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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - Telecommuting for Staff 
Updated March 12, 2020, 3:30 p.m.

Q: Do I need to fill out a telecommuting form with HR? 

Yes. If you are telecommuting for any period of time or even intermittently, you and your supervisor will need to fill out the Temporary Telecommuting Request Form so that Human Resources can appropriately track where our employees will be working during this time.

Q. Can I still work on campus/in my office if I prefer to do so?

Yes. Campus remains open, although we are encouraging employees to telecommute if their jobs allow them to do so.

Q. My supervisor said my job is essential to campus operations, and it cannot be completed at home. I would prefer to telecommute. What should I do?

Your supervisor has the responsibility to ensure that your department’s services continue to be provided for the campus community. While all have been asked to be as accommodating to telecommuting as possible, there are positions whose responsibilities do not lend themselves to telecommuting. If you have discussed your preferences with your supervisor and they have declined your request to telecommute, the decision has been made. If you feel there are extenuating circumstances to your situation that are not being considered, please contact HR to discuss.    

Q: Can I change my work hours if I telecommute?

Work hours (including breaks and lunches) are defined by your direct supervisor. If you wish to temporarily or permanently alter the established hours, you must obtain supervisory approval in advance. Unless your Temporary Telecommuting Request Form states otherwise, your hours will remain the same as before the Telecommuting arrangement commenced. 

Q: Will I need to use my cell phone instead of my office phone? 

A working phone at your telecommuting location is a requirement, and you can use a personal cell or landline. Most of the Avaya desk phones offer a call forwarding option and your office voicemail can be accessed remotely. Please see the ITS website for more details. 

Q: How do I conduct meetings remotely? 

ITS is available to support your technology needs. They have developed a guide to using Zoom and a guide on using remote technology. You are also welcome to use other means of technology including Google Hangouts, Slack, or other virtual meeting platforms. You can also contact the ITS Service Desk via helpdesk@jcu.edu

Q: I don’t have access to a reliable internet connection for telecommuting. What should I do?

The Telecommuting employee is responsible for establishing and maintaining appropriate telephone communications and internet connectivity. If reliable service is not available, you will likely not be able to telecommute.

Q: What if I only have a JCU-issued desktop computer? Are there JCU laptops available?

JCU is not likely to have any laptops available to loan to staff during this time. Equipment is being allocated to faculty first so that student on-line learning can be supported. It should be noted that almost all of our technology resources can be accessed through any PC. The ITS website has resources to support your remote technology needs. If you do not have a laptop or a home computer available to use, you will likely not be able to telecommute.

Q: What if I need office supplies or other equipment (i.e., printer?)

The employee can bring home needed office supplies to support their required duties during this time. While all computer-related equipment is being loaned to support student learning first, there may be additional printers and equipment available for loan. Please remember that you are responsible for the privacy and security of sensitive data when working remotely. Reference the Sensitive Data and Security Policy for more information.

Q: I have never accessed the VPN or the campus network remotely. What do I need to know?

Certain online JCU services do need to be accessed behind the VPN. Please reference the ITS guide to using VPN guide. Anyone with specific technical questions should contact the ITS Service Desk via helpdesk@jcu.edu

Q: Am I allowed to travel domestically and work from there?

Time dedicated to personal travel should be noted as vacation time. Exceptions to this would need to be approved by your supervisor. Our telecommuting policy asks for alternative work site(s) to be identified. Also keep in mind that telecommuters are expected to be available to communicate via phone and internet at any time during the normally scheduled work day and can be called back to campus for any reason.

Q: Can I still meet with/advise students face-to-face?

Face-to-face meetings with advisees, colleagues, job candidates, and prospective students can still occur. It is important to maintain social distancing (six feet between individuals) and proper hand hygiene. Phone calls and google chats can also be used as alternative methods to communicate.

Q: How will I keep my staff accountable?

These are factors that must be decided between the supervisor and staff member at the outset of the telecommuting arrangement. Working from home means that communication must be more formal and intentional. Consider set times each day for calls to discuss progress, check in, or get updates. Explore the use of technology to provide face-to-face interactions so that all the nuances of communication can occur.

Q: My department has a lighter workload due to event cancellations. Can I give my team more time off?

Team members can utilize vacations or personal time with supervisory approval. Requiring employees to use accrued vacation or personal time off has not been approved at this time.

Q: If I am invited to an in-person meeting with an external vendor or partner while telecommuting. Should I attend?

Yes, unless you are self-quarantined due to being ill or because of potential exposure to COVID-19, you can still attend.

