Department Reopening Plans

Each department desiring to return to campus must provide a plan that addresses the main subjects covered within this website.

These guidelines are intended to set some common understanding and best practices while providing prompts for where flexibility and creativity may need to come into play. Departments can submit their plans through the ReADY system. Departments including EHS, FM, Space Administration and HR will then advise you on anything you must include to help make sure your staff are safe.

To print a copy of the guidelines please download the Department Reopening Guidelines.

The information surrounding COVID-19, including State and Federal requirements and recommendations, continues to evolve regularly.  Therefore, there may be updates to these guidelines based on new information provided.

Some Considerations

Departments should think about, think about how your office environment and staff needs might change as we could be in this phased approach for quite some time.

Here are some additional notes you may find helpful as you work through this process:

Symptom checking

Symptom checking by the individual is required before they come on site. This Guidance for Daily COVID-19 Screening of Staff and Visitors document outlines what questions should be asked. 

If the answer is yes to any of the questions, the individual must stay home and not come to campus. 

 

If symptomatic, an employee should report their condition to their Supervisor, who then reports to HR. HR will report this to the University’s Medical Director, per section 2 of the communicable disease policy.

 

Face coverings

Face coverings are required when on-site and must be worn if physical distancing of 6 feet is not possible for some of your work tasks. Departments will provide cloth face masks for their employees; these can be procured through Western Marketplace.

 

Testing and Contact Tracing

The University is working closely with the Whatcom County Health Department to determine appropriate surveillance testing and contact tracing of staff and students in accordance with state and federal guidelines.
 

Building Access

Buildings will continue to be locked until the university fully opens. If your staff needs to have a key or fob to gain access, please fill out a ReADY request.  Do not ask UPD to gain access to spaces and remember it is against university policy to prop open doors (POL-U57 10.01). Classrooms will also be locked throughout the summer.

 

Building Preparation

Facilities Management and the ICS team will ensure that buildings are prepared for staff returns. Some changes that may stand out to you include new elevator protocols, additional signage, additional supplies and more waste receptacles. They will also ensure that bathrooms are managed in a way to facilitate social distancing.

 

Training

Additional training opportunities will be available to facilitate the various changes you and your staff may encounter. A separate communication will be provided as details evolve.

Phasing Staff Returns

Following the gradual approach the Governor is taking to slowly reopen businesses, and the strictness of the four phases, phasing employee returns will happen over a long time. You will need to ensure that all the elements of your plan are in place, including increased cleaning and disinfection, staff adhering to symptom attestation and physical distancing guidelines, among the many requirements.

The University’s remote working directive is extended through Phase 2 and all staff and supervisors must respect this. The Executive Team is continuing to monitor the Governor’s guidance for Phase 3 and will issue additional guidance as needed in coming weeks. The ICS recommends that departments follow this priority list in considering who returns to on-site working:

  1. Critical on-site staff​ (already on campus)
  2. Staff unable to perform all work remotely​
  3. Staff who can work remotely​
  4. Staff who prefer to work remotely​
  5. High risk​ individuals (may not return to campus until Phase 4)

In the sections below are guidelines on how to ensure physical distancing, particularly for those working in open plan offices. You also can be creative in working with your employees to develop a plan that uses a mix of working remotely and on-site and/or hybrid schedules.

In Phase 4, the restrictions are more relaxed although departments must still adhere to physical distancing measures and ensure workspaces are kept 6 feet apart. Employees must still wear a mask when in contact with others throughout all four phases.

Using the priority list above, along with what you know about your staff’s home and work situation, how will you have your staff return to on-site work? You should consider a phased return of your employees to no more than 30% of your staff at a time, while also staggering additional cohorts every 2-4 weeks. Depending on the size and needs of your staff, the percentage may vary.

 

Priority 1
 

Critical on-site staff

Priority 2

Staff unable to perform all work remotely

Priority 3

Staff who can work remotely

Priority 4

Staff who prefer to work remotely

Priority 5

High risk individuals
(earliest return in Phase 4)

Staff 1

check

 

 

 

 

Staff 2

 

 

check

 

 

Staff 3

 

check

 

 

 

Staff 4

 

 

 

 

check

In your Department Plan, please submit a spread sheet for returning staff that has the following information in this order: W#, First Name, Last Name, Priority level, Room(s) they will occupy, On-site work hours, Proposed first date of return.

