Working on Campus

As the national vaccination campaign continues to advance, Penn State is announcing plans for a phased return to on-campus work over the summer for Penn State employees, including a full return of staff and faculty to on-site work and instruction in fall 2021.

Informed by University, state and federal guidance, this page is dedicated to providing the latest information about Penn State’s plans to transition back to in-person work, and will be updated regularly.

Penn State's plans for summer and fall

As the national vaccination campaign continues to advance, Penn State is announcing plans for a phased return to on-campus work over the summer for Penn State employees, including a full return of staff and faculty to on-site work and instruction in fall 2021. All plans continue to evolve based on federal and state guidelines and include employee health and safety as the top priority.

Beginning in fall 2021 and consistent with pre-pandemic curriculum needs, schedules and practices, the University expects faculty to provide in-person rather than remote instruction for the start of classes on Aug. 23.

For now, remote work for staff continues where possible, however, the University’s Staff Transition Strategy Guidance outlines a path for units to return additional staff to on-site work during the summer and plans for a full return of staff to on-site work by Aug. 16. Supervisors can begin to add their remote staff to the return to work database June 1 on a rolling basis.

Once approved in the database, staff may return to their campus workplace, considering that all public health requirements are followed. Staff will work with their supervisor or unit leadership to determine the date of their return. Staff that need to continue remote working arrangements should visit the “Fall 2021 Process for Return to Work On-site for Staff.”

For additional information, please visit the Human Resources website.

Units are asked to consider the maximum occupancy of office spaces that takes current physical distancing guidelines into account. Employee on-site work may need to be staggered in order to comply with these guidelines, which are dependent on state guidance.

It is critical that all employees monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms daily before coming on campus to work and, if they are symptomatic, stay home and follow the University’s COVID-19 reporting protocols.

Employees must follow all public health requirements to limit the potential for virus transmission, including:

  • Wearing masks while on campus.

  • Practicing physical distancing.

  • Washing hands thoroughly.

  • Covering all coughs and sneezes.

Faculty guidance

The pandemic temporarily altered expectations regarding in-person instruction and other on-campus work by faculty and instructors beginning in spring 2020. As a result, the University implemented COVID instructional modes that provided a range of instructional options for courses during the course of the year and into 2021.

Beginning the first day of classes for fall 2021, and consistent with the transition strategy and pre-pandemic curriculum needs, schedules and practices, the University expects faculty to provide in-person rather than remote instruction. Learn more about Penn State's transition strategy here. The transition strategy is informed by health and safety guidance issued by the state of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and incorporates necessary flexibilities due to the changing situation of the pandemic.

Faculty exceptions

If a faculty member or a household member of the faculty member has a health condition that they believe precludes them from teaching in person in fall semester 2021, then they should complete the Faculty Work Adjustment Request Form and send it to their unit Human Resources Strategic Partner.

For more information on the adjustments process, please visit the adjustments process guidance.

Faculty members who are approved by the unit for a work adjustment may not teach or work remotely from another country. Faculty members with documented disabilities still may request reasonable accommodations under the ADA by contacting the University’s ADA Coordinator. For more information, please visit the faculty guidance page.

Staff guidance

The pandemic temporarily altered expectations regarding in-person work by staff beginning in spring 2020. As a result, the University implemented COVID work from home policies for the remainder of 2020, as well as spring 2021.

Beginning in fall 2021 and in accordance with Penn State’s transition strategy, the University expects staff to return to in-person work by Aug. 16. Learn more about Penn State's transition strategy here. The transition strategy is informed by health and safety guidance issued by the state of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and incorporates necessary flexibilities due to the changing situation of the pandemic.

Staff exceptions

Staff members who need to continue remote work during the fall may make a request to their supervisor to continue remote work on an interim basis for fall 2021. The supervisor will evaluate the request using specific criteria and after supervisor review, unit executives and human resources strategic partners will give final approval. Additionally, employees with documented disabilities may still request reasonable accommodations under the ADA by contacting the University’s ADA Coordinator.

For additional information, please visit the Human Resources website.

Research on campus

Penn State is committed to providing the safest possible environment for our researchers to continue their critical work. On-campus research is continuing in accordance with established safety procedures. The Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, in consultation with the vice dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Medicine, has provided guidance and protocols for safely conducting on-campus research activities.

During the pandemic, research-related activities that can be conducted remotely should continue in that manner when possible, and all researchers and units must have a responsive plan for conducting research safely. Environmental Health and Safety has also provided guidance for the proper cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch work areas and equipment in laboratory and research settings.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Many of the health and safety measures that have been put in place during the pandemic will continue for summer 2021 as the University begins its transition to fully on-site operations in fall 2021. Penn State will continue to align with CDC guidance for the cleaning and disinfecting of our facilities , including classrooms and other on-campus spaces. The Office of Physical Plant (OPP) cleaning guidance is available on the EHS COVID-19 website for Cleaning Resources and will be updated as recommendations and expectations from the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health continue to evolve.

