NASA is taking a “risk-based, phased, and methodical” approach to reopening its offices, with the health and safety of its workforce and continuing telework as top priorities, according to the agency’s framework for returning to on-site work.
The agency’s framework for returning to work relies on the gating criteria established by the White House, Office of Personnel Management, and Office of Management and Budget. From there, NASA’s on-site locations will proceed through four stages ramping up to a slow return.
Stage four, the first of the stages, requires mandatory telework with facilities closed to all but mission-essential personnel. Meetings and events are conducted virtually with remote participants and all travel is suspended. Following a 14-day decline in COVID-like and influenza-like illness, on-site locations can move to stage three.
Under stage three, mandatory telework and virtual meetings continue. Some facilities may start to reopen for mission-essential employees, such as takeout food and daycare centers on-site. Mission-critical travel will begin to open. Stage three will continue until the area experiences another 14-day downward trajectory of documented cases or positive tests.
Employees who can accomplish work remotely will still be encouraged to do so under stage two, but the stage does not require mandatory telework. Virtual meetings and events will still be encouraged, but mission-critical visitors will be allowed on-site with agency approval. Under this stage, NASA underscores the need to practice social distancing and hand washing. On-site fitness centers will remain closed.
To reach stage one, there must be robust COVID-19 and antibody testing in place for healthcare workers, availability to treat patients at local hospitals, and adequate personally protective equipment available to employees when social distancing is not possible. While there will be “full access” to NASA offices, the stage encourages employees to remain “telework ready.” Facilities will be open, with social distancing and other safety measures in place. While virtual gatherings are still encouraged, the agency asks employees to “reduce” rather than “cancel” large meetings and travel will still be minimized.
As employees return on-site, NASA has also launched a Clean Team Task Force to maintain safety protocols. The team of “industrial hygiene professionals” are analyzing the best way to keep NASA facilities sanitized, and lessons learned will be continuously evaluated for improvement.
“Following these simple protocols is how we show our concern for the welfare of, and respect for, our coworkers – and protect the NASA mission,” the agency said of its reopening framework.