OSU Extension COVID-19 Information

The Ohio State University – State of Emergency remains in place
The university state of emergency remains in place until further notice... This is pursuant to Ohio State’s Disaster Preparedness and University State of Emergency Policy (Policy 6.17). A policy FAQ is available online. This declaration enables university leaders to utilize Disaster Leave (Policy 6.28) and is essential to give the university flexibility in making a variety of financial decisions over an extended period if necessary. The emergency declaration will be revisited on a weekly basis as circumstances evolve.

In-Person Programming Update (April 2021) 
We have been granted the ability to cease the in-person exemption process and, effective immediately, NO NEW in-person programming exemptions will need to be submitted for review – if there will be FEWER than 300 attendees. For this waiver of the in-person exemption process to remain in place, we MUST continue to ensure that health and safety measures are followed, including physical distancing and sanitizing. We will still be required to take names for potential contact tracing. In-person programs with more than 300 attendees will still need an exemption. For full in-person guidelines, see the OSU Extension Planning Guide for In-Person Meetings and Events

4-H-specific updates: As shared with all 4-H professionals by Kirk Bloir, state 4-H leader, the updated OSU Extension guidance does apply to 4-H programming. This includes club meetings and other typical 4-H events (e.g., fundraisers, community service, other community engagement activities, etc.). Also, 4-H clubs can now meet as a larger group, as long as they adhere to COVID precautions – physical distancing, properly worn face masks, frequent hand hygiene, self-monitoring for symptoms. Local health department determinations must be followed (e.g., smaller group sizes, etc.). 

If you are offering day camps only, you do NOT need to submit a facility plan. You do, however, need to continue to follow the camp guidance we’ve shared. Overnight camping facilities will still need to submit their plans, since it involves sleeping. 4-H fundraisers and community service projects may now take place. These 4-H events must also follow physical distancing and sanitizing guidance.  

OSU Extension Office Guidance (April 2021) 
As communities, businesses, and other organizations have adjusted work-in-office expectations during current pandemic conditions, OSU Extension has also transitioned and reopened our county offices fully to the public as of June 1. We have been leaders in creating safe work and learning environments during COVID-19, and we will continue to pay attention to the public health information at the local levels to ensure we remain healthy. Our return-to-offices plans will continue to be an evolution; and we understand there are many complexities to getting everyone back to offices for the majority of their work time (e.g., childcare, school openings, health considerations). However, it is important for us to move in this direction to continue to optimally meet the needs of our stakeholders and the communities we serve. 

Starting Tuesday, June 1, 2021, the people density in Extension offices can be up to 100%, provided that physical distancing requirements are maintained and all other university and CFAES guidelines for safe and healthy Buckeyes are followed. 

Key assumptions: 

  • Every position within Extension is valued plays a key role in our mission. 

  • Office plans need to balance individual, team, organizational, and community needs. 

  • Each office plan will look different, due to staffing and funding. 

  • County plans need to be developed as a unit and may change, because the COVID-19 situation remains fluid. 

Expectations: 

  • Effective June 1, ALL county offices are open and accessible to the public equivalent to pre-pandemic hours (five days per week in most offices unless authorized by the director of Operations to be open less due to funding, staffing capacity, etc.). 

  • No one is 100% telework, effective June 1. 

  • If room allows, up to 100% capacity is appropriate (30-foot square distance between staff). 

  • Plans should reflect local need (inclusive of personnel, clientele, community, etc.). 

  • Each position has a specific set of duties and responsibilities which need to be taken into consideration when developing the office plans for each unit. 

  • Support staff should maintain a physical presence within offices during regular (locally established) business hours, because they serve as the first line of engagement for clientele/visitors/stakeholders and play a critical role in supporting the work of the office. 

  • Program personnel (e.g., program assistants, educators, specialists) are directly responsible for a broad range of programmatic and research activities and may need to have a greater degree of flexibility for physical time in the office and out in the community at program sites, community partner meetings, and area and state team engagements. 

  • Program personnel and employees serving in administrative leadership roles carry out their work in multiple locations and across varying hours in any given week (i.e., over the course of a year, they are engaged an average of 40 hours per week). 

  • Office teams will cooperate to ensure the office is covered, when program requirements allow. Office coverage should include at least two people. Proactive scheduling and communication is key! 

  • Regardless of position and duties, the availability of every employee within workday hours should be known and can be communicated to clientele. 

Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs): Existing telework agreements will be replaced with FWAs approved by supervisors, effective June 1. Requests for telework, compressed work weeks, or other flexible work arrangements MUST be reflected in a formal flexible work arrangement (FWA). Note: Individual flexibility must be considered within the context of the role for which one was hired, what’s allowable within the policy, and the context of the unit in which one works. There must be a balance between individual, team, community, and organizational needs and expectations. Flexible work schedules are not simply based on a preference for work hours or telework location. 

Compressed work weeks and staggered start/stop times will be considered in the context of the unit, reflected in the office plan, and included in a formal FWA. For example, if an individual is requesting a compressed week (four days/10 hours per day), this must be considered by the supervisor in the context of each unit/county and should not impede the overall functioning of the office and/or the quality of programming or services offered to clientele. 

Formal Accommodations: These should be requested asap via the HR process. Qualifying reasons for requesting a modification include certain health conditions, caring for family members, and child-care responsibilities. For more specific human resources and FAQs, visit safeandhealthy.osu.edu/accommodations. The accommodation also needs to be worked into the office staffing plan.

Flexible Office Arrangements: The primary responsibility for ensuring the office is open belongs to the office associate. However, when the office associate is off or not scheduled at the time of opening or closing or has a scheduled Zoom meeting or training, other office colleagues will provide that coverage and it will be made clear who is handling coverage for any specific time frame. There is an expectation that everyone takes lunch and is not required to cover the front door during the lunch break. Offices can be closed for the lunch period, but drop boxes must be available. Don’t forget about using “fiscal volunteers” for additional coverage needs in counties, when needed. Teamwork and communication is key and expected! 

Professional Scheduling: Flexible work arrangement requests are not the same as an occasional need for flexibility. Flexible work arrangements last longer than two months. Professional scheduling is based on trust, and communication with colleagues is paramount. Supervisors and offices should be aware of professional scheduling plans. You know when you will be working late; and your office should be aware of your evening or weekend hours and when you plan to professionally flex some hours. Be proactive and highly communicative with your colleagues and local team members. 

Ongoing Evaluation of Local Office Plans: All offices should be reviewing their office plans on a regular basis and making adjustments as needed and warranted, in conjunction with their area leaders. This will ensure that our offices are staffed appropriately, life/work balance is addressed, and the needs of our clientele and our people are optimally met. 

More specific information about office work schedules can also be found in the FAQs. If you have any questions or need more specific information about how to approach planning for the return to offices, reach out to your area leader or to Jeff McCutcheon (mccutcheon.30@osu.edu).