources and co-chair of the Return to Work Task Group. “This new authorization form provides the mechanism for unit leaders to request a return of employees to on-site work, and also gives University leadership a snapshot of tasks being performed and population density in any given building or on any campus. This is critical to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and greater communities.”
The authorization form, which is intended only for unit supervisors – not individual employees — to request permission to return to a work site, is the first step in a process intended to help managers/supervisors determine if the functions performed by their unit qualify for immediate on-site work. In addition, any return-to-campus request from a supervisor also must have the endorsement of the chancellor, dean, or vice president that oversees their particular area.
In addition, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to see that all employees that are returning to work understand the guidelines and protocols required for being on campus. All individuals applying to engage in on-site activities must agree they will follow the practices outlined by the University related to health and safety, and must also acknowledge their personal responsibility to comply. Unit heads should keep record of employees that are returning on site. Several guiding resources can be found at:
Some Penn State employees who were already designated as performing mission-critical functions have been working on-site and may continue to do so without the need to seek additional approval through this authorization process. This includes those continuing to work in areas such as facilities maintenance, construction, landscaping and lawn care, and readying campus buildings for the student move-out process. All on-campus employees are following pandemic safety rules, including practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings.
Any expansion of on-site staffing requested by a supervisor is expected to be controlled and coordinated through this new authorization process to minimize potential risk and to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and other government and public health authorities.
Both the Return to Work and the Return to Campus and Community task groups are relying on guidance from Gov. Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the CDC and the University’s own infectious disease experts as the foundation for any return to campus or facilities. University leaders will continue to revise plans and communicate updates to all faculty and staff as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.