WSU’s plans will be aligned and consistent with local orders, the State of Washington’s Phased Approach and with employee job requirements.

Washington State University’s policies and protocols for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic will be rooted in the health and safety for our faculty, staff, students and the public we interact with.  The Employee Return to Work guide is intended to assist with the safe return of faculty and staff to WSU work locations.  As appropriate for the work location, this guide is to be used in conjunction with the protocols for the safe return of students. The employee return to work guide is not a substitute for any protocols required by Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) requirements for work performed.

Department/Unit Processes

Return to Work Checklist

Return to Campus/Worksite Plan

Develop a Return to Campus/Worksite plan for the area. For more information and plan example go to: Environmental Health & Safety Distancing and Disinfection Plan

Supervisor Guide for Returning to a WSU Work Location

Determine which positions are conducive to telework

A position can be considered suitable for telework if some or most of its responsibilities can be performed away from a WSU work location. The change in work location should not impact productivity, customer service, operational efficiency, or team collaboration.

Each position should be considered individually, per the responsibilities of the role, to determine if the work can be done outside of the regular work environment by considering the following questions:

  • Are the essential functions of the position suitable for remote work? NOTE: If there are elements of the position that require in person customer or student facing activities, require materials and files that can only be accessed onsite, etc., you may require the employee to work on site.
  • Would working from home cause undue hardship for the department’s operations?
  • Is it necessary to work from a campus workspace? Why?
  • Does the position description support work from home?
  • Are there space constraints alleviated by a work from home rotation?Does the employee have the necessary equipment and technology to work from home regularly or occasionally?
    • Is the employee able to have access to the needed equipment to perform their job function?
    • Do they have access to Wi-Fi to be able to complete their tasks, and communicate with their supervisor and team?
    • Does the employee’s core responsibilities require access to equipment, materials, and files that can only be accessed on site?
    • Is the employee required to be on-site for face-to-face meetings with supervisors, other employees, students, or customers? Or can this contact be done electronically?

Equipment and Internet Access Requirements for telework

Telework employees must have adequate equipment to use at their remote site and will need to purchase equipment with their own resources (unless equipment purchases is authorized by the appointing authority). High speed internet access is required to work remotely. The telework or remote employee must provide their own Wi-Fi connectivity.

IT ability and access to Wi-Fi networks plays a large part in determining telework ability.

Determine the suitability of specific employees who are interested in teleworking

Once it has been determined that all or some of the role responsibilities can be performed outside of the regular work environment, it must be identified if the employee in this role is compatible to telework opportunities. This must be considered on a case-by-case basis for current employees and must be considered when interviewing candidates for a remote or telework position. The telework approval or denial determination is made by the employee’s manager.

If the employee feels they need a workplace accommodation, which may include telework, due to a medical condition the employee should contact HRS Disability Services at

Supervisors are asked to be flexible with employees while maintaining clear performance expectations.

 Factors for this determination should include but are not limited to:

  • Employees most recent performance history (including disciplinary action).
  • Employees time management and organizational skills.
  • Does the employee have the necessary computer skills to complete their required job functions outside of the office?
  • Does the employee understand their role and expectations, and require little supervision to complete their tasks?
  • Is the employee a self-starter and consistently meets deadlines?
  • The employee must have a workspace conducive to a telework environment.
    • This includes adequate access to the internet and a quiet place for calls or video meetings.
    • Employees should work with managers to establish work hours. These work hours should be added to the employee’s email signature for transparency across the university.
    • Employees should designate “office” space and get IT support for their setup
    • Employees should try to minimize distractions in this area.
    • Employees should be cognizant of how their environment appears during video meetings.

Hybrid Telework Options

Some roles may be conducive for a limited amount of telework even if many of the responsibilities must be done at the regular work location. These roles could be considered for Flexible Scheduling. This is considered a hybrid telework arrangement and is likely to be the model for many teams.

A telework agreement is NOT required when:

  • Telework arrangement is for a short-term or intermittent period in anticipation the employee will return full-time to their WSU work location as part of a return to work plan. 
  • Incidental occurrences as defined in BPPM 60.34, Telework Agreement.

Employee Guide for Returning to a WSU Work Location


Employees currently teleworking to comply with the state of Washington “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order are exempt from completing a formal telework agreement in accordance with BPPM 60.34, Telework Agreement.

