Guide for Returning Employees to Campus
As delineated in the State of New Jersey’s reopening plan, New Jersey City University (NJCU) will phase in a return of employees over time to provide for a coordinated resumption of campus operations and to provide for the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff. Toward this end, the university is committed to ensuring the faculty and staff are protected, trained and prepared to return.
NJCU will build toward necessary staffing accordingly to the conditions of each of the following stages:
Stage 1 Only essential employees on-campus and all other employees working remotely.
Stage 2 Begin staged return to campus for critical staff or departments with an enhanced need to access campus equipment and records or for on-campus student support.
Stage 3 Return of other staff under restrictive guidelines detailed below.
Stage 4 Return of faculty and students under appropriate public health guidelines.
Each department is preparing and will submit a social distancing plan describing how on campus activities will resume in their work areas. As with other departments, these plans will address the different phases of recovery. Returning employees to the workplace during and after the pandemic will not be as simple as announcing a reopening or return-to-the-workplace date and carrying on business as usual. Not only will many workplaces be altered initially, but some changes may be long term.
How NJCU is Approaching Phasing in of Staff
Many workplaces will be altered initially, some changes may be long term, even beyond the imagined “finish line” of a widely available vaccine or treatment. The need to maintain low workforce density to meet social distancing requirements will continue for some time. Certain departments that are not operationally necessary for Phase 2 and can continue to effectively work remotely will likely continue to do so until restrictions are eased. Such efforts have the added benefit of reducing facilities usage and decreasing congestion in public areas, elevators, stairwells, parking areas, and on-campus dining facilities.
The physical distancing of staff will be tightly controlled and coordinated to mitigate potential risks and ensure the safety of faculty and staff, as well as the communities we serve. Managers will be provided guidance regarding occupancy as part of the planning process. Once decisions to expand on-site staffing in certain areas have been made, staff should follow the policies and protocols in this guide for returning to work on campus.
During this planning period, managers must consider how to manage their department. What will remain the same and what will not? Do you need the department to operate in the same manner as you did before? This Plan anticipates that a growing number of faculty and staff may need to return to their respective campus or another University work location (either regularly or intermittently), not because of personal preference, but to effectively complete their work. Some categories of work currently permitted may include:
- Researchers and their supporting staff whose research requires their physical presence to advance research goals or grant requirements;
- Faculty whose work requires their physical presence to complete.
- Instructors and Adjuncts who may require access to offices or other equipment to accomplish their duties; or
- Administrative functions that are not otherwise possible if working from home.
In particular, returning employees typically include:
- Those who would normally engage with students, faculty, staff, or the public, and can work without permitting others into their workspace.
- Those who can demonstrate an ability to maintain social distancing, which could include staggered shifts by time or day, relocation, or other solutions.
- Those who may not fit neatly into these categories but have a personalized return to work plan unique to their work environment, subject to approval by their management.
- Employees who were already designated as “Essential On-Campus” or those who have been approved to conduct essential business and have been working on site already, will continue to do so.
Workforce Options to Continue to Maintain Social Distancing
Once staff members have been instructed to return on-site, there are several options departments may consider maintaining for required social distancing measures and reducing population density within buildings and work-spaces.
Remote Work: Those who can work remotely to fulfill at least some of their work responsibilities may continue to do so to reduce the number of individuals on campus and the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus. These arrangements would be approved by the immediate supervisor and divisional VP.
Alternating Days: To limit the number of individuals and interactions among those on campus, departments should schedule partial staffing on alternating days. Such schedules will help enable social distancing, especially in areas with large common work-spaces.
Staggered Reporting/Departing: The beginning and end of the workday typically bring many people together at common entry/exit points of buildings. Staggering reporting and departure times by at least 30 minutes will reduce traffic in common areas to meet social distancing requirements.
Note: Return to Work training will be required for all employees to provide an understanding of the new workplace. Employees must complete this training in advance of return to onsite work.
What to Consider When Choosing How to Allow Employees to Work
- Evaluate the current remote work process. What has worked? Which processes can be completed remotely? Can employees be supervised by a remote manager? Will the employee require access to equipment and data that is only available onsite or can access be appropriately provided remotely?
