Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Workplace

Human Resources has been following the developing COVID-19 situation. We understand that managers and employees have many questions related to how COVID-19 may impact the workplace. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions. 

Screening Requirements for Return from Travel

All OU employees, students, residents, and mission-critical campus visitors/vendors returning from domestic or international travel must complete a screening BEFORE returning to campus, or to being assigned to on-campus University duties. Domestic travel includes any travel outside the state of Oklahoma.

OU Employees, Students, and Residents: If you have traveled outside the state of Oklahoma within the last 14 days, you must complete the online COVID-19 Travel Screening Form as soon as possible (log in with your university username and password). A medical professional will contact you, typically within 24 hours following your screening submission to advise you on next steps. Find more information about this travel requirement here.

Human Resources Is Telecommuting

On-site operations for Human Resources are suspended due to COVID-19 safer-at-home procedures, but all HR services are available remotely. 

HR employees are answering phones and checking mail. If you leave us a voicemail or send email, your inquiry will be answered by the next business day. 


Health Sciences Center: (405) 271-2190

Norman Campus: (405) 325-1826

Tulsa Campus: (918) 660-3190

Email: ohr@ou.edu

 

If you have a question for a particular staff member, please contact them directly via e-mail. 

Temporary Telecommuting is Encouraged

To ensure University operations continue in an effective manner and that risk of the spread of COVID-19 is mitigated, managers are encouraged to immediately begin developing and implementing telecommuting plans for employees on the Tulsa, Health Sciences Center, and Norman campuses (for Norman, starting March 23 after the current closure ends), subject to the following guidelines.

This temporary measure for COVID-19 will apply to employees on the Tulsa and Health Sciences Center campuses through April 3 and on the Norman campus through the end of the semester. Circumstances can change, but this protocol will only be in effect as long as is necessary to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on our employees. The situation will be assessed on an ongoing basis and further direction will be provided before the close of the two-week period following the University's Spring Break for the possible continuance of this measure.

Who Can Telecommute

Telecommuting is not ideal for the vast majority of positions, and not all employees will be able to perform their duties away from the workplace. However, managers should have those employees who can perform their work at home do so, as long as doing so (1) does not interfere with continued operations of the University and (2) is consistent with the workplace flexibility guidelines found on this page and the Telecommuting Policy.

To be allowed to telework, employees must have the tools to do their job at their alternate work locations. Central IT has provided information about remote working resources here: http://ou.edu/ouit/workanywhere. Managers may contact their department-level IT teams to help identify resources.

While we encourage telecommuting, there is some work that simply cannot be done from home. In these situations, managers should:
  • establish flexible or rotating work schedules for essential personnel where possible, to reduce the number of people working near one another on a given day
  • implement social distancing practices meant to reduce close contact in the workplace (e.g., maintain an approximate distance of 6 feet from others)
  • consider transitioning all meetings to phone or virtual formats

Required Tracking for Telecommuting

In light of the current circumstances, Telecommuting Work Agreements are not required. Managers should work with their department leadership and HR to approve “work from home” plans until further notice. Hourly employees should manually track their work time and supervisors should enter the time if the employee does not have remote access to the time system. Telecommuting must comply with all Paid Time Off and time tracking requirements.

Weekly reports listing the people working from home along with an approval email should be submitted by managers to ohr@ou.edu every Friday (example here Teleworking Tracking Template ). The attached approval email must include approval from the following people or their designees: Supervisor, Dean/Director, and Vice President.

Business Continuity

Managers should review their business continuity of operations plans with their teams and consider the following: Who are "essential" personnel and is their contact information current? Are there alternate work facilities that could be used? Will vendors be needed? What equipment and critical software must be available?

To be eligible to telework, employees must have the tools to do their jobs at their alternate work locations. Central IT has provided information about remote working resources here: http://ou.edu/ouit/workanywhere. Managers may contact their department-level IT teams to help identify resources.

In light of the current circumstances, Telecommuting Work Agreements are not required. Managers should work with their department leadership and HR to implement "work from home" plans until further notice. Hourly employees should manually track their work time and supervisors should enter the time if the employee does not have remote access to the time system. Weekly documentation must be submitted by departments to HR. Read the Telecommuting section of this page to learn more.

While we encourage telecommuting, there is some work that simply cannot be done from home. In those instances, managers should:
  • establish flexible or rotating work schedules for essential personnel where possible, to reduce the number of people working near one another on a given day;

  • implement social distancing practices meant to reduce close contact in the workplace (e.g., maintain a distance of approximately 6 feet from others when possible); and

  • consider transitioning all meetings to phone or virtual formats.

