I’m excited. And nervous. And happy. And angry. And energized. And exhausted.
And my oldest daughter hasn’t even started her first day of college next week.
(Proud Dad aside: She’s headed to WPI next week as a freshman where she wants to study aerospace engineering!)
Around Connecticut, the nervousness and excitement has been palpable and has been the talk of most of the calls I’ve fielded the last few weeks. All pandemic. All the time.
Private schools working earnestly to keep kids safe and making sure their teachers and staff are safe too.
Workplaces wondering if it’s time to bring back just a few more people to the workplace.
Other workplaces addressing requests to continue to work from home. Or whether the rules are changing. And when. The amount of questions keeps multiplying each day.
A lot of the questions that are coming up now are difficult ones without easy, off-the-cuff answers. Here’s an example:
Employee X is a teacher in the “high risk” category at an independent school and would like to work from home. What options does the school have? What analysis plays in?
There are several statutes in play. The ADA, for one; does the employee have a disability as defined by the ADA? If so, does the employee’s disability interfere with the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job? And if so, is there a reasonable accommodation that can be granted that isn’t an undue hardship and doesn’t place the employee at a direct threat to him/herself or others? What accommodations should be considered? Remote work? PPE and classroom spacing?
What if the “high risk” category is just over 65? Does the ADEA play any role? And what about the FMLA? Does the employee have a serious health condition that prevents the employee from wearing a mask or even working? Can the employer ask for a second opinion to a note that seems to be questionable?
And what about the child care issues that arise or employees with kids that are only going to school in a hybrid fashion? Can the teacher take paid sick leave or FMLA+? If so, can he or she do so on an intermittent fashion? What does that look like for a school? Is that feasible?
Then there’s the Executive Orders and the guidance from the state Department of Education.
And so on.
And that’s just for one type of position. What about staff? What about other workplaces? How are employers going to manage employees who can work some days but need to work from home on others because of a hybrid model implemented by schools? How does this analysis continue to play out with Sector Rules of Offices that still say that employees who can work from home still should work from home?
That’s not to say that this isn’t workable. My colleagues and I have been having basically non-stop chats and messages about this issue or that issue. We’re still working through them all.
But at the end of the day, the questions become simpler. Crisper. Individualized. What do YOU want to do? What is YOUR risk tolerance? What precautions are being taken at the workplace and school? Is it enough for you?
For our family, the decision to send our daughter to college hasn’t been an easy one. We know that she is getting tested before she arrives, and then several times a week when she’s at the campus too. They are wearing masks, de-densifying dorms and classes, using outdoor spaces and more. We’ve purchased PPE for my daughter to wear beyond just the cloth face coverings. Enough hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies that she’ll likely never use.
She’s ready to go. We think we are too.
And yet, we’re left with the one unanswerable question: Is it enough?