- Assess privacy and cybersecurity concerns for those working remotely or hybrid. Work with IT for any additions or changes needed.
- Establish what the expectations will be for those who are working remotely. This may be different than it has been during this initial period.
- Consider alternate schedules. Extend hours and days so employees can be in the office at different times. If practical, scheduling employees on Saturdays or Sundays or on different shifts will permit more employees to be onsite. Alternating teams with onsite and remote work (i.e. Week 1 onsite MWF, Week 2 TR).
- According to the CDC, individuals with certain conditions may have a higher risk of COVID-19 infection. Employees who have been instructed to return to work on-site and have concerns about doing so due to a medical condition should consult with a medical professional. If an employee feels they cannot return to work due to a high-risk category, they will need to provide documentation from a medical professional and a completed request form to Human Resources for appropriate review and consideration for further accommodating measures.
- In instances where an employee feels that the existing accommodating measures may not reasonably and adequately address the employee’s particular set of health-related circumstances, the employee may request from the University further accommodations or modifications.
- These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis to see if any further reasonable accommodations/modifications can be provided to address the employee’s circumstances beyond the accommodating measures already adopted or otherwise not addressed by other relevant University policies or governmental laws/programs.
- Please note that the submission of such a request for further accommodation/modification does not guarantee that a further reasonable accommodation/modification can be found or granted or may differ from the specific one requested by the employee. Also, The Office of Human Resources will provide guidance on the applicability of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the use of sick time, etc. in a post-COVID environment.
- Generally, supervisors must encourage employees to stay home when sick, discourage public conversations about the health status of any employee, and continue to follow applicable laws and policies.
During this planning stage, consider how departmental communication will occur. Acknowledge the uncertainty but motivate the team to move forward. Employees will need to feel secure that there is transparency in communications. As a leader, your message will be specific to your department.
THE OFFICE OF HUMAN RESOURCES STRESSES THE FOLLOWING GUIDANCE:
MANGERS & SUPERVISORS SHOULD NOT:
- Ask employees to disclose their personal health status or medical conditions.
- Discuss, question or list concerns regarding an employee’s symptoms or perceived medical condition publicly or in open spaces.
- Assume an employee has contracted COVID-19 upon return from travel. However, it is appropriate to explain to employees that they should follow CDC guidelines before returning to the office, and contact their manager as to whether it is necessary to self-quarantine for 14 days.
MANAGERS & SUPERVISORS SHOULD:
- Discourage interoffice conversations that include negative comments about colleagues that blame them for the spreading of contagion, assume someone has COVID-19, mock those who have COVID-19and/or disclose the personal health status and medical conditions of others.
- Immediately send an employee home if they are exhibiting observable symptoms and/or behaviors in alignment with a severe cold, flu or COVID-19or are otherwise “under the weather” in a manner that impacts their ability to successfully perform their duties.
- Explain to employees that the guidelines to request to utilize sick leave and/or file a claim or report under FMLA still apply. If an employee is unwell and/or required to practice social distancing and unable to work, they should use sick time.
- Require employees that are returning from approved leave to provide their department with a Medical Release to Full Duty.
- Maintain any information in connection with an employee request for leave based upon a medical condition confidential in compliance with HIPAA requirements, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Encourage a healthy workplace by promoting that employees participate in appropriate training and adopt infection control practices in the workplace.
- Refer to the University’s website for more applicable information.
Helping Employees Fearful of Returning to the Workplace
Fear manifests itself differently in different people. Consider that some of your employees may be worried about their children and/or aging family members. They may also be at wit’s end because they’re juggling childcare and work; and then there’s fear about economic security or contracting the virus.
You can’t eliminate those fears, but you can and should encourage your people to be honest about what they’re feeling. And in return? Listen. Then, give them clear, transparent communication about what you know, what you don’t know, and what we are doing as a university to lower the risks for staff and keep them safe on campus.
Policy Additions and Revisions
The following policies will be updated in consideration of COVID-19:
- Contract Employee Guidelines
- Disability Accommodation
- Donated Leave Policy
- Time & Attendance
- Time Away From Your Job
The following policies and procedures have been or will be created due to COVID-19:
Useful Posters from the CDC
Important information about cloth face coverings
Protect yourself and others from COVID-19