This is a summary of the longer original message in the April 22 issue. As communities, businesses, and other organizations adjust work-in-office expectations during current pandemic conditions, OSU Extension is also transitioning and planning to open our county offices fully to the public on 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. This return to offices 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, and continuing forward, 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. Note: If your office is ready to increase capacity now, you are not required to wait until June 1; however, you MUST have an approved plan in place before doing so.
- Effective Tuesday, June 1, 2021, ALL 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 Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
- 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). More information is spelled out in the April 22 message, as well as Ohio State’s guidelines at hr.osu.edu/policies/flexible-work.
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. If you know you will need an accommodation, begin the process now so the accommodation can 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.
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. 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. 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).