Appendix A: Return to Campus - A Step by Step Approach

The following step by step approach may be useful for supervisors as they prepare to transition back to campus over the summer and fall. It includes examples of specific things to consider as well as tips and resources. 

Step 1 – Staff and Safety Planning

Develop your departmental return to campus staffing plan to align with the stages, indicators and density percentages outlined in SFU’s Return to Campus recovery plan as well as your Faculty or unit‘s overall plan. Prepare for a gradual increase in on-campus activity that incorporates all safety plan requirements.

When: During initial planning, continually monitoring and adjusting as needed throughout the transition.

Staffing Plans 

  • What services and functions need to be delivered on campus throughout the transition?
  • Which positions or roles perform these services and functions?
  • Use the Staffing Planning Tool to support you in considering strategic goals, service needs, student experience, role requirements and operational considerations.
  • Plan to have all staff return to campus in some capacity during the transition.
  • What is your contingency staffing plan(s) if conditions change (e.g., tightening or loosening of safety requirements)? Be adaptable and realistic.
  • Where will staff work? Do spaces need to be reconfigured to ensure alignment with safety measures and other requirements under approved Safety Plans? Is space limited? How/where will meetings take place? Who do you need to consult with to ensure your plans will meet operational needs?
  • Factor equipment needs in when planning for transition. What equipment or technology will staff need to do their work as they return to campus? What is needed to support any equipment or technology that will be returned to campus? Who do you need to consult with to ensure your plans meet operational needs?
  • If plans require employees to split their time between campus and home, consider equipment that can be transported between locations or equipment that can be signed out.
  • Ensure your staffing plan aligns with overall Faculty or unit plans and follow any approval processes that may be in place for your Faculty or unit.

Safety Plans

1. Ensure Safety Plans are in place and followed for all spaces:

  • If you don’t yet have a safety plan in place, you will need one before anyone attends your work area. Develop a Safety Plan for your work unit based on SFU guidelines in consultation with your local safety committee and employees.
  • Note that a central committee is currently working on developing institution-wide safety plans consistent with forthcoming guidelines from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training which will be effective August 1, 2021. Please follow existing safety plans and rely upon existing safety plan guidelines until August 1st. More information will be communicated as it comes available.
  • Continually monitor to ensure alignment with changing conditions. Refer to SFU’s Go Forward Plan, Provincial Health Orders and WorkSafe BC.
  • Ensure staff have completed the online COVID-19 Awareness and Safe Return to Work training module as well as any unit specific safety training. Refresher training is also available.
  • Ensure daily health self-assessments are completed (presently a requirement when required to work on campus).
  • Employees have the right to refuse unsafe work. Having an approved safety plan and training in place is critical.

2. Create Familiarity with Safety Measures:

  • Share and discuss Safety Plans directly with staff so that they understand the protocols.
  • Encourage questions and conversations around the safety protocols in action on campus.
  • Meet with staff to discuss the safety plan(s) and any realignments/adjustments needing to be made since the last update.
  • Have follow up discussion(s) to invite and respond to questions related to Safety Plan(s).

Step 2 – Communicate and Lead Through the Transition

Connecting regularly with team members and being in tune with the unique circumstances of your team members is key to a smooth transition and helping staff adapt to the changes taking place over this transition time. Ensure regular and open communication recognizing that the situation will evolve over time. 

When: Regularly throughout the transition. 

1. Connect with staff regularly to gain a sense of individual circumstances and where they are at with the transition:

  • Schedule conversations with staff to discuss the return to campus.
  • Ask: “How are you feeling about returning to campus?,” “What will make it a positive transition for you?,” and “Are you apprehensive about returning to campus?” If so, “What concerns do you have?”
  • Listen, and be understanding and supportive. Also, connect people to resources and supports when needed.
  • Be empathetic and sensitive to the unique circumstances of individuals and develop plans that are equitable, inclusive and reasonable while ensuring operational needs are met.
  • Review safety procedures and standard hygiene precautions in the workplace that are designed to protect staff from COVID-19.
  • There may be a duty to accommodate based on a ground protected by the BC Human Rights Code, such as disability or family status. Employers are expected to be adaptable and accommodate up to the point of undue hardship, including considering requests for remote working where operationally feasible. Discuss with the employee about their individual circumstances, including their limitations and restrictions, and safety procedures in place at the worksite. Visit the Wellness & Recovery website for information on SFU's workplace accommodation process.
  • Some employees may be interested in why an allowance was made for one team member and not for another, so please ensure confidentiality is maintained and individual personal circumstances aren’t shared with others.
  • If an employee’s concern is a refusal of unsafe work, employers must ensure that they comply with the refusal of unsafe work process required by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. Expertise is available through Human Resources and Safety & Risk Services.
  • Ensure alignment with collective agreement provisions and/or policies.
  • Discuss unique circumstances with your HR Strategic Business Partner who can bring in expertise from Wellness & Recovery, Human Rights, Labour Relations and/or Safety & Risk Services, depending on the circumstances.

2. Supporting staff through a time of uncertainty can be daunting. Strategies and resources on building confidence with having these conversations include:

3. Communicate Effectively:

  • Approach every communication openly with empathy, curiosity and care.
  • Use active listening skills.
  • Learn to detect signs of discomfort and respond accordingly.
  • Be clear (and simple) in your messaging as well as honest and transparent.
  • Understand that “how” you communicate is important, not only “what” you communicate.
  • Prepare for anticipated questions. In times of change, there will be uncertainty and employees may have questions that do not yet have answers. Responding with “things are not yet known” can be helpful for staff to prepare for various possibilities.

Step 3 – Implement and Train

Support staff during the transition back to campus.

When: SFU communicates transition to the next stage of return to campus based on Provincial Health Office guidance. Align with overall Faculty or unit direction.

  • Will staff split their time between working from home and working on campus during the transition? Align with any Faculty or unit-wide plans and expectations.
  • Are changes to work schedules (e.g., different start & end times, alternating or rotating schedules) for staff a consideration during the transition? See Staffing Plan Development Tool.
  • Be flexible where feasible to support staff in navigating the transition back to campus successfully.
  • Is any training required for systems and equipment or procedures (particularly for any newer team members who may not have worked on campus yet)?
  • Establish working norms so it is clear when people are available, such as for meetings, and assess for inclusivity.
  • Review work priorities and adjust if necessary.
  • Establish clear communication channels, such as when in-person meetings are necessary and when virtual platforms can be used.
  • Reach out for support if you need it.
  • Leaders are encouraged to make decisions based on the needs of their Faculty or unit and team members. Your HR Strategic Business Partner is available to support you and will liaise with others as needed.

Support available as SFU transitions through return to campus

Stay up-to-date on SFU’s Return to Campus recovery plans, keep an eye out for updates from the Executive Team and regularly visit SFU’s Return to Campus website

Remember that your HR Strategic Business Partner is there to help you with workforce planning, change management as well as other aspects of transition.