Note: These will be updated and incorporated with previous FAQs on the Extension website in the near future.
Q: How will the results of the return-to-office survey be used?
A: While each county office (with plan on file) should be back in full capacity by June 1 (necessary density and approved formal accommodations not withstanding), this survey will provide additional information about how people are seeing life/work balance and any additional support and training they might need. The survey is confidential. Results of the survey will be shared with everyone in both a summary and as raw data with any possibility of individual identification removed.
4-H camp and Extension event/program use of face masks – Effective June 1, 2021 (the start date of our first 4-H overnight camps), face masks are not required to be worn inside or outside at 4-H camp (day or overnight). Also, face masks are not required to be worn outside at any OSU Extension (including 4-H) programs and activities.
However, face masks are strongly recommended for those who are not yet fully vaccinated (strongly recommended means the individual chooses to wear a mask or not).
You can include the following message in your pre-meeting/event/program communications with clientele: Individuals and/or family members may not attend if they or anyone living their household is experiencing any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of sense of taste or smell, or has been directly exposed (confirmed or suspected) to COVID-19 if they are not fully vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccinations are our best current protection against infection and a fatal outcome. Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a face mask; however we strongly recommend eligible, but unvaccinated, individuals continue to properly wear a face mask when social distancing cannot be maintained.
County office use of face masks – Although 4-H camps have been granted permission to be held without the use of face masks, at this time, no change has been made to the university guidance about wearing face masks inside by all individuals at all other university-owned property. This general university requirement continues to be discussed/considered in light of evolving pandemic conditions (e.g. new COVID-19 variants).
A reminder: As the case has been to date, know that these guidelines may be modified at any time if conditions change, and/or if the guidance is not followed, and/or if a local health department issues more stringent requirements.
Q: Are we allowed to continue posting signs that masks are required in the office, and ask clients who enter to wear masks until statewide or university requirements are relaxed?
A: As a university (as of May 26, 2021), we are still required to wear masks indoors; and yes, you can have the sign up until such time as this guidance changes.
Q: Can we discuss with peers our vaccination status?
A: You can share your status with anyone you would like to; but you cannot share the status of others even if they disclose it to you, and you cannot ask anyone else’s vaccination status.
Events, Programming, Meetings
Note: All guidelines can be modified at any time, and if local health department guidance is more stringent. It is important to note that county health departments often operate very differently.
Q: What about physical distancing while at camp?
A: As much as possible, strive to maintain at least 6 feet distance between cohorts; and within cohorts strive to maintain at least 3 feet between attendees as much as possible.
Q: What about other camp guidelines?
A: The updated guidelines that Kirk Bloir and Hannah Epley shared on May 21, 2021 continue to be in effect. These changes are reflected in the documents in the 4-H Professionals BuckeyeBox folder.
Q: Can food preservation workshops occur?
A: All programming can occur, but must follow the most recent health and safety guidelines.
Q: Can there be food consumption at meetings and events?
A: Box lunches and eating “socially distant” is acceptable. No buffets are allowed. Follow health and safety guidelines.
The community nutrition program and the Extension director’s office are connecting with university and other officials about how to handle food in regard to activities with SNAP-Ed and EFNEP in-person programs at which food and meals are prepared and shared with participants as part of the program.
Q: Have we heard anything about meeting room capacity limits being relaxed?
A: Guidance for university facilities (including conference room meeting spaces) is being considered in advance of fall classes. In our own facilities, we follow the current recommended guidelines (30 square feet per person is still in effect at this time).
Q: Is taking attendance at meetings and events still required?
A: Collecting participant information is still required, in case we need to do contact tracing if a case of COVID-19 is reported after an event or meeting. This requirement will remain in effect until the Ohio Department of Health ceases COVID-19 contact tracing.
Q: What are some of the benefits we could see with a hybrid learning approach?
A: Some technical issues faced with full online learning could be eliminated with the hybrid approach, especially for some audiences with limited internet access. Recording of events and reuse of that content at in-person events could be a win-win for all attendees. This approach can help eliminate county boundaries in some situations where specialized expertise can be shared on-site and online with a wider audience than county-only.
Office Cleaning, Physical Space Considerations
Q: What is the expectation for sanitizing in an office?
