Working Through COVID-19 - Human Resources at Ohio State


Working Through COVID-19

The Ohio State University Statement on Flexibility at Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Ohio State University supports maximum flexibility to help our faculty, staff and student employees balance the demands of work and home life during this COVID-19 pandemic. To minimize the spread of illness, the university expects that remote work options are supported in all cases for employees where remote work is feasible.

For those employees whose work is required to be performed on campus and are therefore not able to work remotely, leaders and managers are strongly encouraged to work with their HR Business Partners to explore options such as flexible scheduling, shared shifts, time off, or other creative solutions to support those employees to the extent possible.

In support of a flexible option, or as a stand-alone objective, leaders and managers are also strongly encouraged to review the current work expectations of their employees, and to evaluate whether or how an employee could perform their work in a manner or location that supports flexibility, and enables them to balance meeting their work expectations with family (or other) responsibilities that have arisen as a result of this pandemic.

Employees may request to work remotely or request an alternative work arrangement in accordance with the university’s Flexible Work policy. Examples may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Employees with children who are engaged in remote learning due to the COVID-19 policies of the school district in which they are enrolled
  • Employees for whom their ordinary educational option is not available due to COVID-19
  • Employees for whom their ordinary child care or other dependent care option is not available due to COVID-19
  • Employees working to manage elder care
  • Employees who are managing life obligations that may be taking more time in current circumstances

Leaders and managers are strongly encouraged to approve flexible work requests to the fullest extent that operational needs will permit.

Related Resources

Additional Resources

Iahn Gonsenhauser, MD, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s chief quality and patient safety officer, shares a message for all non-clinical frontline staff with questions about personal protective equipment (PPE). We appreciate the hard work of all our essential staff and remain committed to promoting health and safety.

All critical faculty and staff coming to campus must check their temperature and assess any symptoms before reporting to work. The health of our workforce is imperative during this time to keep everyone healthy and to control the spread of COVID-19.

  • If you are a critical employee, on days you report to work, you need to perform a daily health check-in and only come to work if you can confirm you have no fever of 100° F or higher, no cough or shortness of breath and no known exposure to someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • All Wexner Medical Center faculty and staff who are reporting to work are required to visit to record your temperature/symptoms. Those currently working from home are encouraged to record temperatures, but are not required. Learn more. Medical center employees can view a map of checkpoints.
  • Non-medical center employees should keep a personal record of temperature/symptoms but are not required to submit it.
  • If possible, take your temperature at home. If you have a temperature of 100° F or higher, you will not allowed to report to the workplace. Managers will be responsible for verifying that their faculty and staff have a normal temperature below 100° F.
  • If employees do not have access to a thermometer prior to reporting to work, Columbus campus and Ackerman Road critical faculty and staff can have their temperature taken at a health-check site in the Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Institute located at 2835 Fred Taylor Drive, between 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Enter in the front doors and have your temperature checked in the lobby prior to your shift.
  • If you’re experiencing signs or symptoms of COVID-19, do not come into work and follow typical call-off procedures. Contact your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, call the Wexner Medical Center’s COVID-19 call center at 614-293-4000 for guidance.

More information is available for medical center employees on OneSource. Information for non-medical center employees is available in this flyer.

Ohio State’s commitment to safely and effectively meet the public health challenge presented by COVID-19 extends to encouraging that university employees can work from home or another remote location whenever necessary in the coming weeks. Teleworking arrangements are not new, but because they may be unfamiliar to employees and managers, this resource will help you and your team navigate potential teleworking scenarios. These arrangements must be approved by your supervisor and HR Business Partner of the department/unit, and may be modified at any time.

This guidance is for supervisors, employees and departments and is designed to help set up temporary remote work arrangements quickly and successfully.

