Working on Campus

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

All individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, are required to wear face masks while inside buildings on Penn State campuses. This applies to classrooms, meeting spaces and other shared public indoor areas. More information can be found on the Health Guidelines page.

Penn State's plans for the academic year

With the 2021-22 academic year underway, all plans continue to evolve based on federal and state guidelines and include employee health and safety as the top priority.

Staff that need to continue remote working arrangements should visit the “Fall 2021 Process for Return to Work On-site for Staff.” Staff members who need to continue remote work may make a request to their supervisor to continue remote work on an interim basis. 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.

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.

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 are continuing for spring 2022. 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

All students, faculty, staff and visitors — including those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated — are required to wear masks indoors at all campuses. The universal masking requirement applies to all classrooms, regardless of size, and other instructional spaces and indoor common areas.

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 Pennsylvania Department of Education requirements and expectations continue to evolve.

The Office of Student Conduct 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. In addition, the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence has developed a document with strategies that instructors can use to enforce mask-wearing in instructional spaces. It also describes the steps an instructor can take when a student does not comply with requests to wear a mask properly.

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

At this time, masks are required to be worn by all employees, regardless of their vaccination status, while inside buildings on Penn State campuses. This applies to classrooms, meeting spaces and other shared public indoor areas. Individuals are urged to wear well-fitting, multi-layered masks in accordance with the latest University and federal guidelines.

Masking outdoors and physical distancing are not required at this time, and masks do not need to be worn when actively eating or drinking. It is recommended that eating and drinking be done at the individual’s desk, outdoors, or in designated food service areas.

In addition, while masks are generally required in offices and other indoor work settings, masks are not required to be worn when working alone. Examples include:

  • Being isolated in a vehicle or inside an enclosed construction vehicle cab.

  • Working alone within an office, laboratory or classroom with four walls and a doorway.

  • Working alone and seated within a “tall” cubicle with three walls (5 feet or higher) and a door or entryway. Note standing in a cubicle, including working at a standing desk, requires masking.

Doors, if available, to these spaces are required to be closed when unmasked. If individuals in these spaces welcome visitors, it is acceptable to leave the door open slightly to acknowledge availability to enter the space, but masks must be worn when an employee is no longer alone.

More information about wearing masks in office settings is available here from Penn State Environmental Health and Safety. Additionally, information on air ventilation is available via Environmental Health and Safety.

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.

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

Under the federal contractor vaccine mandate, all employees at all Penn State campuses are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved medical/disability- or religious-related accommodation. This mandate is currently under an injunction and will not be implemented by Penn State on Jan. 4, however the injunction could be lifted in the near future. In the meantime, the University will continue with the current testing protocols already in place. Faculty and staff who are not fully vaccinated, including those working remotely, will be required to test weekly until the legal process is finalized.

For Tech service employees the University and Teamsters Local Union 8 have bargained about the effects of any valid, enforceable vaccine mandate for federal contractors. As of now that federal mandate is on hold by the federal court thus not requiring any technical service employees to be vaccinated or tested. In the event that the federal contractor vaccine mandate is reinstated by the federal courts, the University and Teamsters will follow the terms of their agreement and will bargain about the effects of the federal contract vaccine mandate, including a new effective date of any vaccine mandate. The agreement includes terms that describe the addition of other campuses to the vaccinate mandate. Specifically, the University must notify the Union and bargain over the implementation of the vaccine mandate at additional commonwealth campuses.

Individuals who were vaccinated in Pennsylvania and have misplaced their vaccination card can visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website for information on how to obtain vaccine evidence. Individuals who were vaccinated in another state and need vaccine verification information can call the local vaccine provider that administered the vaccine or contact the state health department. Information on how to obtain a new vaccination card or other evidence of vaccination also can be found on the CDC website.

Penn State officials are continuously monitoring public health and government guidance and requirements. As federal guidelines and mandates change, the University will communicate with the Penn State community how these changes affect students, faculty and staff.

No, the executive order does not permit an exception for those who have previously had COVID-19.

The following provides guidance for students and employees on eating indoors including in break areas. This guidance has been updated as we prepare for late fall and winter season and the availability of outdoor areas become limited.

Basic guidelines:

— Wear a mask except when you are actively eating or drinking. Masks help protect both you and those around you.

— Limit the period of unmasked contact, as well as the amount of time and the number of other individuals you are in contact with.

— The safest indoor places to eat are in private spaces or uncrowded public spaces. Maintain as much distance between individuals as possible.

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated there is no evidence that handling or eating food spreads COVID-19, but it is always important to follow good personal hygiene and basic food safety practices.

Eating in the workplace and break areas:

— To limit unmasked occasions while actively eating or drinking, it is recommended that you eat at your office desk or designated break areas.

— Minimize extended periods of contact with multiple employees eating within the same space or limited seating capacity in break areas by staggering mealtimes.

— Further, practice good personal hygiene by washing your hands before and after eating, as well as cleaning and sanitizing your food preparation surfaces and high-touch areas before and after.

Eating in the academic buildings:

— Academic units may designate areas within their facilities to support additional indoor break areas. When designated, it is recommended that you eat in these designated areas. Academic units should have their Facility Coordinators contact the Office of Physical Plant / Campus Maintenance & Operations to coordinate services in these designated areas.

— Eating in classrooms remains prohibited in accordance with Policy AD62 Use of General Purpose Classrooms.

Review the University’s “Working on Campus” guidance and Human Resources “Back to State” guidance for additional information. See additional CDC guidance on eating and small gatherings.

Learn More

Faculty and staff


Travel guidelines


Commonwealth Campus resources