Q. Why have non-essential staff have not been directly invited to telecommute during this time period?

All department leaders have been asked to create a plan to ensure essential work gets accomplished and identify those whose responsibilities will allow them to telecommute.  Staff should approach their supervisors if they wish to request a telecommuting arrangement.  

Q. Can my student employee continue to work in my department?  

Guidance surrounding student employment was provided to department leaders and student worker supervisors. Only those student workers whose work is deemed as “essential” should be working on campus. Non-essential student work should not continue. Our hope is that most students will be able to return to their permanent address for the safety of the campus community. We are analyzing how we can limit the financial burden to the students who will not be working, and we will share more information as it becomes available.  Claudia Wenzel can address specific questions via cwenzel@jcu.edu.  

Q. If I’m not feeling well, how do I know whether to stay home?  What if a family member is ill?

If you are not feeling well, please stay home. Full-time employees have paid sick time for use during these circumstances and part-time employees have PTO. Sick time can also be used if you need to stay home to care for a family member who is not feeling well. Please notify your direct supervisor as soon as possible and make sure that the time away is accounted for/recorded on your timesheets or leave reports. Please contact Human Resources to address specific situations or for additional questions. The University’s sick leave policy is also a resource.

Q. Can extended absences be covered by Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

If you or a qualified family member have a serious health condition, including conditions related to COVID-19, an extended absence from work may qualify under FMLA.  Applicable leave eligibility requirements would apply. Ryan Armsworthy, Director of Total Rewards, administers leaves of absences for staff and is the contact for questions or requests about extended absences due to medical reasons.

Q. What if my child’s school or care provider is closed due to health concerns - can I use sick time? Can I use vacation?

It is recommended that you have a plan for back-up dependent care, especially for those who are in roles necessary for campus operations.  If you do need to miss work due to a lack of child/dependent care, you may not use sick time. Our sick leave is designed to provide income protection when an employee is absent due to their own illness or injury, or to care for an immediate family member who is injured or sick.

On the other hand, full-time employees do have personal and vacation leave available to cover time needed to provide care for dependents. Part-time employees can use available PTO. Inform your supervisor that you need to use vacation or personal time and account for the time on the timesheets or leave reports. The University’s staff vacation leave policy can University’s personal time policy should be referenced. If you have exhausted all available leave balances, you can take the time as unpaid.

Q. Will there be negative repercussions for taking extended time off related to quarantine or being sick?

There are no negative repercussions for taking extended time off related to quarantining or being sick due to COVID-19.   Any employee needing to take leave should stay home at the first sign of symptoms and notify their supervisor as soon as they can.  Our priority is maintaining the health and safety of the JCU community, and we are committed to supporting any of our staff affected by the COVID-19. 

Q. Will there be negative consequences if I need to take time off due to the closure of my child’s school or dependent’s care center?

We are committed to supporting our staff during this time.  Our Attendance and Punctuality policy establishes expectations for employees’ attendance and supervisors are encouraged to be flexible and accommodating with staff during this challenging time.  The following are general attendance expectations for all staff employees:

  • Give as much advance notice for an absence or curtailed working time (late arrival or early departure)
  • Follow call-in procedures.
  • Record work time and your use of time off benefits accurately.
  • Follow your supervisor’s instructions and directives.

Q. How do I request authorization to work from home?

You must request authorization to work from home from your supervisor via the Temporary Telecommuting Request Form. Your supervisor will consider a number of factors including:

  • The service needs of the community;
  • The nature of the work being performed;
  • Whether your position is classified as exempt (salary) or nonexempt (hourly eligible for overtime pay); 
  • The feasibility of using the home environment for work; and
  • Whether campus health and safety or health and safety of the employee are at risk.

Not all roles at John Carroll University lend themselves to work from home, so communication with your supervisor is key.

Q. If I am approved to work from home, are there best practices to consider?

There is a detailed Telecommuting Policy on the Human Resources website. Here are a few quick suggestions:

  • Designate “office” space. Create a quiet place to concentrate and spread out. Find an area in which work-related material can be stored and organized and secured.
  • Adhere to the same work schedule that is followed on campus. Plan to be available during this time for students, colleagues, customers, etc. via phone and email.  If it is impossible to adhere to your schedule, alternatives should be discussed with and approved by your supervisor.
  • Communicate early, often and on a schedule. Communication can often be taken for granted when working on campus since people can drop in or ask questions informally. Working from home means that communication must be more formal and intentional. Consider set times each day for calls to discuss progress, check in, or get updates. Explore the use of technology to provide face-to-face interactions so that all the nuances of communication can occur.
  • Anticipate interruptions and manage outside demands. Establish rules or guidelines for yourself and others to make it clear that you are engaged in your job/work and not available for non-essential issues.