  1. What is teleworking and how does it differ from other forms of remote work?
    Telework is a work arrangement in which some or all of the work is performed from home or another off-site location. In general, regular office hours are worked and deviations from that schedule require supervisor approval.
  2. Which factors should departments/units consider when determining if telework is possible?
    • Operational requirements
    • Security of work data
    • Technological capabilities and equipment necessary to perform job duties
    • Productivity
    • Accuracy of records reflecting time worked by non-exempt employees.
  3. Which jobs are suited for teleworking?
    Teleworking is easiest to implement for jobs or tasks that require reading, writing, research, working with data and talking on the phone. In general, and at management’s discretion, a job is suited to teleworking if the job or some components of it can be done off-site without disruption to the flow of work and communication.
  4. Which jobs are not as well suited for teleworking?
    It is not uncommon to require employees in positions needing in-person contact/customer service or that rely upon specific equipment or supplies to work on site. Management and/or supervisory roles also generally may be excluded from consideration for teleworking arrangements unless a department finds such an arrangement practical in meeting job responsibilities. Some jobs that may not seem appropriate at first may be modified so that employees can telework.
  5. What’s most important to starting a productive teleworking arrangement?
    Clearly outlined and executed teleworking arrangements can prove beneficial to employees and managers alike. Managers should articulate clear procedures regarding check-in times and hours of availability. With proper planning, communications problems can be minimized.

Telework works best when employees and supervisors communicate clearly about expectations. The following checklist will help you establish a foundation for effective teamwork, continued productivity, and service to the Ohio State community.

  1. Review technology needs and resources.
    Identify technology tools staff use in their daily work and determine whether the resources will be accessible when working from home. Also, ensure employees know how to access the appropriate technical support should they need assistance.

    • Confirm that employees know how to set up call forwarding and how to access their voicemail from home.
    • Determine which platform(s) you will use to communicate as a team, clarify expectations for online availability and confirm everyone has access to the technology tool(s) and support resources. Ohio State employees have free access to Skype for Business, Carmen Connect and your department may have additional tools or resources. Wexner Medical Center employees should reference the Technology Resource Guide.
  2. Review work schedules.
    Telework can be confused with flex work. Be clear about your expectations with employees for maintaining their current work schedule or if you are open to flexible scheduling based on employee needs. View the university’s Flexible Work Policy 6.12 for more information.
  3. Draft a work plan.
    Review the questions below with staff and work through answers together.

    • What routine responsibilities/tasks cannot be fulfilled while working remotely and how will it impact operations or other people? What are ways to reduce the impacts?
    • What routine responsibilities/tasks require regular communication and collaboration with others? Proactively contact each other to confirm how you will communicate while everyone is working remotely.
    • Oftentimes employees experience fewer interruptions while teleworking. Are there any special projects or tasks that you can advance while working remotely?
    • What events or meetings are scheduled during the time in which the temporary telework arrangement is in place? Will they be postponed or canceled, or will they take place using technology? What follow-up needs to occur due to postponements or cancellations?
  4. Make a communication and accountability plan.
    Supervisors should tell employees how often they should send updates on work plan progress and what those updates should include. Supervisors should also communicate how quickly they expect the employee to respond while teleworking and the best ways for the employee to contact the supervisor while working remotely. Current performance standards are expected to be maintained by employees.

    • If you normally make daily rounds to visit employees at their desks, you can give them a call during this period. Maintain team meetings and one-to-one check-ins, altering the schedule if needed to accommodate any alternative schedules that have been approved.
    • Conduct regular check-ins. Start each workday with a phone, video or instant message chat. Your employees will be eager for connection and information during the disruption and the structure will help everyone create a positive routine. Every other day or weekly may be fine, so long as you are in contact frequently enough that your employees are in sync with you and/or with one another.
  5. Be positive.
    A positive attitude toward teleworking and a willingness to trust employees to telework effectively is key to making such arrangements successful and productive. Teleworking presents an opportunity for managers to become better supervisors. Instead of focusing on how many hours your employees are working, re-emphasize a focus on measuring results and reaching objectives—regardless of work arrangement. The employee’s completed work product is the indicator of success, rather than direct observation. By focusing on the employee’s work product, telemanagers will improve their organizational abilities and their own skill in managing by objectives.
  6. Debrief after normal operations resume.
    Employees and supervisors should review work plans when work returns to normal, assess progress on the employee’s work plan and prioritize any unresolved or new work that resulted from temporary operational disruption.

