NIU President To Expect “A Trickle, Not A Flood” For Employee Return To Campus

Letter from Lisa Freeman

Dear NIU Employees,

We anticipate that the state will move into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan by the end of this week. It’s positive news because it means the rate of COVID-19 infection among those tested is stable or declining.

In Phase 3, we expect employees will be able to begin returning to campus or other NIU work locations. That’s great news, too, but we also want to ensure that our community remains on the road to recovery. With that in mind, we are encouraging employees who can continue to work from home to do so through at least July 31.

That said, we have some employees who cannot perform their work remotely and others who prefer to be on campus. Consequently, a limited number of employees will begin to return to NIU facilities in June. In short, we expect a trickle, not a flood. Our hope is to continue to keep the number of staff members on campus and at other NIU locations at a minimum through July to provide for coordinated implementation of social-distancing requirements and other public health-protection measures.

For everyone, especially those who plan to return to NIU facilities in coming weeks, this is an important time to stay connected with your supervisors. Supervisors must approve return-to-campus work dates and work schedules. We continue to encourage them to be thoughtful, patient and flexible in leading their teams.

To prepare for this time, we assembled a task force with representation from across campus to develop guidelines and protocols for returning to work on NIU’s main campus and other locations. We strongly encourage you to read these guidelines. Supervisors and returning employees will be required to follow these university-wide protocols, including completion of Training for Returning to Work on Campus. This brief training outlines expectations for our community members, and it must be completed before returning to work at an NIU facility.

To this end, a link to the training will be emailed Friday, May 29, to all employees, and those who can complete it while working remotely should do so. Those who intend to return to work but lack adequate home internet access should take the training immediately upon returning to NIU. Employees who have already been working on campus are also required to take the training, because it is based upon the most up-to-date information and guidance available to us.

Additional expectations and protocols established by the task force include the following:

  • For offices where work can be done remotely, but that have employees who would like to return to campus to work, a rotational schedule is strongly encouraged through at least July 31.
  • All employees should self-assess their health each day before coming to work by answering a series of questions designed specifically for daily COVID-19 screening. If you are sick, or suspect you might be getting sick, you must inform your supervisor and not come to campus or any NIU facility.
  • Employees will be required to wear protective face masks when physical distancing is impossible. Protective masks also must be worn in indoor shared spaces, such as lounges, reception areas, kitchens and restrooms, regardless of whether you are alone. (In workspaces where physical distancing is maintained, employees will not be required to wear face masks.)
  • For workers who don’t have their own, the university will provide two reusable and washable protective face masks. Supervisors will be responsible for placing orders for their units through Central Stores.
  • The university will take a host of other protective measures to keep campus clean and safe, including daily cleanings of high-touch surfaces and office provisions of hand sanitizer and disinfecting products.

We encourage NIU employees to visit the Keep Working website for more information. You’ll find FAQs, links to return-to-work training (available beginning Friday, May 29), a place to provide your feedback and return-to-work toolkits for supervisors and employees, created by our Employee Assistance Program.

We remain in a fluid situation, and our plans and training will likely continue to evolve. More information will be coming this summer regarding the start of the fall semester and the return of students and faculty. I appreciate your continued flexibility, patience and understanding. In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to practice kindness and embrace our shared values. We know the real value of a university is in its community members, and your health, safety and well-being remain our top priority.

Together Forward, Lisa C. Freeman
President