COVID Workforce Update
OSU is preparing for employees to return to on-campus work in a phased-in approach anticipating normal operations for fall 2021.
Returning to Work On Campus
OSU continues to monitor information related to COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the State of Oklahoma, University Health Services (UHS), and the Payne County Health Department. Accordingly, policies, expectations, guidelines, and best practices will be updated as appropriate. OSU is taking reasonable actions to help employees remain healthy while continuing to engage in our higher education mission.
- Returning to Campus
As we look ahead at returning to on-campus operations in full force, doing our part to protect the health and wellbeing of our fellow Cowboys in the face of COVID-19 has never been more critical. We urge everyone to take personal responsibility in following recommended guidelines, as only through a collective, cooperative effort can we help protect our campus community.
Supervisors should continue to allow flexibility of remote work options through the spring semester ending May 14, 2021. College/division leadership should create a phased approach in bringing employees back to on-campus work prior to the fall 2021 semester allowing for proper social distancing, prioritization of work activities, and effectively communicate those expectations with their employees.
Returning to on-campus work may involve a variety of options to maintain social distancing measures, including continuing remote work, alternative scheduling such as alternating days on-campus, or staggering work schedules, and altering workspace to ensure social distancing can be maintained. Current accommodations due to COVID-19 approved by the Office of Equal Opportunity for staff and faculty will expire on May 14, 2021. Accommodations needed beyond May 14, will require updated medical documentation from the appropriate treating physician and will be reviewed on an individual basis through the Office of Equal Opportunity. Additionally, temporary alternate work location agreements for staff and faculty that were completed and approved, will also expire on May 14, 2021. Employees and supervisors will be contacted by their HR Consultant.
Supervisors are responsible for communicating with employees regarding the anticipated date of return to on-campus work, including a timeline and department/job specific instructions to prepare for the transition.
- Employee Self-Screenings
Employees should continue to perform daily self-screenings before reporting to on-campus work to check for new or worsening symptoms of possible COVID-19. Below is a list of currently reported symptoms, but it is important to note this list does not include all possible symptoms. Refer to the CDC website or your healthcare provider for the most current information.
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
To help prepare for returning to work on campus, please review this employee checklist.
- Higher Risk Considerations
In preparation for return to on-campus work, employees are encouraged to assess their risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Current accommodations due to COVID-19 approved by the Office of Equal Opportunity for staff and faculty will expire on May 14, 2021. Accommodations needed beyond May 14, will require updated medical documentation from the appropriate treating physician and will be reviewed on an individual basis through the Office of Equal Opportunity. For additional information please refer to the COVID-19 Protocols for Fall 2021.
If you consider yourself to be high-risk for COVID-19 based on CDC guidelines and have concerns returning to on-campus work, please have discussions with your supervisor and/or contact the Office of Equal Opportunity at 405.744.9153 or email@example.com. The Office of Equal Opportunity may ask for medical documentation to assess the need for a reasonable accommodation.
- Positive COVID-19 Case on Campus
As employees continue to return to on-campus work, OSU will continue to follow the guidance of national and local health officials in our response to a positive diagnosis on campus. If we receive confirmation that an OSU student or employee has had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, there are important measures that will be promptly taken including quarantine or isolation, contact tracing, communication, and facility disinfection. When a member of the OSU community self-reports they are symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19, please contact University Health Services at 405.744.7287 immediately. Additionally, supervisors are asked to continue to report employees who test positive for COVID-19 and require additional assistance to complete the COVID reporting form.
- Swab Pod
Employees are encouraged to use the COVID-19 testing resource available through University Health Services.
- Contact Tracing
Timely identification of potentially impacted individuals is critical during a public health crisis. OSU uses a range of methods for contact tracing to aid in notification of individuals at risk for COVID19.
- Cleaning of University Facilities
OSU Facilities Management will continue to provide touch-point cleaning and disinfecting in campus buildings and within areas of increased-use or higher risk. OSU maintains alcohol-based hand sanitizer and replacement wall-mount dispensers to refill the currently installed hand sanitizers located throughout campus.
Facilities Management (FM) has also purchased electrostatic and hydrogen peroxide vapor disinfection equipment for applying preventive disinfectant coverage to targeted areas. If an emergency response is required, FM has several third-party professionals ready and available to treat or remediate campus locations.
