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Return to work: Guidance for supervisors

Supervisors play a crucial role in our continued commitment to find creative solutions, remain flexible, and fulfill the university’s mission while ensuring the health and well-being of employees. During the phased re-opening of the university, supervisors’ leadership will be vital.

This guidance applies to all stages of the phased re-opening. Refer to this guidance once a phased re-opening plan has been approved for your unit.

Supervisors must remain vigilant in emphasizing the importance of daily self-screens, social distancing, handwashing, staying home when sick, and use of cloth face coverings. As we reopen campus, be ready to adjust plans based on COVID-19 case data as needed. This paced and flexible approach supports our vision for fall and beyond.

Health and Safety Expectations

As supervisors, it is important to understand the health-related guidance related to COVID-19, both for yourself and for employees. Review this information often with members of your unit. All employees are expected to do the following:

Be aware of COVID-19 symptoms. These symptoms are currently associated with COVID-19 infection:

  • Fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills, repeated shaking with chills, and muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell

Employees who develop symptoms should stay home, limit contact with others, and contact their health care provider or, if needed, their local emergency room.

Check temperature. Employees are required to do self-temperature checks before coming to the workplace and to stay home if they have a fever. Normal temperature should not exceed 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Units are not expected to check employee temperatures.

Self-Isolate. Employees in these categories, per CDC guidelines, are required to self-isolate for at least 14 days:

  • Anyone with symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection or known to be positive for COVID-19 infection.
  • Anyone who has had close contact with someone known to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Close contact means being within about six feet of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time (that is, more than a few minutes). Close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health care waiting area or room with someone who has COVID-19. Close contact also means having direct contact with secretions (typically coughs and sneezes) from a person with COVID-19.
  • Anyone arriving back in the US after traveling in another country.
  • Anyone arriving from a cruise ship (ocean or river).
  • Anyone traveling from areas or cities within the US where community spread of COVID-19 is ongoing. Unlike with international travel, there is no single source or authority to determine if you need to self-isolate after traveling from a location in the US. Instead, domestic travelers will need to decide what they need to do based on their evaluation of local conditions. Travelers should check with state or local authorities at their starting point, along their route, and at their planned destination to learn about local circumstances and any restrictions that may be in place.

Employees who develop any symptoms of COVID-19 during self-isolation should contact their health care provider or, if needed, their local emergency room.

Employees who have been in contact with someone who is self-isolating but not known to be infected with COVID-19 are not required to self-isolate but are encouraged to take precautions, closely monitor their health, and telework if possible.

Wash hands often. Employees should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, after touching frequently used items or surfaces, or after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, employees should use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, covering all surfaces of their hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Employees should avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Practice social distancing. Employees should maintain a distance of six feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit. Work spaces, classrooms, labs, meetings, and activities should be evaluated and adjusted as necessary to maintain proper social distancing.

Elevator Safety. During this time, we ask that if employees are able to do so, that they please take the stairs. If employees need to take the elevator because they cannot use the stairs, please limit capacity. Under no circumstances should employees enter an elevator or wait in an elevator lobby without a mask or cloth face covering.

Wear a cloth face covering around others. The university will provide cloth face coverings, and employees will be asked to wear a cloth face covering (their own or provided by the university) when in public or when social distancing is not possible, including times of brief interaction with co-workers or friends. To request a mask or cleaning supplies (masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant supplies), supervisors should submit quantities needed to their unit business manager. The unit business manager will complete an online request form two days in advance for the total of all quantities needed. UT Surplus will notify the requesting business manager when the order has been approved and will coordinate arrangements for pick-up or delivery. These personal protective equipment (PPE) requests do not apply to units with existing PPE requirements for general lab and workplace safety. Lab and other workplace safety PPE should be acquired as previously.

Cover coughs and sneezes. Employees in a private setting who do not have on a cloth face covering need to always cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, or use the inside of their elbow.