A: Guidance from Safe and Healthy Buckeyes recommends cleaning and disinfecting high-touchpoint areas and restrooms once a day in FOD-maintained buildings. While a reduction from autumn 2020 and spring 2021 levels, this approach meets CDC guidance. High-touchpoints include door handles, faucets, handrails, and other commonly touched surfaces in high-traffic areas. A detailed overview and FAQs are posted on the FOD COVID-19 cleaning page. Our own safety experts are reviewing the guidelines as well, and they will release more Extension and CFAES-specific information if necessary.
You are welcome to sanitize more often or agree as an office how to approach sanitizing areas like the printers, the kitchen, and other high-touch areas in your particular space.
Office Work Schedules and Expectations
Reminder: No matter what arrangements are made for staffing an office, the needs of the community must be met; and there should be ongoing and effective communication within the office.
Q: Can you provide any clarification on flexible work arrangements and when it would be appropriate to telework, or when something is professional scheduling especially for educators?
A: There is a distinction between flexible work arrangements (FWA), formal accommodations, and professional scheduling. A brief summary is listed below, but more complete information and link to university resources is posted in the May 7 issue of News and Notes. The original message was posted in the April 22 issue of News and Notes.
- Professional scheduling means making adjustments made as needed during a given week. An employee must update his or her supervisor as needed; and any schedule adjustments should be proactively shared with the entire office. Example: There are “peak seasons” for educators when an educator has more evening meetings or extra work time on the weekend. The educator may adjust weekly hours in the office to account for some personal tasks that normally would be handled outside of “normal” office hours but those hours were dedicated to work-related activities (e.g., meetings, trainings, grant writing).
- Flexible work arrangements are more predictable and longer-term situations (e.g., working from home once a week as part of a telework arrangement, or compressed work week). These will be handled in three-month time periods; they must be a formalized work arrangement made with the employee’s supervisor, discussed with office mates, and signed off on by the Director of Operations.
- Formal accommodations are time-limited schedule adjustments for reasons such as certain health conditions, caring for family members, and child-care responsibilities; and they are approved by Human Resources. Formal accommodations require written documentation from one’s health care provider. For more specific human resources and FAQs, visit safeandhealthy.osu.edu/accommodations.
- For additional information, decision-making tools, and links to flexible work policies, visit hr.osu.edu/policies/flexible-work/.
Q: How do we handle staffing of the local office during all hours of the week?
A: First, your county office is only expected to be open the days/hours that you were pre-COVID. So, if you were open for limited days/hours each week before the pandemic, the same is true now. However, your entire office staff needs to discuss together how to cover the office during the hours you are open.
The primary responsibility for ensuring that the office is open belongs to the support staff members. However, when support staff are off work because of work arrangements, scheduled time off, personal needs, the other office colleagues will need to provide that coverage. You also need to be clear about how coverage will be handled in each office before it is needed.
Q: How do we work SNAP-Ed or EFNEP staff into the office plan-of-work right now?
A: Although community nutrition professionals did help with a few more general office things during telework, they have historically not been allowed by the grant to do much general office work and we expect that will return more to the pre-pandemic level over the next few months.
Q: How do we handle office coverage during lunch?
A: Everyone is expected to take a lunch break, and offices are allowed to be closed for a lunch hour. Note that Human Resources does expect all employees to take a lunch break, because it is provided for a reason. Those in the front office in particular are not required to cover the front door during a lunch break. Staggering lunch hours among staff is allowed. You are also allowed to put a closed sign on the office door, as long as there is a drop box or other method for people to leave items for office staff, if necessary.
Q: Are main campus and regional campus offices operating on a different return-to-office timeline?
A: Yes, main campus and the regional campuses are working toward having everybody back in place when the students come back in the fall, so most offices in those locations are seeing people return for a few days here and there, but they are not expected to be back in the office full-time until about mid-August. Again, this follows university guidelines, so those dates may change as campus expectations for fall are adjusted and shared over the next few weeks.
Q: How do we handle computer, other equipment that was loaned or assigned to us during telework?
A: OCIO will be working with everyone to determine strategies for returning any extra equipment if you're returning to the office and your approved plan does not include working from home on a regular basis. If you have a second computer or laptop computer, for instance, and you had a desktop at the office and you just want to work with your desktop when you get back, then you would return the extra equipment. If you want to switch out to a laptop because you found that useful, this will entail a discussion with your supervisor and OCIO, especially to determine potential additional costs for your office. The college has been covering extra equipment costs during COVID-19 full telework requirements, but after the next 30 to 60 days, extra equipment would then become a local unit cost.