- Using a Public Bathroom
The best defenses against bathroom contagions are a face covering, social distancing, limiting the surfaces you touch with your hands and hand hygiene. Here are a few reminders about public bathroom use:
- Consider larger bathrooms with multiple stalls because they have more air circulation
- Wear a face covering
- Be respectful of distance – allow others to exit before you enter
- If someone exits a bathroom stall or a single bathroom right before you, try waiting at least 60 seconds before entering
- Limit the surfaces you touch with your hands
- If the toilet has a lid, close it before you flush so it traps the plume
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Avoid shared, reusable hand towels
- Limit time in the bathroom
- If you have to use a door to exit, use paper towel to open the door or use hand sanitizer after you leave
- Face Coverings/Masks
All OSU students, staff, faculty, contractors, vendors, suppliers, and visitors must wear a face covering (mask) upon entering any campus building. This includes any individual(s) who has received the vaccine. Until we have some level of herd immunity, the vaccine is another layer of protection against COVID-19. We know that COVID-19 can be spread when people are asymptomatic. Wearing face coverings has been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to others. It’s important to our employees and students that OSU is a safe place to work and study, and taking this step creates a safe environment for all of us as advised by the CDC. As a reminder, face coverings do not replace the need to maintain social distancing, frequent handwashing, and our rigorous cleaning and disinfecting routines. Please continue diligence in this area and do your part to keep our campus community safe.
Please adhere to the following guidelines for face coverings:
- You may wear your own clean, well-maintained, and professional face covering from home instead of the OSU-provided covering if you choose.
- You must wear a face covering at all times in hallways, classrooms, public spaces, and other common areas across campus where social distancing is hard to maintain.
- Face coverings are also required outdoors if safe social distancing is not possible.
- You should carry at least two face coverings with you daily to ensure that you have a replacement if one becomes unusable while you are on campus.
Failure to wear face coverings is considered a violation of the university’s expected and communicated behaviors and guidelines and will be addressed through the appropriate Human Resources corrective action avenues.
Please Note: OSU’s expectations and requirements for face coverings may change based on guidance from the CDC and other agencies.
- Exceptions for Wearing Face Coverings
If you have a health-related concern with wearing a face covering for work, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity at 405.744.7607 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a student with health-related concerns regarding wearing a face covering for class, please contact Student Accessibility Services at 405.744.7116 or email@example.com.
Guidance for Workplaces
- In-Office Workspaces
Departments should assess open work environments to institute measures to physically separate and increase the distance between employees to ensure social distancing can be maintained. If possible, have at least one workspace separating employees. Employees who have individual offices are not required to wear face coverings unless another individual enters. If more than one person is in a room, face coverings should be worn at all times.
- Technology Equipment
Ensure all Information Technology equipment used to telework is packed and ready to return to campus. If assistance is needed with setup, contact your department’s technical support unit.
Supervisors should communicate expectations as it relates to in-person meetings. As much as possible, continue with utilizing technology, i.e. Zoom and Microsoft Team meetings, phone calls, and email. If in-person meetings cannot be avoided, chairs and tables should be rearranged with visual cue marks to ensure social distancing between attendees. All attendees are required to wear face coverings while sharing space in a common room.
- Returning to Work After COVID-19
Consider how you will transition and reengage your employees. It’s important to understand that the work environment post-COVID-19 will not be the same as the one you left.
Additionally, employees may display varied emotions as they return to work. Paying attention to these emotions that could disrupt a successful return to on-campus work can be helpful. Some of the most common feelings may be:
- Irritation or anger
- Lacking drive or motivation
- Chronic fatigue, being overwhelmed, or even burned out
- Unusual sadness or depression
- Insomnia or unusual disruption to sleep patterns
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
Supervisors are encouraged to provide support to their employees. When supervisors show an understanding of employee needs, and circumstances they are more likely to respond in a more positive manner. This also creates an atmosphere of trust and understanding that motivates employees to apply themselves more fully to work.
- Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
While returning to work on-campus includes logistical and operational planning, supervisors must consider their employee’s emotional and psychological health.
COVID-19 impacts the way we work and interact with one another. These changes can be difficult and can lead to anxiety. If employees have concerns around COVID-19, the university has a number of resources available to help provide support. It’s important to not suffer in silence.