Units also have protocols and schedules to clean and/or disinfect high-touch surfaces and shared equipment within their areas and offices. As part of these efforts, employees should avoid sharing tools and equipment as much as possible. Supervisors should stagger shifts, if possible, for high-use shared equipment and establish cleaning protocols between uses. Individual employees also are responsible for helping to maintain a clean work environment for themselves and others by cleaning and disinfecting desks, equipment, and materials before and after use.

More information about cleaning protocols is available on the University’s Environmental Health and Safety website.

Instructional spaces

For summer instructional sessions, all classrooms will maintain their current reconfiguration to allow for at least six feet of physical distancing, and masks are required to be worn at all times in the classroom. Masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) are available to all faculty teaching in-person classes. Guidance on PPE use and other health and safety considerations in classroom and laboratory spaces is available on the Keep Teaching website. The University will provide updates for this guidance as the CDC and PA Department of Education requirements and expectations continue to evolve.

The Office of Student Conduct also has developed two guidance documents to help faculty and staff members address situations when students do not comply with COVID-19 safety requirements in Penn State instructional spaces and offices. The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs has provided similar guidance around violations of mask-wearing requirements by instructors and researchers in instructional and research settings.

Workplace safety

Cloth masks are still required by employees working on campus. Additionally, soap and hand-sanitizer stations, cleaning products and disinfecting wipes are available for all units to purchase through Penn State General Stores. The University also maintains several thousand hand-sanitizer stations in high-traffic areas on its campuses. Like classrooms, alterations for this summer have been made to office environments to allow for proper physical distancing, and plexiglass shields have been installed in workspaces that require more face-to-face interactions. Distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues also have been placed in high-traffic areas across campuses to help promote physical distancing. The University will continue to monitor and follow CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines and provide updated workplace safety guidance as requirements evolve.

In accordance with Pennsylvania Department of Health requirements, each Penn State college, campus, institute, or research or administrative unit is required to designate a pandemic safety officer for each work location, such as a building or worksite, to respond to questions about the University’s COVID-19 safety plan requirements. The pandemic safety officer serves as a first level of contact to help implement unit-level COVID-19 safety plans and respond to questions and concerns raised by faculty and staff in their respective units. If individuals do not adhere to the University’s safety requirements, disciplinary measures will be elevated to the employee’s supervisor and human resources representative.

Human resources and employee information

The University may need to adjust the return to onsite work process based on factors related to the pandemic. In these situations, a unified process will be established to minimize the density on campus to adjust to changing factors. In these scenarios each unit’s RTW taskforce and Pandemic Safety Officers will develop these “off ramps” or alternate plans for the fall semester should COVID conditions and resultant health and safety guidelines preclude the full return of staff to campus. These plans would include analyzing each of the phased groupings and make determinations about which employees should continue remote work based on their roles and responsibilities similar to the process that was utilized to identify returning employees on-site during the summer.

Allocation of space is at the discretion of the unit. It is important for all employees to note that units must consider the maximum occupancy of office spaces that takes current physical distancing guidelines into account. Employee on-site work may need to be staggered in order to comply with these guidelines. 

For employees that have been working remotely during the pandemic, it is advised that they meet with their supervisor or academic unit leader to discuss working arrangements prior to their return to on-site work. 

Units should also work with their Pandemic Safety Officer and Facility Coordinator to see that building operations and custodial services are adequate for the employee population in each building. 

Units must consider the maximum occupancy of office spaces that takes current physical distancing guidelines into account. Employee on-site work may need to be staggered in order to comply with these guidelines.  

Units should work with their Pandemic Safety Officer and Facility Coordinator to ensure that Physical Plant building operations and custodial services are adequate for the employee population in each building. Units must see that there are adequate procedures, PPE, and cleaning supplies for an increase in employees onsite to maintain physical distancing and proper hygiene practices.  

Additionally, the return to campus work is in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health guidelines. Currently, protocols include wearing face masks and adhering to physical distancing practices, including maintaining six feet of physical distance between another person. 

The transition strategy includes flexibility as state and federal guidelines may change. Additional information about masking and physical distancing is available on the Health Guidelines page

For employees that are working in this type of situation, it is advised that they meet with their supervisor or academic unit leader to discuss working arrangements upon the return to campus work for all employees. 

The University strongly encourages all students, faculty and staff to take whichever vaccine is available to them the soonest. Currently, protocols include wearing face masks and adhering to physical distancing practices, including maintaining six feet of physical distance between another person. Additional information about masking and physical distancing is available on the Health Guidelines page.

If a Penn State employee chooses to disclose their vaccination status, they are free to do so; however, the University will not disclose employee vaccine information to other employees or supervisors. Those who choose to be vaccinated are protecting themselves, as well as others, and therefore should have no concerns about the non-vaccinated individuals in their office.

Employee vaccine information will not be disclosed to other employees. If a Penn State employee chooses to disclose their vaccination status, they are free to do so; however, the University will not share confidential medical information of individual employees. 

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