As employees begin to return to a WSU work location, employees who will regularly work from an alternate work location after July 12, 2021, must have an approved telework agreement in place as outlined in the BPPM.   

A telework agreement is NOT required when:

  • Telework arrangement is for a short-term or intermittent period in anticipation the employee will return full-time to their WSU work location as part of a return to work plan. 
  • Incidental occurrences as defined in BPPM 60.34, Telework Agreement.

For questions, contact your HRS Service Team

Reporting to a WSU Work Location

Employees are not to report for work at a WSU work location unless directed to by their supervisor, once they have met all of the pre-return requirements defined in this guide.

Workplace Expectations & Guidelines

WSU employees are expected to fully comply with statewide and university COVID-19 health and safety requirements as a condition of employment for the health and safety of themselves, their colleagues, and the WSU community.

Failure to do so may result in corrective and/or disciplinary action. Supervisors should contact HRS, as certain violations may require the employee to immediately leave the work location.  

COVID-19 Symptoms

According to the CDC, people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

This list is not an exhaustive list of all symptoms. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Visit CDC website for additional information.

COVID-19 Groups at Higher Risk

Certain groups may be at higher risk for COVID-19 infection, including:

  • Older adults (aged 65 years and older)
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised
    • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
    • People with diabetes
    • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
    • People with liver disease

Employees who have been instructed to return to their work location and have concerns about doing so, due to a medical condition that places them (or someone within their household) in a higher risk group, those who are pregnant, or those who wish to seek ADA Reasonable Accommodations related to returning to the work location should visit the HRS Disability Services website or contact the HRS main line at (509) 335-4521.

Return to Work Requirements

Employees who have been instructed to return to a WSU work location must do the following:

  1. Complete the WSU COVID-19 Safe Return to Work training.
  2. Effective, June 29, 2020, Conduct symptom self-attestation every day before reporting to a WSU work location. COVID-19 Employee Attestation Information.
  3. Wear a face covering when working at any WSU work location when in the presence of others and in public settings. If an employee states they are unable to wear a face covering due to a health condition, refer the individual to HRS Disability Services to review what, if any, accommodations may be made for the employee. An accommodation will not include allowing an employee to not wear a face covering where it is required. Faculty and staff with concerns that other employees are not complying should speak with their supervisor, or report it to HRS using the COVID-19 Return to Work Concerns form.

WSU Return to the Workplace Date

As WSU moves to a phased reopening in preparation for the fall 2021 semester, this does not mean that all faculty and staff will need to return to on-site work locations full time on July 12. There still will be a need for employees to continue working remotely for all or part of their schedules. Doing so will ensure compliance with current physical distancing guidelines and meet the guidelines established by some areas or units with their respective area or unit plans.

The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and communities remains our top priority and we will resume full in-person operations only when it is safe to do so.

Return to the Workplace Notice Requirement

HRS recommends giving employees as much notice as reasonably possible.  Supervisors should discuss concerns employees may have regarding returning to the work site.  HRS is available to help discuss any concerns.  Consult with your HRS Service Team for assistance.


Yes, as announced on April 28, 2021, WSU intends to require the COVID-19 vaccination system-wide for all employees, volunteers and affiliates engaging in activities at a WSU work location.

Face Coverings

Beginning June 26, 2020, a statewide order requires all individuals in an indoor public space, or outside public space when unable to physically distance from others, will be legally required to wear a face covering. For more on the statewide face covering mandate, visit the Washington State Coronavirus Response (COVID-19) website

Face Coverings: As directed by federal, state or local county health officials, face coverings must be worn by all employees working at any WSU work location when in the presence of others and in public settings.

For WSU employees requesting a medical or health risk accommodation please visit the HRS Disability Services website or contact the HRS main line at (509) 335-4521 to discuss options.

Exceptions – Face coverings are not required when:

  • Working or spending time alone in a personal office or workspace with the door closed
  • Working or spending time outdoors (e.g., walking, exercising) and at least a six-foot distance can be maintained
  • Operating a single occupancy vehicle
  • Teleworking (i.e., not reporting on site to a University work location)
  • Inside a private on-campus residential unit
  • Eating or drinking; a six-foot physical distance between people is required when eating and drinking and during breaks

WSU will supply face coverings for employee’s.  Employees may choose to wear their own personal cloth face covering. Personal cloth face coverings must only be worn for one day at a time, and must be properly cleaned before use again. See EH&S Personal Protective Equipment and CDC guidance regarding face coverings. Disposable face coverings must be disposed of daily.