Employees may have also experienced the loss of a loved one, job loss, and/or financial strain due to the pandemic. Assisting employees in managing their mental health will help employees reengage in the workplace. Contact your HR Consultant for assistance in supporting your employees.
OSU is committed to supporting our employee’s well-being. This pandemic can be stressful both personally and in the workplace. Some resources available to employees are:
- OSU’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers employees and their dependents confidential support, resources, and information for personal work-life issues. These services are part of your benefits package and are available at no additional cost to you. Learn more by clicking here.
- University Health Services provides free and confidential initial assessments, short-term counseling, and referral services for employees and their household members via the Employee Assistant Program (EAP).
- TAO Self-Help is an online library of engaging, interactive programs to learn life skills and to help you bounce back from disappointments or stumbling blocks. TAO is free and available to anyone at OSU with a working @okstate email address.
- The CDC has published information about Coping with Stress during this time.
- Center for Family Services is an on-campus, outpatient mental health clinic open to individuals, couples, and families. Their mission is to provide high-quality, low-cost marriage and family therapy services to OSU faculty, staff, students, and the Stillwater community within a training environment for graduate students in marriage and family therapy.
- Psychological Services Center (PSC) provides services to children, adolescents, and adults. Services are available to residents of Stillwater and the surrounding community, as well as OSU students, faculty, and staff.
Employees are encouraged to visit the Department of Wellness for a full list of mental health resources by clicking here.
- Travel Policy
Due to the risks associated with the COVID-19, OSU is installing these temporary guidelines to assist you in planning for domestic and international travel activities.
Given the continuing guidance of state, federal and world health organizations, the domestic and international travel guidelines have been modified:
- Effective March 13, all university-sponsored international travel is prohibited until further notice.
- International travel for personal reasons is strongly discouraged.
- Effective immediately, all in and out-of-state travel for University-related business or academic purposes is suspended until further notice, unless such travel is essential to the university and approved by the Provost or the appropriate Vice President. All employees may continue to travel to and from work. OSU Extension field staff will receive further clarification specific to their work responsibilities from Vice President Coon. Reimbursement will not be processed from any funding source for travel (in and out-of-state) on or after March 18 that does not include approval by the Provost or appropriate Vice President.
These changes will be in effect until further notice.
Are we still hiring?
At this time, we must limit hiring to fill critical needs of the university as they may arise. We will continue to adjust our ability to hire in response to the pandemic. Please continue to explore the career opportunities with Oklahoma State University on our career site.
How is OSU handling interviews during this time?
Many hiring managers have adapted to recruitment in a virtual environment. In many cases, an interview may occur over the phone or through video chat (Zoom or Skype for example). Visit a website such as this one, 7 Tips for Conducting a Seamless Video Job Interview, for tips to navigate the technology.
In preparation for in person interviews, please visit the Campus Operations Guidance for the latest guidelines and expectations for visitors.
The following safety measures are currently in place:
- Everyone must wear a face covering (mask) upon entering any public building on campus
- Maintain at least six feet of distance between one another
- No more than 10 participants in a large room
- Continue good hygiene practices: wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds frequently; do not shake hands; cover your cough/sneeze; clean all high-touch areas in your office; do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- If symptoms of COVID-19 develop, please follow CDC guidance and do not come to campus
- Background Check Screening Update
Our background check screening vendor, Truescreen, has continued to monitor and report on the status of sources for information as the situation changes daily due to the spread of COVID-19. Reports of county court offices closing in some parts of the nation may cause an interruption to the background check screen. Due to this, we may receive reports with a partial verification of the entire background check as a result of those court closures. Our vendor, Truescreen, is sending daily updates to monitor the closures and tracking our cases.
In the meantime, we have the following plan of action in place: OSU HR will determine employment eligibility based on the available information on the background check. You will receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org to notify you if there is a full clearance or if further screening will occur once the county court office resumes business. As we await Truescreen’s completed verification, you may decide to do one of the following:
- Allow the employee to begin work knowing the employee has not successfully completed the background check.
- Continue to wait for the final employment determination from us before the employee may begin working.
At this time, we are unable to estimate the turnaround time for a completed verification. We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our plan of action accordingly.
