Telecommuting employees should plan to do so through May

May 03, 2020

This story was updated on May 10 to include Gov. Tom Wolf's announcement that 13 additional counties will move from the red to yellow phase on May 15.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In light of Gov. Tom Wolf’s phased reopening plan for Pennsylvania, which calls for telework to continue when feasible even where other activities are set to resume, Penn State faculty and staff at all campuses who are currently working remotely should plan on continuing to do so through at least the end of May, unless otherwise advised by their supervisor or unit leadership. 

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the University has remained open with some employees reporting to work on campuses to perform mission-critical responsibilities, in line with the governor’s previous orders. Other employees, who can perform their duties remotely, have been working from home. 

Twenty-four Pennsylvania counties moved on May 8 from their red status to a yellow reopening phase “because of low per-capita case counts, the ability to conduct contact tracing and testing, and appropriate population density to contain community spread.” Wolf announced on May 8 that 13 additional counties will move from red to yellow on May 15. In yellow counties, the plan states that telework should continue, however the stay-at-home orders are lifted, in-person retail may operate, child care facilities may reopen, and other activities can resume, subject to health and safety operating guidelines. 

Penn State leadership is using the governor’s reopening plan to set a context for their decision-making about returning faculty and staff to campus. As the University examines the newest guidelines from the governor, decisions about what campus operations will open, and when, will be made in the coming weeks. If it can be done safely and in alignment with the governor’s orders, some employees may begin to return to campuses to perform work that cannot be performed remotely, while most will remain at home. Unit leaders and managers will communicate directly to employees who will be returning to work prior to May 31. 

The University is developing return-to work plans consistent with the state’s reopening plan that account for a variety of scenarios if circumstances or guidance from the government and public health authorities change and a reassessment is needed.  

To formulate these plans, the University formed a Return to Work task group comprised of chancellors, deans, faculty experts and others. The task group is considering protocols for social distancing, remote work, schedules, shared offices and workspaces, needed resources, employee support programs, child care and other considerations. Aligned with Gov. Wolf’s phased plan for reopening regions across the state — consisting of red, yellow and green phases — the University also will implement a regionally phased return to campus.  

Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources and co-chair of the Return to Work Task Group, expressed appreciation for Penn State employees through this process. “I know this is a challenge, and our employees are anxious to know when and how they’ll be able to return to the office environment safely,” she said. “The key word is ‘safely.’ Our teams are making good progress planning, but it’s important to do this the right way, in phases, with carefully thought-through practices and procedures. Throughout May, we’ll communicate more about our progress to return employees to campuses.” 

As has been the case since the beginning of this unprecedented challenge, the University’s plans may change as the pandemic evolves and government and public health authorities respond. While the Pennsylvania reopening plan is executed and assessed at each phase, the University will notify employees of any changes to their work situation as appropriate. In all decisions, the health and safety of students, employees and local communities will be paramount.  

For the latest updates and information on Penn State’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including an extensive FAQ and information specific for students, faculty and staff, visit


Last Updated May 10, 2020