After a year of largely remote classes and jobs, Penn State plans to move faculty and staff back to in-person work this fall as COVID-19 vaccines become widely available, according to an announcement from the university giving an overview of return-to-work plans.
In making the announcement, the university said the availability of vaccines factors into “an optimistic outlook for summer and a full, on-campus experience for students at all campuses in fall 2021.”
The plans include beginning to return staff to in-person work over the summer, with most everyone back by Aug. 16. And, with few exceptions, the university expects faculty to hold their classes in-person rather than online starting in the fall.
The university has been offering a mix of in-person and online classes, with staff whose jobs allow it working from home. Pennsylvania opened availability of COVID-19 vaccines to all adults on April 13.
In the announcement, Penn State President Eric Barron said the transition will take the pandemic’s changing circumstances into account.
But, he said: “For our students, their interactions with faculty, researchers and staff are a core part of the Penn State experience. While some employee roles may be suited to remote work and considerations for these are being evaluated both in the interim and beyond, the ultimate goal is for Penn State faculty and staff to safely return to provide that on-campus experience our students seek.”
Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources and co-chair of the Return to Work Taskforce, said some staff may want to continue to work remotely, and more information about that will be announced later this year.
“With this in mind, the University has convened a Remote Work Task Force to review the costs and benefits of increased reliance on remote work and to make recommendations to senior leadership about how the university’s workforce will operate in the future,” Goffe said.
There’s also a temporary process for staff who want to continue working from home to make the request.
According to the return-to-work announcement, factors the task force is looking at include physical distancing that might be needed, masking, office space arrangements, cleaning and isolation protocols.