Q. If I’m feeling sick, should I still telecommute? If I need to stay home to care for myself or a family member, can I also do work and not use my sick time?

The priority in any situation requiring sick time is to attend to your own or a family member’s needs. This time should be accounted for through the utilization of sick time or possibly vacation or personal leave. In most cases, this means that working from home would not be feasible.

Q. May I ask an employee why they missed work?

Yes. Employees can be asked why they missed work. You also can confirm with the employee that they are well and no longer have symptoms that would require them to remain at home.  During this outbreak, do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way. There may be circumstances, such as with a positive COVID-19 test,. when an employee may be asked to provide a return-to-work release or other documentation from a  health care provider, such as with a positive COVID-19 test.  

Employees who are well but who have a family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and the Human Resources department and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. Employees who have been exposed to a family member with COVID-19 are encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days following your last exposure to the ill family member and practice social distancing, while you monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, which appear 2 to 14 days after exposure and may include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Q. May I ask an employee who is exhibiting symptoms of illness to leave work?

If an employee is currently showing any signs of illness, please instruct them to stay home and contact their healthcare provider for further instructions and guidance. Employees and supervisors should continue to record the absence as sick time per university policy. When someone indicates they are able to return to campus, supervisors should not require that employees remain at home.  There may be circumstances where a doctor’s release is appropriate, but that determination should be made in consultation with Human Resources.

Q. May I require an employee to undergo a medical examination for COVD-19 or conduct fever screenings? 

Generally, no. Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers may only require a medical evaluation if it is considered job related and consistent with business necessity. However, if an employer has a reasonable belief based on objective evidence that an employee poses a direct threat due to a medical condition, the manager should consult with Human Resources to determine if appropriate medical documentation or return-to-work release from a healthcare provider is warranted. 

Q. What if one of my employees reports they have been diagnosed with COVID-19? 

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, please have the employee report the diagnosis to Human Resources. The employee will be sent home. Human Resources will then inform the employee’s co-workers of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, while maintaining confidentiality related to both the reporting employee’s identity and condition, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Q. If we learn or suspect that one of our employees has COVID-19, do we have a responsibility to report this information to the CDC or local board of health?

There is no obligation for supervisors or employees to report a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 to the CDC. The healthcare provider that receives the confirmation of a positive test result will provide appropriate reporting to the federal, state and local health authorities.  

Q. What steps can we take now to minimize risk of transmission?
Repeatedly, creatively, and aggressively encourage employees and others to stay home if sick. In addition, instruct your employees to take the same actions they would to avoid the flu. For example:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Q. May an employee refuse to work with or in the same space as a co-worker who has recently returned from travel and who may have been exposed to COVID-19?

Contact Human Resources regarding concerns about safety in the workplace related to a co-worker’s exposure to COVID-19. Health officials or Human Resources may ask employees to self-quarantine for 14 days following travel to a location that poses a significant risk of contracting COVID-19. Generally, a co-worker who traveled to a place reported to have cases of COVID-19 or through an airport, without symptoms, direct exposure or a diagnosis of acute respiratory illness or COVID-19 will not be precluded from coming to work. Human Resources can assist with alternative work arrangements or social distancing practices to address employees’ concerns about their health and safety.  

Q. May I ask an employee to cancel personal travel to a non-restricted area based on concerns related to COVID-19?

Employers may not prohibit otherwise legal activity, such as personal travel abroad by an employee, unless there is a high risk of exposure to a deadly disease. However,  encourage your employees to educate themselves before they engage in travel to risky environments to try and work out a solution. Health officials or Human Resources may ask employees to self-quarantine for 14 days following travel to a location that poses a significant risk of contracting COVID-19. If the individual has not been self-quarantined , you may – and should – monitor those employees returning from such travel for signs of illness, and ask if they had any known exposure to COVID-19.   

Q. May an employee refuse to work without a mask?

Managers may permit an employee to wear a mask, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the employee’s performance of essential functions. Given the medical community’s consensus that face masks are only necessary when treating someone who is infected with COVID-19, masks are likely not necessary to protect the health of most employees. 

Q. Who do I contact if I have other questions?
Your supervisor is an important resource who can address most of your concerns. The HR Team is also available to answer your concerns.