COVID-19: CHRO email to all faculty and staff on March 13, 2020

Subject Line: COVID-19 Information and Resources for Faculty and Staff

This message provides the following important information on topics that specifically impact employees— local school closures and paid leave, social distancing and flexible work approaches, preventing the spread of illness.

Dear Employee,

I wanted to take a moment to reach out to you directly as an employee following President Schill’s email outlining the latest information on the University of Oregon operations. We understand that keeping the campus community updated on operations and policy decisions is critical to keeping employees informed, but it also generates many questions from you and your co-workers. Processing the impacts of recent decisions, managing disruptions to our schedules and routines, and navigating the unknown may cause stress or anxiety. First, and foremost, we greatly appreciate your work and input as we remain open and continue operations while managing through an evolving situation. The patience, grace, and community partnership we are witnessing from employees brings great confidence that, together, we will persevere through this unchartered territory.  

These are extraordinary times, and we are dealing with an unprecedented national health emergency. We don’t have all the answers, but the UO has a large team working around-the-clock to respond to the situation. We will communicate information as soon as it becomes available.

As the university continues to issue updates on the university’s response to COVID-19 (coronavirus), I want to share information that specifically impacts employees:

  • Addressing employee questions and inquires:
    I have been working closely with the Human Resources leadership team and the Incident Management Team (IMT) to monitor and respond to the employee-related inquires that have been submitted. Please be assured that we are working diligently to publish answers to frequently asked questions as they become available. Please refer to this FAQ frequently for the latest information.

We know and understand that there are many questions regarding issues that deeply impact employees, such as governor directives, school districts modifying operations and schedules, and changes to UO operations. Employees are particularly concerned about leaves and compensation during this time. In some cases guidance related to these issues are highly dependent on the circumstances of the operational decisions. I assure you information and guidance will be issued as soon as it becomes available. Again, please refer to the FAQ on UO’s COVID-19 website and information provided below for the most current information.

In the meantime, the university remains open and operating under existing employment policies and procedures. Employees with unique circumstances are encouraged to discuss their needs with their supervisor.

  • Implementing distancing measures:
    We are encouraging managers and supervisors to implement distancing measures to assist with reducing the impact of COVID-19 while we remain open and operational.  Human Resources, under the leadership of the IMT, has issued guidance on social distancing in the workplace and is working closely with unit leadership on continuity planning. Social distancing will vary across units. Managers and supervisors are encouraged to consider a possible increase use of flexible work approaches as one method to create more space between employees during the workday. Please work with your supervisor to address distancing measurements within your work environment.
  • Impact of School Closures:
    We understand some of you may be facing challenges related to school closures announced last night and are planning for necessary child care. In many cases we know that could impact employees’ ability to report to their work location on campus. We are directing managers and supervisors to work with employees to arrange for remote work where operationally feasible.Where this is not possible we are directing managers and supervisors to work with employees to see if there are flexible schedules that may allow them to come to work for all or part of their regular work hours. If neither of these options is possible employees may use paid vacation and sick leave to cover their absence from the office.The University continues to evaluate the local school closures impact on employees and university operations and will issue any additional updates and guidance if necessary.
  • Preventing the spread of illness:
    The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure and using social distancing strategies is key. There are some general precautions you should always take to prevent the spread of illness – wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and most importantly, stay home if you are sick. Supervisors have been reminded to be understanding and supportive of employees by covering work as needed during periods of absence.
  • Connecting with resources:
    I encourage you to regularly review the COVID-19 Resources for Faculty and Staff webpage on the HR website as it provides consolidate information that employees may find helpful at this time. It includes links to benefits, policies, and programs, such as the employee assistance program (EAP) that can assist benefit-eligible employees in managing any personal impacts they may currently be experiencing. HR will continue to update and add guidance and resources in this central location.

    Continue to pay close attention to your university email and frequently monitor the UO’s coronavirus website as the best place to get the latest information about the UO’s response to COVID-19. Questions, concerns, or suggestions should continue to be directed to the inquiry web form.

Again, I want to share my appreciation for the work you are doing to adjust to our changing academic landscape and to maintain our operations across our campuses. Employees play a critical role in our ability to be flexible and respond responsibly during this challenging time. Your resiliency and resolve makes us stronger as a community. Thank you for your patience while we prioritize work and assemble additional resources in this dynamic and fluid situation. Please continue to treat each other and our students with grace, respect, and kindness as we forge ahead.


Mark Schmelz
Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice President