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Guidance for Supervisors regarding COVID-19

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

The health and safety of our employees – and, by extension, the entire campus community – are among our top priorities as supervisors.  As our workforce and others are faced with the effects of the pandemic and contagious variants, we encourage you as a supervisor to take a moment to think about the current risks to your staff – individually and overall.  Again, health and safety are of the highest priority and, ultimately, failure to manage the risks also could impair your unit’s ability to function and, therefore, KU’s ability to operate and serve our students and other stakeholders.

At this time, we are asking you to consider the variety of options regarding flexible work arrangements, including remote work, de-densification, and other creative strategies.  And please remember that there are many resources available from HRM (hrdept@ku.edu) to assist you in making the best decisions for your people and unit.

Considering Flexibility

As you look at the services provided by your employees, this might be an opportunity to consider new or additional hybrid or remote work arrangements (assuming that the duties performed are not required to be onsite in order to provide services to students in your area). Adjustments to work location can be temporary at first before a longer-term engagement might be considered.  Discuss these options with your leadership and HRM to explore viable options, document changes, and help you work through establishing best practices to set expectations and otherwise manage employees’ performance.

Working remotely can be difficult for those located in areas without sufficient high-speed Internet services.  For those who experience this challenge, the university will be offering a KU-issued hot-spot option.  Please contact KU IT (itcsc@ku.edu) for assistance and program terms/conditions.

Flexibility can also mean limiting in-person gatherings and meetings for those who are physically present at the worksite.  For example, schedule meetings through Zoom or Teams to help reduce contact points and possible transmission of viruses (and so that everyone participates in meetings the same way).  Adjusting staffing hours or working in smaller groups may also be an option.

When an Employee is Ill

All of us experience illness, whether it is ourselves or those we care for.  However, illness rates are escalating with COVID-19 and the related variants.  It is always good to be prepared by having conversations with employees if they or a member of their household falls ill, tests positive for COVID-19, or must quarantine.  We recommend reviewing the following procedures and reminding employees of these points:

  • Employees should not come to work when ill or if testing positive for COVID-19.
  • Employees are encouraged to work from home if a member of their household has tested positive for COVID-19 or displays symptoms.
  • Employees should be reminded that they need to communicate with their supervisor if they are unable to come to work (including the reason why).
  • If accrued leave is available, employees need to submit sick and/or vacation leave to cover absences when possible.  If your employee is too ill to report leave use, please contact HR/Pay for further instructions and support.
  • If a serious illness occurs and leave is not available, employees or their supervisor should contact HRM when:
    • The leave period is more than 3 days in duration to determine if the absence is FMLA qualifying.
    • If accrued leave is not available for the employee, exploring the shared leave application pool.

Returning to Work

On occasion, recovering from an illness can mean that the health and abilities of the employee might be different than before.  If a resource may be needed for a returning employee, encourage them to reach out to the ADA Resource Center for Equity & Accessibility (https://accessibility.ku.edu/employment-accommodations) to determine if an employment accommodation might be appropriate.

If the employee was approved for FMLA, received shared leave, or was having someone delegated to enter their leave in the system, it is important to contact HRM to let us know of the employee’s return.

Staffing Availability/Concerns

If there is a significant number of staff who are out due to illness that reduces the ability to continue operations or provide services, please contact your unit hierarchy to launch an initial conversation about next steps.  Your unit leader is also encouraged to contact the HRM office to determine if an entire office needs to be closed, operations can be transferred, or reduced service or hours of operation need to be considered.  HRM is here to assist with such conversations and the communication plan surrounding it.

Wellness in the Workplace

We want to remind supervisors to utilize the Protect KU website (https://protect.ku.edu) for the most current protocols regarding masks, social distancing, testing, etc. for each of our campus locations.  We strongly recommend encouraging your team to follow good hygiene principles to help prevent the spread of viruses or infection.

COVID-19 has also had an impact on the mental wellbeing of most, if not all, of us.  If you or your employees are feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, or anxious – and especially if you are witnessing (or receive reports of) changes in an employee’s behavior, mood, or level of engagement (or any other cause for concern) – these may be signs of an employee in need of support.

KU’s Employee Assistant Program (EAP) is an excellent resource, which you can mention to your team or to a specific employee if there may be cause for concern.  Please take care in the way you express your concern to any particular employee – we want to normalize these acknowledgements of concern, information sharing, familiarity with existing resources, and activating networks of various support.  And please also consider reaching out to HRM for help – or calling 911 if you feel that a person’s safety may be compromised.

As members of the Jayhawk workforce, we are all here to help each other and to help protect our colleagues, students, friends, and families.  Additionally, these steps can help increase employee engagement and productivity, as well as decrease absences and turnover.

Above all, stay safe and be well.

Mike Rounds 

Vice Provost for Human Resources, Public Safety & Operations 


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