Clean and disinfect spaces. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily following CDC recommendations. This includes shared spaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, faucets, and sinks. Employees are encouraged to use disinfectant between uses of shared spaces throughout the day. Keep workspaces free of clutter, excess personal items, and other unnecessary items to allow for maximum cleaning of all surfaces. Supervisors should address workspaces that are not properly maintained.

Keep buildings secure. During phases I and II, campus buildings will remain locked. Employees must use their Volcard for electronic access points or keys to enter buildings. Coordinate access changes through the building owner. Doors should NOT be propped open. This will continue to support our social distancing efforts.
Only utilize restrooms that are designated as open. Closed facilities will be marked with appropriate signage. This assists the campus with maintaining appropriate staffing levels of Building Services employees as we continue to return to campus.

Supervisor Expectations

All supervisors shall do the following:

Continue the practice of telecommuting, creative scheduling, social distancing in the workplace, and other protocols established in the reopening plan for their unit. Enforce this plan and regularly communicate with faculty and staff on progress and/or changes as needed. It is expected that many supervisors will begin to return to campus during phase II unless they are member of a vulnerable population or reside with someone who is. In that case they are encouraged to continue working remotely.

Emphasize the importance of a phased return for the health and safety of our campus community. Employees should not return to work and should continue to telework until they are notified by their supervisor to come to work.

Strategize additional safety measures for your unit as appropriate, suggestions include:

  • Consider alternating work schedules.
  • Coordinate work schedules for those in cubicles to allow for social distancing.
  • Incorporate technology to converse or meet (telephone, zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
  • Limit the amount of people for in-person meetings.
  • Stagger entry and exit times.

Restrict common areas. Identify and restrict areas where people are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce social distancing protocols (for example, break rooms and lobbies). Remove community coffee pots from service and ask employees to wash hands before touching shared refrigerators and microwaves. Handles and other shared surfaces should be disinfected by employees after each use.

Place recommended signage and traffic flow indicators 

  • Physical barriers act as a reminder for people to maintain an appropriate distance from each other. They will also serve as a protective tool in close quarters when social distancing is not possible. There is an ongoing project to place these in priority areas due to the nature of interactions that take place and the high volume of people in those spaces. This includes, but is not limited to, all dining and retail locations, One Stop, Fleet Management, Auxiliary Services Building (UPM and Mail Services), VolCard office, Registrar’s office, Parking Services, the key shop in Greve Hall, Hodges Library and the psychology clinic in the UT Conference Center.
  • Campus signage reminds members of the community about methods to keep themselves and others safe. Signs are being placed throughout campus by Facilities Services.
  • A signage checklist will be available for use by supervisors and building owners. The checklist will include information about the pre-designed signage as well as suggested tactics for increasing social distancing opportunities in office common areas and other locations.
  • Volcard or key entry is required for all buildings. Violation of guidelines may result in the immediate revocation of building access privileges.
  • Requests for a physical barrier can be made through Facilities Services. The request will be evaluated and the task force will determine whether a Plexiglass shield is the correct solution. Barriers should be paid centrally for all locations recommended by the task force and will be installed based on the priority assigned by the task force. Plexiglass shields requested by a specific office should be paid for by that office, unless deemed necessary by the task force during a review process.
  • Furniture and floor markings will be installed by Facilities Services to avoid physical damage. Initiate a work order when needed.

Emphasize and enforce work site adherence to all health and safety guidance by ensuring that employees:

  • Operate as if they assume they are infectious and others are infectious; limiting interactions with other.
  • Use designated building entrances and restrooms.
  • Follow accepted policies and procedures with respect to health and safety.
  • Do not engage in work practices that could be considered a danger to health and safety.
  • Be aware of situations that could be considered a danger to the health and safety of others.
  • Report to their immediate supervisor when witnessing others not adhering to health and safety guidance.
  • Order a stop work if fellow workers are engaged in work that is considered a danger to health or safety.