Remember all offers of employment are contingent upon the successful completion of the entire background check. OSU reserves the right to rescind offers of employment based on the review of the background check information.
Refer to Policy 3-0771, Background Check Policy for Faculty and Graduate Assistants/Associates (Teaching and Research), for information.
- Will OSU require vaccinations for all students and employees?
We strongly encourage all in the OSU community to be vaccinated as it will contribute to herd immunity. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. Review current COVID-19 information at go.okstate.edu/coronavirus.
- Can I ask employees whether they have been vaccinated?
No. Supervisors should not ask employees whether they have been vaccinated. OSU encourages employees to become fully vaccinated, but it is important to respect that people may choose to not receive the vaccine due to personal, religious, or health reasons.
- What should I say if an employee asks me whether they should receive the vaccine?
We strongly encourage all in the OSU Community to be vaccinated, but vaccination is not mandatory at this time. Please refer employees to Vaccine FAQs or they can contact University Health Services at 405.744.7665.
- Is getting vaccinated expected as part of the process of returning to on-campus work?
No. Although we strongly encourage all in the OSU community to be vaccinated as a matter of public health, it is not a requirement to return to on-campus work.
Whether or not employees are fully vaccinated, university leadership is continuing to encourage remote work, if possible, through the end of the spring semester, May 14, 2021.
- Can I require my employees to be vaccinated before returning to on-campus work?
No. Neither the university, the CDC, nor any federal, state, or local public health authority has mandated that any group of employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of returning to on-campus work.
OSU is not requiring that employees be vaccinated, however, we strongly encourage all in the OSU community to be vaccinated. Supervisors should work with employees and offer flexibility to allow employees to get vaccinated.
- Once an employee returns to on-campus work, do all considerations for remote work
Unless there are business/operations needs that require the employee to be on campus, it is best to consider remote work agreements and provide flexibility regarding on-site and remote work through the end of the spring semester, May 14, 2021.
Current accommodations due to COVID-19 approved by the Office of Equal Opportunity for staff and faculty will expire on May 14, 2021. Accommodations needed beyond May 14, will require updated medical documentation from the appropriate treating physician and will be reviewed on an individual basis through the Office of Equal Opportunity.
Additionally, any staff and faculty who completed and were approved to work in an alternate work location, temporarily, will also expire on May 14, 2021. Employees and supervisors will be contacted by their HR Consultant.
- If an employee asks whether everyone in their workplace has been vaccinated, how do
Supervisors should not share employee health information; however, they can discuss university requirements regarding the continued use of face coverings, social distancing, and hand hygiene.
- Will I be informed of the vaccination status of other employees who share my workspace?
No. Vaccination status is personal health information. Additionally, in accordance with CDC guidance, current workplace safety practices are not affected by employee vaccinations. The university continues to expect all OSU students, staff, faculty contractors, vendors, suppliers, and visitors to wear a face covering upon entering any public building on campus, maintain social distancing, and practice hand hygiene.
- Are employees still required to wear a mask on campus after they are fully vaccinated?
Yes. OSU will continue to require all OSU students, staff, faculty, contractors, vendors, suppliers, and visitors to wear a face covering upon entering any public building on campus including any individual(s) who have received the vaccine. Until we have some level of herd immunity, the vaccine is another layer of protection against COVID-19.
Note: OSU’s expectations and requirements for face coverings may change based on guidance from the CDC and other agencies.
- Can employees use work time to receive their vaccine?
Employees are encouraged to get vaccinated. As much as possible, supervisors should work with employees and offer flexibility to those who are scheduled to receive a vaccination during hours they are scheduled to work. Faculty and staff may be eligible for admin leave use for vaccination appointments and should work with their supervisor and/or HR Consultant on reporting this leave.
- Can employees use available sick leave if they do not feel well and are unable to
work after receiving the vaccine?
Yes. Employees who do not feel well enough to work after receiving a vaccine dose can use their sick leave. Supervisors should work with employees and their HR Consultant to plan for possible absences and appropriate leave designation.
OSU Human Resources developed this information for the convenience of OSU employees. It is a brief interpretation of more detailed and complex materials. If further clarification is needed, the actual law and policy should be consulted as the authoritative source. OSU continually monitors benefits, policy, and procedures and reserves the right to change, modify, amend, or terminate programs at any time, with or without notice.