Employees who telework often learn that working remotely is different than they expected and that it requires specific skills and habits. The following tips will help you get to work while at home.

  1. Define your workspace.
    Experienced teleworkers will tell you that its often difficult to stay focused at home. We are creatures of habit and most of us are used to our normal home routines. Establishing a workspace, even if it is your kitchen table, gives your brain a cue that it is time for work. Wearing attire that you may wear to the office even if it is your “casual Friday” attire may cue the brain. You should remain capable of reporting to work if your presence is requested by your supervisor.
  2. Master the basics.
    • Set up call forwarding and how to access your voicemail from home.
    • Know how to remote into the Ohio State network and other online tools you use regularly.
    • Use Skype for Business, Zoom, WebEx or another instant messaging client to stay connected to colleagues. Additional support for medical center employees can be found on OneSource and for campus employees on the OCIO website.
    • Plan for video calls/meetings by making sure you know how to turn on your computer’s camera and microphone and being aware that your colleagues may be able to see the background behind you.
  3. Set daily goals, track them and share your progress.
    You may be surprised by how differently the workday passes without the comings and goings of an office to break things up or influence what you do next. Start each day of telework by writing down what you need to achieve and then track your progress. Pay attention to how long tasks take you and start adjusting your daily goals to match your current rhythm. Communicate with your supervisor and/or colleagues if you think your telework plan needs to be adjusted.
  4. Eliminate distractions.
    Home can mean pets, children or a favorite hobby are only a few feet away. Depending on your living arrangement, you may need to hang a “do not disturb” sign so your family members don’t interrupt you. Pets often need a closed door to keep them away and you might need headphones to block the noise.
  5. Prioritize privacy.
    Whether you are in your home or a common area, take five minutes to assess the privacy of your workspace. Can someone standing behind you read your computer screen? Are your windows open so your neighbor can hear your phone call? What information do you need to secure before grabbing a cup of coffee or heading to the restroom? Your personal privacy matters too, so see if there is anything around you that you would not want visible during a video conference with your boss or colleague.
  6. Continue to employ security best practices.
    Situations like this are prime phishing opportunities. Remain vigilant for security concerns and be sure to report suspicious emails to

  7. Stay connected.
    Many people say they do not call or instant message colleagues who are working remotely because they don’t want to bother them. Remember, they are working, not vacationing at home! You should feel confident about calling or messaging an employee who is teleworking anytime you would walk to their office or call them if you were working on-site.

With many teams moving to telework quickly, departments may want to adapt the following suggestions:

  1. Consider designating a telework task force.
    Depending on the size of your unit, consider implementing a task force to manage telework protocols and procedures for your department.
  2. Engage your team.
    Setting up a group to work remotely is different than setting up an individual employee to telework. Effective remote teamwork requires entire units to embrace technology and proactive communication in ways that may be new and challenging to traditional ways of working. Support the success of your team by:

    • Scheduling a conversation about what it may look like for your team to work remotely.
    • Identify needs and tool preferences of team members for remote work.
    • Document and share telework practices/plans.
  3. Enable and encourage ongoing communication.
    Ongoing communication is the most important part of effective remote teamwork. Working online can be isolating without regular contact with supervisors and colleagues. By creating the expectation that an entire team will communicate regularly with one another, members will feel connected regardless of where they are.

The selected testing program allows for regular testing of selected asymptomatic employees whose job responsibilities require them to have consistent and/or sustained in-person contact with other campus community members.

Employees who are eligible for this testing can opt into this program. Individuals who participate in the program are not required to self-quarantine while awaiting test results. Testing will be done via a saliva test.