Supervisors can report an employee refusing to follow health and safety guidance. Submit concerns to Human Resources at HR@utk.edu and an HR staff member will contact you for further consultation.

Screen all employees reporting to work on site for COVID-19 symptoms with the following questions daily. Employees are responsible for confirming with supervisors that all their answers to the below questions are “no” before reporting to work. Please confirm this using your preferred method of communication (email, text, or phone call). Specific answers to these questions are not needed. A web-based tool to assist with this process is now available at https://selfscreen.utk.edu/. Your supervisor does not receive your answers to these questions. Supervisors only receive the final determination. Self-assessment is not considered protected health information and as such is neither stored nor subjected to HIPAA protections. Supervisors shall send an employee home if the final determination is “yes” to one or more questions and should apply appropriate leave policies described in the next section:

  • Have you been told to quarantine/isolate by a medical provider or the health department?
  • In the last 14 days, have you had face-to-face contact for 10 minutes or more with someone who has or is suspected of having COVID-19?
  • Are you experiencing a new cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing?
  • In the past 48 hours, have you had at least two of the following new symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea or loss of taste or smell?
  • Was your temperature 100.4 or above this morning?

Employees should not physically return to work until they are cleared by their healthcare providers. Employees should not be required to have a negative test to return to work.

Apply appropriate leave policies:

  • Send an employee home if they suspect they may be sick. This may be considered emergency sick leave per federal guidance effective April 1, 2020. Submit questions to familymedicalleave@utk.edu and an HR staff member will contact you for further consultation.
  • If an employee is unable to work because they are under a court-ordered quarantine, a doctor has advised the employee to quarantine, or the employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employee may be entitled to paid sick leave. If an employee satisfies any of these conditions, contact HR at familymedicalleave@utk.edu.
  • If an employee is unable to work or telework because the employee cannot obtain child care for a minor child, the employee may be entitled to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave under a new federal law. The university encourages supervisors to exercise maximum flexibility in scheduling, including options such as flexible hours, shift swaps, and alternating work days. If an employee is unable to work or telework after these options have been explored, the employee may be eligible for paid FMLA and is entitled to job protection for up to 12 weeks. If an employee requests paid FMLA leave, or you believe that an employee might be eligible for paid FMLA leave, consult HR at familymedicalleave@utk.edu.
  • Review requests for leave and approve use of accrued leave as appropriate. Submit questions to HR@utk.edu and an HR staff member will contact you for further consultation.

Consult HR regarding cases where employees may feel unsafe to return during their designated phase per unit plan (examples: vulnerable populations, unavoidable exposure to elderly family members, concerns about a lack of PPE). Submit questions to HR@utk.edu.

Remind employees about available resources and supports such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 855-437-3486, here4tn.com, and the 865-946-CARE (2273) hotline for distressed faculty and staff.

Remember that working from home mirrors office workers’ compensation liability and standard protocol. If a work injury is life-threatening or results in serious bodily injury, immediately call 911. For nonurgent injuries, the first step is to report the injury to your supervisor and to CorVel’s 24/7 call line at 866-245-8588. For more information about workers’ compensation, next steps, and forms, visit the UT System risk management website. Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should make a report to CorVel if they feel they were exposed in the workplace. Compensability of claims will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Be prepared to revert back to a prior phase, including a remote working environment if the campus deems this necessary. The Emergency Operations Center will communicate when phases change. Consider the following:

  • Create and / or update your continuity of operations plan with key systems, critical functions and positions needed to perform tasks which cannot be completed remotely.
  • Maintain a current phone tree for employee notification.
  • Ensure an adequate inventory of laptops and hotspots is available for your unit.
  • Allow employees to check out necessary equipment such as a monitor for ease of remote work or a comfortable desk chair.
  • Ask employees to prepare a take home pack with necessary office supplies.
  • Designate associates for ad hoc visits (mail pickup, deposits, etc.).