Cloth face coverings are not PPE. Face coverings do not replace social distancing, avoiding face touching and frequent handwashing. Cloth face coverings protect others from infected individuals who wear the face coverings, including those that may be infected but don’t experience illness i.e. asymptomatic. Wearing cloth face coverings in public areas to limit the spread of respiratory droplets demonstrates consideration for others.

WSU employees are expected to comply with the statewide face covering requirement as a condition of employment, as well as for the health and safety of themselves, their colleagues, and the WSU community. Colleges/Areas are required to ensure all employees have a thorough understanding of the face covering requirement. Employees who do not comply are to be reminded of the requirement by their supervisor and provided additional education and/or training as needed. If, after additional education and/or training, the employee refuses to comply, supervisors are to contact their area HRS Service Team  to move forward with the appropriate corrective or disciplinary action process.

If an employee states they are unable to wear a face covering due to a health condition, refer the individual to HRS Disability Services to review what, if any, accommodations may be made for the employee. An accommodation will not include allowing an employee to not wear a face covering where it is required. Faculty and staff with concerns that other employees are not complying should speak with their supervisor, or report it to HRS using the COVID-19 Return to Work Concerns form.

See details regarding face covering/mask use below:

COVID-19 Return to Work Concerns

Employees who have been directed to return to a WSU work location and have concerns, due to COVID-19, are to complete the COVID-19 Return to Work Concerns Form.

Staffing During Phases 2 & 3

WSU will return faculty and staff, in a coordinated process, over time, to ensure appropriate social distancing, and availability of face coverings and PPE (personal protective equipment) in accordance with federal, state, and local health officials.

WSU will assess expanded staffing based on mission-critical operations, ability to control and manage specific work environments, and necessity to access on-site resources. These decisions, once approved, will be communicated through your employee’s respective vice president, chancellor or dean.

The need to reduce the number of people on campus (density) to meet social distancing requirements will continue for some time through Phases 2 & 3. Departments who can continue to have employees effectively telework or work at an alternative location must continue to do so until restrictions are eased under Phase 4.

Expanded staffing will be tightly controlled and coordinated to mitigate potential risks and ensure the safety of employees, as well as the communities we serve. No department or unit shall increase staffing levels beyond current needs to support critical on-site operations without:

Consultation and review of return to work plans by:

  • Respective vice president, chancellor or dean,
  • Public Health Emergency Task Force and/or Risk Management Advisory Group
  • President’s cabinet

As on-site staffing increases and operations expand, WSU will closely monitor and assess the potential spread of the virus, as well as existing policies and procedures to mitigate it.

Staffing Options

For employees who have been instructed to return to their work location, there are several options departments can consider to maintain required social distancing measures and reduce population density within buildings and work spaces.

Telework: Departments with employees who can effectively telework to fulfill some or all of their work responsibilities must allow them to continue do so to reduce the number of individuals on the campus or other WSU work location.

Alternating Days or Shifts: To limit the number of individuals and interactions among those at the WSU work location, departments may schedule partial staffing on alternating days or shifts, such schedules will help enable social distancing, especially in areas with large common workspaces.

Staggered Reporting/Departing: The beginning and end of the workday typically bring many people together at common entry/exit points of buildings. Staggering reporting and departure times will help reduce traffic in common areas to meet social distancing requirements. (See Enter/Exit Controls for further details).

Childcare Availability Concerns

If you are unable to obtain childcare prior to the date your supervisor needs you to return to the workplace, please talk with your supervisor about alternative scheduling options.

Personal Safety Practices

Social Distancing: Keeping space between you and others is one of the best tools to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus and slow its spread. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to avoid close contact with others whenever possible, even if you have no symptoms. Social distancing is important for everyone, especially to help protect people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Employees who are working at a WSU work location must follow these social distancing practices:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people at all times
  • Do not gather in groups exceeding the number allowed within the Phase guidelines for your county

Handwashing: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or touching your face. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol or 70% isopropanol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash your hands after touching your face.

Gloves: Healthcare workers and others in high-risk areas should use gloves as part of PPE (personal protective equipment), but according to the CDC, gloves are not necessary for general use and do not replace good hand hygiene. Washing your hands often is considered the best practice for common everyday tasks.

