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  • The Evolving Response From the Field to the Spread of Coronavirus

    March 09, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    University relations and recruiting professionals discuss how to handle their staff's travel schedule due to the coronavirus.

    TAGS: best practices, operations, policy, nace insights

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    The threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has career services and URR professionals working to address how to manage their operations to ensure the safety of staff and students.

    Members are following recommendations from their state’s department of health, the U.S. Department of State, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One organization has restricted travel for all employees to trips that are considered essential to business continuity or that cannot be accomplished virtually, while another has banned all travel—via air, rail, and bus—globally until at least the end of March.

    Communications and updates are sent to employees/staff, faculty, students, and parents. In addition, members have added areas to their websites to answer questions about the coronavirus and how the institution or organization is addressing it. One organization is messaging all students who have accepted offers with updates about the steps it is taking to protect its employees.

    This is a particularly vulnerable time for colleges and universities because of students dispersing for spring break and returning to campus. At this early stage, some colleges are merely requesting that any students, faculty, or staff member who are ill or experiencing symptoms remain home and recover before returning to campus. Meanwhile, those individuals who traveled to any affected areas during spring break are asked to follow all public health official recommendations.

    One respondent’s institution follows State Department guidelines and does not send students to countries with a Level 3 advisory or higher. Another organization has cancelled travel to any of the nations designated by the CDC as dangerous for COVID19, although domestic travel is still permitted at the employee’s discretion.

    Both career services and URR are implementing no-handshake policies and encouraging professionals to wash and sanitize their hands and workspaces. Some are ramping up vigilance and training for cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and common spaces in buildings.

    On campus, additional measures for preparation include testing virtual platforms to ensure career services staff members can deliver advising should the campus close or work from home is required. Additionally, this platform will enable the office to facilitate interviews for recruiters from companies that temporarily suspend travel.

    Among employers, additional steps include changing service formats to avoid buffet meals by going to boxed meals during events, allowing students to opt for virtual touchpoints if they are uncomfortable attending live events, having a hired doctor specializing in infectious disease provide insight into updates regarding the coronavirus and offer advice, and allowing divisions to use of Skype/video interviews in lieu of doing on-site final round interviews. One organization has changed its corporate policy to allow employees diagnosed with COVID-19 to go into a negative PTO balance.  

    To stay abreast of the situation, security and emergency teams are monitoring updates on the CDC,  World Health Organization, and U.S. Food & Drug Administration websites, and they are in touch with U.S. Health Department officials and members of the medical community.

    Members on both sides of the field have received specific guidelines from organization or institution leadership, including campus- or organization-wide plans. It is also common for members’ institutions and organizations to have created response teams and task forces charged with monitoring the situation and formulating responses based on the most current information.

    Some provide regular situation reports from emergency operations/communications teams. These reports provide the current status of the threat, the current status of operations, potential impacts to operations, and the university/organization response. They also have a dedicated section of their internal portals that post updates and messages concerning coronavirus developments for their employees.

    In the NACE Community, several members have weighed in on how they are working to slow or stop the spread of germs. Many have enacted practices that match those they use to combat the seasonal flu while hosting or attending career fairs and other recruiting events:

    • Institute a “no-handshake policy” and post signs at the event.
    • Offer hand sanitizer stations or give away sample-size hand sanitizer bottles.
    • Refund fees to those who cannot attend due to illness.
    • Offer stick-on nametags instead of those requiring a pin.

    The common addendum among all NACE members, however, is that this is their response at a specific point in time. As the status of the disease evolves on the local, regional, national, and international levels, so too will their response and the preventive actions they take.

    Members are encouraged to share tips and updates on their response through the NACE Community and resources through the Community’s library (see “Coronavirus Resources” folder).

    Key resources for information about COVID-19 include:

    NACE has distributed a quick poll to its member institutions and organizations regarding the impact of the coronavirus on operations and their response to the situation. Updates on the results will be provided weekly through the end of March.

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