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Return to campus

Staff to begin gradual return to campus this month

Campus and Community

By Memorial University

Memorial University is adopting a gradual approach to bringing staff back to campus.

Since the pandemic started in March, most employees have been working remotely.

The first step of this plan is bringing non-academic employees back for a minimum of two days a week, beginning Nov. 23, with an intended full return during the first half of 2021. The plan applies to all university campuses and locations in the province.

The plan for returning to campus was developed after an analysis of risk levels that showed that it is safe to return.

In September, Memorial made the decision to continue remote course delivery for most students in the winter 2021 semester, while opening some on-campus spaces for student study. This approach keeps density on campuses low and helped create the conditions to now bring back staff safely.

The return of staff to working on campus on a gradual basis will lead to greater support for students and a gradual increase in services.

The plan for a return to campus is based on:

  • Supporting students where and how they require the support;
  • Contemporary practices of other similar organizations in the Atlantic bubble;
  • Risk levels based on the number of COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the likelihood of community transmission;
  • And remaining adaptive to evolving risk levels and public health.

Safe and effective

“We’ve taken a methodical, thoughtful and gradual approach, which was developed in consultation with leaders throughout the university,” said Kent Decker, vice-president (administration and finance). “We strongly believe in the safety and effectiveness of this plan, based on current and anticipated numbers of COVID-19 cases in the province and the controls and procedures in place to minimize spread.”

This expanded campus access applies to staff. Faculty have had access to their offices since early in the summer.

Supervisors will now work with employees to determine unit-based plans for the return, based on density parameters. A density calculator is available online to determine the maximum capacity of on-campus spaces. Please note: At this time, Grenfell Campus employees can contact Rayna Luther to assist with back to campus density planning.

All employees will be expected to review the health and safety moment, complete Memorial’s COVID-19 awareness session and submit an individual COVID-19 occupancy form before resuming campus, office and field activities. Public health guidelines, including physical distancing, wearing a mask, hand washing and staying home when sick will also be expected. More information will be released shortly.

“There will be exceptions,” noted Mr. Decker. “We will not risk people who are immunocompromised or those with family members who are. If employees require an accommodation, they should discuss this with their supervisor.”

Empathy during this transition is crucial. This change from working remotely to working with colleagues on campus will not be easy for everyone and fear, anxiety and uncertainty are all natural reactions for some employees at this time.

There is also a contingency in place to rapidly scale back and transition back to remote work if necessary.

‘New normal’

“Since transitioning to remote work in March, Memorial staff have shown incredible dedication, professionalism, nimbleness and tenacity,” said Dr. Mark Abrahams, provost and vice-president (academic). “It’s now time to start working towards a new normal for Memorial. Gradually bringing staff back to campus will help to increase support levels to fulfil the academic mission and is an important step in the eventual return of students to campus.”

The process of returning to campus will be monitored as it is occurring and a full evaluation in January will determine if further expansion or other changes should happen.

Building on the experiences of the past year, some units may wish to explore a more permanent arrangement for some or all employees to work remotely on an ongoing basis.

For more information on return to campus plans, visit the COVID-19 website. More information will be shared in the coming days.

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