Return to Work survey being sent to Penn State employees this week

May 20, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – University leaders are seeking employee feedback via a new survey launched today (May 20) to help make strategic decisions about how and when Penn State employees should return to their workplaces when current restrictions related to COVID-19 are lifted. While various scenarios for a safe return to campus are being considered, these survey questions will provide leadership with valuable insight into employee needs, attitudes and opinions.

The anonymous survey, being conducted across the University, is voluntary and should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Employees should watch for an email from Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources at Penn State, asking them to participate. In the survey, employees can skip particular questions or stop participating at any point. Specifically, the survey contains hypothetical questions regarding the employee’s work environment; work responsibilities; concerns regarding COVID-19 as government restrictions are lifted; current and predicted lifestyle changes; preventative measures employees are willing to follow; and more. The survey will remain open until Wednesday, May 27.

Three task groups — Public Health and Science Assessment, Return to Work, and Return to Campus and Community — are collaborating closely with University leaders, and 12 other coronavirus action groups, to establish necessary infrastructure and processes for return to work, consistent with public health and government guidelines. This survey feedback may help inform return to work aspects such as timing and workplace adjustments, which are still under development, as well as help make the transition back to campus as smooth and safe as possible.

At the same time, students have been requested to participate in a similar survey launched by the Return to Campus and Community Task Group. A random sample of 17,000 students last week received a personal survey link via their Penn State email, and each unique link can only be accessed by the receiving student. Some hypothetical questions relate to how comfortable students would be living on campus, wearing masks, modifying Greek life activities, adjusting dining hall use, attending athletic events and more. These thoughts and opinions, collected as aggregate data with no identifiable information, will be received until Friday, May 22.

The Return to Work Task Group, co-chaired by Goffe and Abby Diehl, assistant vice provost for faculty affairs, is conducting the faculty and staff survey  and looks forward to reviewing the collective input from Penn State employees to feed into the flexible and dynamic return to work strategies under consideration.

“As we’ve said throughout our planning process for the potential return to work, the health, safety and well-being of all employees are key elements that are driving decisions, and we believe it is critical to hear from those who will be impacted,” said Goffe. “We encourage all employees to respond to the survey to provide us with a deeper sense of the challenges, concerns or expectations we may face in the coming months and beyond. By providing this meaningful feedback, employees are contributing to creating a safe community for all.”

Goffe stressed that, for now, employees who are currently teleworking should continue to do so until their supervisor or the University communicates more details about a phased return, and only those who are needed for mission-critical on-site work have been permitted back on campus, including those working in areas such as facilities maintenance, construction, landscaping and lawn care. All on-campus employees must follow COVID-19 safety rules, including practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings.

Currently, the Return to Work Task Group is analyzing, among many items, a phased return to work plan with a coordinated, timed and measured return to the on-site workplace, beginning with mission-critical employees only; continuation of remote work where possible; creation of a “work authorization form” specifically for unit supervisors (not individuals) to request permission for any employee(s) to return to work; determination of resources that must be in place before any return to campus/work can proceed; new policies to support a “new normal;” health and safety measures for employees in the workplace; and ongoing public health training and communications for all employees on all campuses.

The survey was constructed with the assistance of Craig Newschaffer, dean and professor of biobehavioral health, in the College of Health and Human Development; and Keith Aaronson, senior research associate in the Department of Biobehavioral Health and associate director of Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute; and Dennis Scanlon, distinguished professor of health policy and administration and director of the Center for Health Care and Policy Research, also in the College of Health and Human Development. All three are members of one of the three task groups that are currently analyzing health considerations, and return to work, campus and community aspects for Penn State.

Following the survey completion by participants and data analysis, information from the survey will be shared with the Penn State community at a later date via Penn State Today. 

Penn State will provide updates and information by June 15 regarding future plans. 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;; and

Last Updated May 20, 2020