Goggles/Face Shields: Employees do not need to wear goggles or face shields as part of general activity. Good hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face are generally sufficient for most non- healthcare environments. Contact EH&S for specifics on high risk areas and PPE.

Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all positions, is available including gloves, face coverings, hand-sanitizer, and face masks (if required for position, check with E&HS).

Cleaning/Disinfection: Employees should wipe down commonly used surfaces before and after use with products that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19 and are appropriate for the surface. This includes any shared-space location or equipment (e.g. copiers, printers, computers, keyboards and mice, A/V and other electrical equipment, coffee makers, desks and tables, light switches, door knobs, etc.). EH&S provides sanitizing guidance at the EHS Disinfectant website.

Coughing/Sneezing Hygiene: If you are in a private setting and do not have on your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Then throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol.

Guidance for Specific Workplace Scenarios

Public Transportation and Ride Sharing: If you take public transportation, shared rides, van pools, buses, trains, ferries etc., it is recommended you wear a face covering throughout rides with others and avoid touching surfaces with your hands. Upon disembarking or leaving the vehicle wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the preferred form of hand hygiene as soon as possible and before removing your mask.

Working in Office Environments: If you work in an open environment, be sure to maintain at least 6 feet distance from co-workers. If possible have at least one workspace separating you from another co-worker. You should wear a face covering at all times while in a shared work space/room.  Discourage workers from using others work space including desk, telephone, equipment, and other work items.  If they are used, they must be sanitized between uses.

Departments must assess work environments and meeting rooms to institute measures to physically separate and increase distance between employees, other coworkers, and customers, such as:

  • Place visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape, or signs to indicate to customers where they should stand while waiting in line.
  • Place one-way directional signage for large open work spaces with multiple through-ways to increase distance between employees moving through the space.
  • Consider designating specific stairways for up or down traffic if building space allows.
  • Remove excess chairs and place chairs a minimum of 6 feet apart.
  • Consider installing a cough guard for reception areas

If you work in an office, no more than one person should be in the same room unless the required 6 feet of distancing can be consistently maintained. If more than one person is in a room, face coverings should be worn at all times. A face covering is not required if you are working alone in a confined office space (does not include partitioned work areas in a large open environment).

Face coverings should be worn by employees in reception/receiving areas. Face coverings should be used when inside any WSU facility where others are present, including walking in narrow hallways where others travel and in break rooms, conference rooms and other meeting locations.

Using Restrooms: Use of restrooms should be limited based on size to ensure at least 6 feet distance between individuals.  Coordinate appropriate signage with facility services.

Using Elevators: Follow the posted guidance; most elevators limit occupancy to 1 or 2.

Meetings: In person meetings are to be avoided as much as possible.  If an in person meeting is necessary, participants must follow social distancing requirements. Departments should remove or rearrange chairs and tables or add visual cue marks in meeting rooms to support social distancing practices. All attendees should wear a face covering while sharing space in a common room. Meeting rooms must be sanitized before and after use. Employees are encouraged to communicate with colleagues and supervisors as needed by email, instant message, telephone or other available technology rather than meeting face-to-face.  Use online meeting applications such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or telephone conferencing when possible, even when employees are in the same office or building.

Meals: If employees are eating in their work environment (break room, office, etc.), they must maintain 6 feet distance between others. Individuals should not sit facing one another.

Laboratory Work: Specific criteria have been developed for faculty and staff working in laboratory environments. See COVID-19: Research Operations at WSU website for additional details.

Gatherings: See: SAFER GATHERINGS | Washington State Coronavirus Response (COVID-19)

Enter/Exit Control

Employees should not hold or prop open exterior doors for any other person.

Departments and building coordinators should work together to identify usable building access points and schedule arrival and departure times of staff to reduce congestion during typical “rush hours” of the business day.

Building occupants are expected to follow signage on traffic flow through building entrances, exits, elevator usage and similar common use areas.

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to offer emotional support during this stressful period. You may contact EAP by calling 1-877-313-4455 or visiting the EAP website.

WSU is committed to supporting your overall health and wellbeing. Visit the Wellcoug website for more information and resources to offer support, manage stress and enhance your resilience

WSU Resources

Our knowledge and understanding of the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, and our policies and plans will be updated as appropriate as more information becomes available. The WSU Coronavirus COVID-19 website is the university’s central source of updates and information about COVID-19.

Updated 5/12/2021