Introduction
Return to Business Locations and In-Person Programming
COVID-19 Protocols and Reporting
Hybrid Work Guidelines
Summary

Updated June 15, 2022

Introduction

This past year has been extremely challenging for all of us. I appreciate the extra effort, additional hours, and innovation from you in performing your tasks, creating new ways to program across various platforms, supporting the university, and for carrying out our mission - to help people improve their lives through education that applies knowledge to critical issues, needs and opportunities. To ensure a smooth transition back to business locations and in-person programming, these guidelines will assist us as we return to the “next normal”.    

Quentin Tyler, PhD
Director, MSU Extension

Recognizing the transition of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension professionals back to working in assigned business locations (offices) and conducting in-person programming, these guidelines were developed with the health, safety, programmatic and local needs, logistics and equity for all Extension employees in mind. As always, our work is guided by our mission and shared values.  

Together, institute leadership and district directors (or unit leaders for on-campus operations), will identify effective work modes for conducting in-person programming and managing operations with a focus on local and statewide needs. Position tasks will drive decisions for determining work modalities within institutes and offices. MSU Extension must have a strong presence in Michigan communities to effectively carry out our mission.

This plan is a living document. As public health issues continue to evolve, protocols and approaches to health and safety are likely to change. Throughout the pandemic, MSU has provided resources and guidance at the Together We Will website. Leadership will actively monitor university, state, and national guidance.

Return to Business Locations and In-Person Programming

Updated June 15, 2022: All MSU Extension employees should continue to follow our current MSU Extension guidelines around hybrid work until July 31, 2022. Existing agreements are effective until this date and do not need to be resubmitted through the CANR process.

Leadership is currently working on guidance regarding MSU Extension remote work following the July 31 timeframe; an update to staff will be provided as soon as there is more information to share. Until then, please continue to utilize the MSU Extension Hybrid Work Agreement and the processes we have in place.

Submission Process for Hybrid Work

For individuals wishing to submit a new request for a hybrid work agreement beginning on or after February 1, 2022: 

  • Using the MSU Extension Hybrid Work Agreement, employees are required to complete a draft version of the agreement and proactively schedule time to meet with their supervisor and if applicable, institute leadership and district director to discuss the proposed work agreement.
  • The agreement must be finalized and approved by all applicable parties and a signed copy of the agreement provided to the employee, supervisor, institute leadership, district director and Extension Human Resources (hr@msu.eduprior to the onset of hybrid work.

Tips for a successful return:

Empathy

Returning to in-person programming and business locations will impact people differently. Job duties, anxiety, living situations, family and many other external factors will be different for everyone. Institute leaderships, district directors, supervisors and colleagues should be empathetic to each individual's situation.

Equity

Individual job responsibilities and tasks drive the decision to determine work modalities. Institute leadership, district directors and supervisors will identify the mode of work for employees that is equitable and addresses programmatic and office needs. The opportunity for hybrid work will be based on the activities that are necessary to carry out MSU Extension programming, services, and operations. Equity will remain at the forefront in everything we do. Equity does not mean equality. This guide and the MSU Extension Hybrid Work Agreement provides an equitable process to ensure everyone is treated fairly.

Health and Wellness

  • Beginning March 6, 2022, MSU will no longer require masks in offices or meeting rooms on or off-campus for MSU Extension employees or others in those spaces. Masks will continue to be required in classrooms on the MSU campus. However, MSU will no longer require masks in classes, meetings or other events that take place off campus. This includes all MSU Extension-run events throughout the state, including those that take place at MSU AgBioResearch facilities. Please respect local mask mandates or those requested by our partners when planning. And as always, you may choose to wear a mask at your discretion.

  • All students, faculty and staff are required to be vaccinated/boosted against COVID-19 with an FDA-authorized or WHO-approved vaccine. Limited exemptions for medical or religious reasons will be provided. More information can be found at the MSU Together We Will website.

  • All MSU Extension employees should continue to follow personal hygiene protocols such as handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer when soap and hot water are not available.

COVID-19 Protocols and Reporting

MSU Extension employees must immediately notify their supervisor if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or have a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. For more information on how to proceed with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, or exposure to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, visit the Together We Will site.

Hybrid Work Guidelines

MSU Extension is a community-based organization. Being present in communities is at the core of our mission. However, organization leaders recognize that there are some aspects of MSU Extension work that may benefit from limited work from home.  A Hybrid Work Agreement was developed to help employees and their supervisors, IDs and DDs determine if their work is suited to a hybrid work schedule.

Terminology

  • Business Location Work: A vast majority of work must be performed in an MSU Extension business location (office) due to public- or community-facing interactions.
  • Ad Hoc Flexibility: Work is occasionally performed remotely when special circumstances arise. Ad hoc work arrangements must be requested and documented in email and are temporary in nature.
  • Hybrid Work: Employees perform all job responsibilities and tasks from their home on a specific day(s) and on a consistent basis while other work is performed in their assigned business location. Specific workdays must be established for work to be performed at a business location; the remainder of the weekly workdays, the employee performs all of their tasks and responsibilities entirely from their home. Employees must remain flexible and agree to go to their assigned office or another business location when requested by their supervisor, ID or DD. Examples include attending a community partner meeting, participating in programming or attending a professional development opportunity.

Who can apply for a hybrid schedule?

Any employee who has a business reason to complete and carry out their job duties and responsibilities from both their business location and their home while maintaining their normal work hours can request a hybrid work schedule. Completing an application does not guarantee approval. This arrangement should be closely managed by the supervisor and employee.

The following may increase the likelihood of approval:

  • Work can be done mostly independently of others, including the public.
  • Position allows alternating work, or job sharing with other employees.

What is ad hoc flexibility?

This is when work is occasionally performed remotely when special circumstances arise. Ad hoc requests must be pre-approved by the supervisor and if applicable, institute leadership and district director, documented in email and are temporary in nature.

In alignment with our long-standing organizational expectation, all employees, including those with hybrid agreements or ad hoc flexibility must keep their electronic Outlook calendars up-to-date and available for review.

If an MSU Extension staff member’s calendar is blank during the workday, it is expected the individual is working from their assigned base office location.

Calendar entries should include, at a minimum, a descriptive subject that makes the reason for an appointment/meeting clear, including the start and end date/time, and the location of an event. Additional details may be required to be included as directed by supervisors, district directors, or institute leadership.

Who can use ad hoc flexibility?

Supervisors may approve accommodations for ad hoc flexibility for occasional circumstances, such as:

  • Mild illness, under circumstances where the employee feels healthy enough to work but does not want to spread an illness to others.
  • County office closures and/or other extraneous office closings or weather-related concerns. Please refer to the MSU Extension Administrative Handbook for additional information.
  • Other personal circumstances planned in advance with the supervisor and the understanding that the employee has specific work planned for that day.

 Ad hoc arrangements must be requested and documented in email, reflected on the employee’s Outlook calendar, and are understood to be temporary in nature.

What is expected for those who work hybrid?

Before beginning a hybrid work schedule, employees are expected to obtain approval of an MSU Extension Hybrid Work Agreement per the guidelines in the Return to Business Locations and In-Person Programming section.

Note: Occasional ad hoc remote work flexibility only requires supervisor approval via email.

The employer or employee may terminate a hybrid work arrangement at any time, for any reason.

Standard Expectations for Hybrid Work

  • Communication is crucial. Employees are expected to maintain frequent and continual communication with their supervisor, institute leadership, district director and colleagues. Supervisors and employees should discuss expectations surrounding communication and include the expectations agreed to in the Hybrid Work Agreement.
  • When working remotely, employees must be available and accessible during established work hours.
  • When using video conferencing tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, employees are required to have their cameras on and use a professional background, this can include MSU Extension backgroundsuniversity backgrounds or the blur function.
  • A video conferencing (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) link should be included in every meeting invite.
  • The utilization of both video and chat functionality in Zoom, Teams or other messaging software should be used to communicate, in addition to email and phone.
  • Stick to set working hours. Keep work/life balance in mind and set boundaries with your work and personal time.
  • Keep ergonomic practices in mind.

Hybrid Workspace

Employees with hybrid work arrangements will not receive funding for two office setups. Those who work a partial schedule from home should be aware of the following:

  • Employees are expected to furnish their own home-office space.
  • Employees working from home should be cognizant of their surroundings and maintain confidentiality of their tasks.
  • Home offices should be dedicated for work, comfortable and ergonomic. Home offices should:
    • Have a desk and chair that are acceptable for long-term work.
    • Not rely on couches, easy chairs, beds, or other similar furniture as your work-from-home space.
    • Be free of distractions.

Technology

  • Employees working from home are expected to know how to use MSU’s VPN and connect to the department, institute, local, etc. file servers.
  • Employees are only assigned one computer system for work. Loaned, borrowed or personal equipment should NOT be used for work purposes.
  • Employees working remotely must provide, at their own cost, a reliable internet connection and a phone number they can be reached at during their designated work hours.
    • Employees without a reliable internet connection and phone are not eligible for a hybrid work schedule.
  • Employees working from home can work with their supervisor and department to secure additional equipment at their own expense.

Summary

All MSU Extension employees are expected to adhere to MSU and MSU Extension guidelines and requirements. Information will be updated regularly to align with university directives. As necessary, specific institutes or office units may need to create additional procedures and protocols for specific job functions or tasks.

MSU Extension leaders will monitor the effectiveness of these procedures on a regular basis. Employees are encouraged to share their feedback and ideas for improvement with their supervisor, institute leadership and district director. MSU Extension will make changes to guidelines and expectations based on feedback and on new guidance from university, local, state and federal officials.

Members of the MSU Extension community may experience anxiety and stress related to COVID-19 and the associated changes in both work and personal lives. MSU employees have access to the Employee Assistance Program and are encouraged to take advantage of this service. Employees are also encouraged to reach out to the WorkLife Office, and review information available through the MSU reopening site.