Social Distancing

In accordance with CDC guidance, the University is reviewing options to facilitate social distancing. Social distancing includes certain actions that are taken by public health officials to stop or slow down the spread of disease. Examples include limiting events and gatherings of people to 10, with the exception of critical departmental meetings; changing business processes to allow for less face-to-face interaction (e.g., telecommuting); and implementing measures that minimize physical contact, such as refraining from shaking hands.

As part of our effort to mitigate the risk from COVID-19, we encourage as little physical contact in the workplace as possible. For example, polite nods, smiles, or waves are appropriate substitutions for handshakes. 

Only Interim President Harroz or his designee may approve the temporary closure of a work unit. Managers should consult their dean’s or vice president’s office with questions about possible work unit closures.

Responsibilities for Workplace Wellness

It takes effort from everyone to limit the spread of COVID-19. Employees should take Paid Time Off (PTO) and not report to work if they are ill, if they have a fever or COVID-19 symptoms, or if they live with someone who has symptoms. If an employee reports an illness or a fever while at work, the manager may ask them to leave the workplace and take PTO.

To be compliant with University and federal regulations, managers may require employees to follow the screening procedures described here http://www.ou.edu/coronavirus, except where clinic operations require other procedures. Managers must not provide medical advice, speculate about an employee’s medical status, ask employees
health-related questions, or require submission of medical documentation beyond the approved screening requirements. We encourage managers to support their employees who need to be absent for health reasons.





 

Student Employees

Managers are also encouraged to develop and implement telework plans for student employees and graduate assistants where the telework plan supports University operations. While we encourage work from home, there is some work for student employees that simply cannot be done from home, like work in laboratories that cannot be left unattended. Managers should establish flexible schedules for these student employees where possible to reduce the number of people working near one another on a given day.

Read Important Information About Your Student Job






Following are answers to your most frequently asked questions:

1. What if an employee cannot work from home?

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the University encourages work-from-home whenever possible, but we understand there are some jobs that must be performed onsite. To help mitigate the risk to employees, the OU community, and the general public from spreading infection, managers may consider some alternate working options:

Flexible work schedules that alternate days and times between employees can help keep employees an acceptable social distance away from each other and still allow them to maintain their working schedules.

  • Use phone and online technologies for meetings and avoid gathering employees.
  • Maintain a 6’ distance from other people
  • If employees share an office and are in close proximity, the University recommends alternating work schedules and wiping down work environments with a disinfectant cleaner such as Lysol or Clorox wipes at the beginning and end of each work cycle, at the minimum.
If you have other ideas to keep employees and the public safe, please share these ideas with your HR Business Partner, so the entire organization can adopt these best practices.

2. Who may be eligible to work from home?

If an employee’s position involves working from a computer and is not heavily tied to interaction with the public or other employees, they may be in a position to work from home. Supervisors are encouraged to discuss telecommuting options with individuals who may be able to work at home. As the outbreak continues, social distancing will become more important; this makes working from home an important factor in curtailing the spread of COVID-19. Exempt and non-exempt employees are eligible for work-from-home arrangements as long as their job duties are conducive to a remote environment and the necessary tools to complete their work are available, such as University-approved equipment and an internet Telecommuting arrangement that must comply with the Telecommuting Policy.

3. How do I keep track of my time while I’m working from home?

If you are able to access the online service, do so. If you are not, the Health Sciences Center, Norman and Tulsa campuses all have provisions for timekeeping in non-traditional methods. Visit the sites shown below for instructions on recording your time:

HSC:
TAL Site: https://financialservices.ouhsc.edu/Departments/Payroll-Services/TAL-Resources/Payroll-TAL

Paper Leave Request - Use this leave request if you do not have access to the TAL System (NOTE: Supervisor/Payroll Coordinator must input leave in TAL)

Hourly Paper Timesheet - Use this time sheet if you do not have access to the TAL System (NOTE: Supervisor/Payroll Coordinator must input leave in TAL)

Norman Campus: http://ou.edu/content/dam/payroll/docs/Hourly%20Timesheet.pdf


4. As a supervisor, how do I determine if an employee is eligible to work from home?

Supervisors should consider several factors when determining if an employee can work from home:
  • Is the employee responsible enough to work unsupervised?
  • Does the employee have the resources to work from home (i.e. Internet, space)
  • Does the department have the resources to assign to the employee (i.e., computer, VPN, office supplies)
  • Is there any sensitive information needed by the employee to do their job?

5. If access to sensitive information is needed for an employee to work from home, can they still telecommute?

While the University does encourage working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is also crucial that employee, patient, faculty, and student information remain confidential, just as it would under normal University working conditions. Above all considerations, the protection of confidential information must be maintained.  

Departments and supervisors are responsible for ensuring all work-from-home scenarios are secure and do not endanger any confidential information. The supervisor should contact the area that has oversight of the protected data for specific guidance.


6. As a supervisor, I have decided that some of my employees are eligible to telecommute. What now?

Human Resources understands that each area at the University may operate a little differently, so at this time, we are leaving exact approval instructions to the discretion of each department. Most colleges and offices have established an approval process. Check with your main administrative office for specific guidance.

Generally, all telecommuting employees (staff, student employees, and Graduate Assistants) must be listed on the Telecommuting Tracking Template and approval from the following people or their designees is required in order for an employee to telecommute: Supervisor, Dean/Director, or Vice President. Managers don’t need to receive approval from HR, however, we do ask that departments consult with us if they need guidance. Also, departments should submit the
Teleworking Tracking Template (found here: https://apps.hr.ou.edu/dms/GetDocuments.aspx?q=634D3175424B5951374C6533574542344C5468724567253364253364) to ohr@ou.edu every Friday along with an email that confirms the requisite approvals from the departmental chain of command.

7. Are there restrictions on how many employees can request to work from home?

The University does not have any restrictions on how many people can work from home. We expect each supervisor to work with their department chairs, deans, and VPs to make those decisions.

8. As a supervisor, how can I avoid having to change my own work schedule to effectively manage employees with flexible work arrangements?

You need to be confident that the work will get done whether or not you are present. You will have the opportunity to review and make suggestions to any work-from-home plans before you approve them.

9. How long will working from home be permitted?

It's unknown how long this situation will last. Currently, working from home is encouraged on the HSC and Tulsa campuses until April 3, and Norman through the end of the spring semester. However, this is an evolving situation and we do not know for certain when all operations will return to normal. When university leadership and health officials determine it is safe to return to normal operations, we will expect all employees to return to their normal work arrangements.

10. Can the children of employees be brought to campus during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Students and employees may not bring children to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Tulsa campuses at this time, unless the child is being seen as a patient in a clinical or hospital facility on campus. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the University is restricting access to the OU Health Sciences Center (Oklahoma City and Tulsa campuses) to only employees, students, patients and mission critical vendors. The Norman Minors on Campus Policy should be followed in Norman.

11. Regarding community spread: If an employee has come into contact with someone who's been diagnosed with COVID-19 or with someone who has COVID-19-like symptoms, after completing the health screening at Health Services and being instructed to self-isolate for 14 days, will this be Admin Leave or PTO?

This would be PTO.

12. Immuno-compromised employees: If employees report that they are immunocompromised or are caring for someone who is, and they do not want to report to work, are they required to take PTO if they cannot telecommute? What if they have been deemed an essential employee?

These employees would be required to take PTO while engaging in the interactive ADA process.


13. Student Employees and GAs & Telecommuting: If a student employee or GA can perform their job duties remotely, can they be allowed to telecommute?

Yes.

Should they be included on the Telecommuting Tracking Template?

Yes.



Questions?

This is an evolving situation. The University will continue to monitor CDC guidelines and seek advice from medical and public health professionals. We will adjust our policies as needed. Again, this is a temporary measure for the current crisis, applicable at this time only through April 3, and will only be in effect as long as is necessary to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on our employees. To stay up to date, you can visit OU’s COVID-19 FAQ page, which is updated with information as we learn more: http://www.ou.edu/coronavirus. Additional questions should be directed to your supervisor, department leadership, and division leadership.

OU COVID-19 Resources
Useful documents and links to COVID-19 Information
2020 TELECOMMUTING POLICY
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
COVID-19 TELECOMMUTING TRACKING TEMPLATE
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
COVID-19 TRAVEL SCREENING FORM
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
IT RESOURCES FOR WORKING REMOTELY
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
OU'S CORONAVIRUS UPDATES & RESOURCES PAGE
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
COVID-19 Documents for Hiring Managers
COVID-19 Coronavirus Documents for Hiring Managers for University of Oklahoma system-wide hiring procedures.
CORONAVIRUS CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
CORONAVIRUS EMAIL FOR HIRING MANAGERS_03122020
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
Helpful Resources for Employees
Magellan EAP COVID-19
COVID-19 COMPASSION FATIGUE
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
COVID-19 HEALTHCARE WORKER ANXIETY
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
COVID-19 MANAGER FLYER
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
COVID-19 MEMBER FLYER
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa