August 19, 2020

Dear Staff Colleagues:

I am aware that after my August 14th email, many of you still have questions about what the announced implementation of our Stage 3 Reopening Plan means for staff, in particular. We will continue with our remote work schedule for the week of August 24th, unless you have been designated as critical by your supervisor. On Monday, August 31st, all staff, with the exception of those with a qualifying accommodation, will return to campus-based work on the Black and Orange group schedule. This will give you a week to plan for a return to a limited number of days of on-site work, as promised. 
I first laid out the details of an alternating arrangement of on-campus and remote work back on March 17th, with the hope that it would be implemented in a matter of weeks. Now, after nearly six months, New Jersey is finally in a position to allow for a phased return to campus. One of the goals of our Reopening Plan is to reduce the footprint of people on campus by keeping on-site staff at no more than 50% at any one time to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.   
While we had originally planned on an alternating Orange and Black week model to achieve this goal, we heard from many of you the challenges around this plan. Given the varied approach that local school districts are taking, our original plan was cumbersome for employees needing to manage childcare and other important responsibilities. Given this feedback we have developed a new approach that will still allow us to meet our 50% goal, while also creating a more predictable schedule that we believe is more employee friendly.
Starting Monday, August 31st, our schedules will consist of Orange and Black groups:
  • The Orange Group will work on-site Monday, Tuesday, and every other Wednesday, and work remotely Thursday and Friday. 
  • The Black Group will work on-site Thursday and Friday and every other Wednesday, and work remotely Monday and Tuesday.
By now, you should be in regular communication with your direct supervisor about our Reopening Plan. Your assignment within your unit, given this change, will be communicated to you no later than Monday, August 24th. Some areas will need to be especially flexible with the Orange and Black arrangement given the nature of their work and their work space, but the guiding principal should always be limiting office capacity while ensuring that each area can function effectively and serve our students.   
As I said in my August 14th message to the community, I know that even with the State’s new guidance allowing for our safe return to campus, many of you are still hesitant. After nearly half a year away from our campus work spaces, living through this pandemic, these feelings are only natural. We have adapted to working remotely, and you have done great work this way during difficult times. I am truly grateful for that. Now that our students are returning to campus, we all need to be there for them. We will do so by following all the protocols that protect the health and safety of our entire community.
Enjoy the remaining days of summer, and I look forward to seeing you on campus beginning the week of August 31st. Please remember to wear your mask. I will be wearing mine! 
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD