Employees Will Continue to Work from Home
January 13, 2022
The Workplace Return Team, together with members from Corporate Health & Safety and our medical staff, continue to monitor a number of COVID-19-related factors across our five-state service territory to determine the best course of action to keep employees safe and heathy. Recently, the Business Continuity Management (BCM) Steering Committee and Executive Council agreed that employees currently working from home will not return to the office on Feb. 28, 2022, based on the following factors:
- Employee cases of COVID-19 are increasing at a rapid pace
- The number of employees contacting our health reporting center is at an all-time high
- All counties in our service territory are showing high transmission rates in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) COVID-19 Data Tracker
- During this time of high transmission rates, it’s safer to restrict the number of employees in work locations
- There has been no noticeable negative impact on employee productivity with the current work from home practice
Due to the rapid spread and quickly evolving nature of the virus, we are not providing a workplace return date at this time. The Workplace Return Team and company leadership will evaluate the best path forward to transition to a more flexible, mobile way of working. Our mobile and on-site employee designations will help guide decisions.
- As a reminder, an on-site employee’s primary work location is a FirstEnergy site as dictated by business need. Their role generally requires them to work on-site three or more days per week at an assigned space unless occasional flexibility is needed.
- A mobile employee’s primary work location is at home – but they may visit a facility for in-person collaboration needs up to two days a week or as business needs require.
Like many other businesses, we’re assessing the lessons we’ve learned from operating through a pandemic to determine our workplace of the future. Given the unpredictability about the variants and the rate of transmission of the virus, we are not setting a return-to-work date at this time.
A thoughtful approach to employees transitioning to their designations (on-site or mobile) will be shared with employees, when finalized. We will consider the adjustment required to help ensure we are working safely and effectively to serve customers and meet our other business objectives.
We are taking into account several factors regarding use of our workplace environment as part of this transition. For example, a cross-functional team is considering the use of Teams in the office, if computer equipment needed, any changes to work areas etc., in addition to studying our entire portfolio of owned and leased facilities to identify opportunities for future optimization.
As plans evolve, we’re committed to providing at least 30 days’ notice before any changes would be effective, and we will continue to keep employees updated.
Protocols to Protect Health and Safety
COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have shown to reduce the risk of new illness and significantly lower hospitalizations and deaths. While COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory, employees are strongly encouraged to get the vaccine and booster to protect themselves and others. To report or update your vaccine status, please go to Safe Workplace Vaccination Form.
On Jan. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which would require large businesses to record the COVID-19 vaccination status of their employees effective Jan. 10, 2022. And unvaccinated employees would be required to undergo testing beginning Feb. 10, 2022.
As a result of the stay, FirstEnergy is pausing the implementation of our COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Covering Policyannounced Monday – employees are not required to report their vaccination status or submit to weekly testing as required by the ETS.
FirstEnergy’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols are still in place to protect employees. Below are reminders of our practices on masks, reporting illness, meetings and volunteer activities.
And remember, our Healthy Living program offers an incentive for employees receiving any vaccine recommended by the CDC, such as those for flu, COVID-19 or shingles. All COVID-19 vaccine doses are rewardable, including those received prior July 1, 2021. For more details, the CDC provides key information about the vaccine.
Our current mask/face coverings protocol requires all FirstEnergy employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask or face covering while working indoors at a work location or while riding with another employee in a company vehicle. Exceptions are noted in our monthly mask update article.
Given the current state of the pandemic, employees are encouraged to conduct virtual meetings using Microsoft Teams or other technology instead of in-person meetings. In-person meetings should be held for business-critical situations only. Daily job briefings for field employees are considered business critical and should follow safety protocols, including masking and social distancing. However, staff meetings, project meetings, employee check-in conversations are generally not considered business-critical and should be done virtually.
In light of current COVID-19 conditions in our service area, we are temporarily pausing all company-organized in-person indoor volunteer events to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Employees choosing to volunteer on behalf of FirstEnergy should select virtual events or those held exclusively outdoors. Employees should also follow FirstEnergy’s health and safety protocols – such as wearing masks indoors, washing hands regularly and maintaining social distance when practical.
Remember, Volunteer Time Off (VTO) can be used for virtual and outdoor events. This is a temporary pause, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation and will advise employees when indoor volunteer events are permitted.