Western’s Incident Command team (ICS) will review and approve all department reopening plans, applying the most relevant guidelines to the particular situation, e.g. state-issued guidance regarding childcare facilities.

Business Continuity and Customer Service

As we move back to on-site working carefully and gradually, we will all be striving to continue business operations and customer service efforts with as little disruption as possible.

In your plan, pay particular attention to tasks that are time-sensitive and create a plan that will adapt as the situation changes. With a mixture of on-site and remote working possibly continuing for some time, consider these questions as you focus on what is important:

  • What are some of the new risks and roadblocks that we need to address immediately?
  • Do we need to shift focus and adjust our priorities?
  • Do we need to adjust, change, or add any goals or targets?
  • What programs or services are impacted, and how can we adjust them for our service delivery and our stakeholders, customers, partners?

Consider holding a working session with your HR consultant to help refocus and align your team during this time. We recommend holding, at a minimum, weekly team meetings to address ongoing changes and adaptions.

You should ensure that there is a Department Emergency Plan completed and on-file with Emergency Management covering your area or department. These plans delineate contingencies if, for whatever reason, your area is unable to perform critical functions. See the Department Emergency Plan – Continuity of Operations template for the most recent version. Contact Holly Woll-Salkeld in Public Safety if you would like some assistance in completing this information.

Agility Plan

There could be further spikes in COVID-19 cases until a vaccine is found. Departments need to have an agility plan in place that allows staff to easily move from on-site back to remote work with minimal interruptions to service or working. Consider what would need to be in place to do this with only a day or two notice.

  • Identify opportunities for improvement, e.g. technology equipment such as docking stations, to support an agile environment. The university may provide internet support for teleworkers. If Western determines that an employee’s worksite is at their residence and provides it in writing, an employee could receive tax benefits when purchasing needed equipment.
  • Review work duties that may have changed because of the response to COVID-19.
  • In conversations with staff, encourage them to think through what new information was gained or new practices established in response to the ‘work from home’ order.  Are there opportunities to implement some of these in the workplace to make movement between remote work and on-site work easier to adapt to? For example, are work processes established during the work at home period adaptable to operations that are more normal?
  • Review what has been considered essential or critical to be on-site for changes to emergency work plans.
  • Review redundancy plans and what is needed in both normal and emergency operating modes.

Engaging Employees

Bringing your staff into the conversation of moving back to on-site work is an important part of getting them involved. There has been major disruption across multiple areas of life for the majority of people and experiences will vary widely as will people’s expectations, comfort and concerns with discussing working on-site again. Provide extra support to begin to counterbalance the uncertainty that COVID-19 has created. Remind employees that the Employee Assistance Program is available to them as a resource.

Below are a few reminders to think about while engaging with your team:

  • Communicate transparently about what is known and what is unknown now. Let them know if you anticipate more information will be available at a future date.
  • Ask employees to contribute to the plan.  What are their suggestions and preferences?  Where do they see opportunities or gaps? Share with employees the overarching objectives when developing a plan:
    • Ensure the health and safety of all individuals.
    • Effectively address the new hybrid working (on and off-site) in a thoughtful and inclusive way.
    • Ensure consistency and completeness with State, Federal and County Health requirements and recommendations.
    • Recognize that employees may feel differently about returning on-site given their personal circumstances.
    • If a position’s responsibilities require the work to be performed on-site but the employee does not feel comfortable returning due to personal circumstances (e.g. childcare, eldercare, and/or being in a high-risk category), let the employee know Human Resources is available to consult regarding options, which may include protected leave or accommodation.

Hybrid On-Site/Remote Schedules

The Governor’s plan continues to strongly encourage remote work. Looking to a hybrid on-site/remote schedule can be a good option to allow for some flexibility and creativity while still supporting your staff and helping keep as many people as safe as possible.

Look to introducing a hybrid schedule in the following situations:

  • To best support your staff’s specific home situation and work preference.
  • When certain work tasks are more efficient to do on-site but not the whole scope of the individual’s work duties.
  • To promote a safer office space environment that reduces the total number of people in a shared office space.

Here are three examples of what an alternative schedule could potentially look like:

Example 1:

Staff are working on-site on different days with no overlap.
(On-site days timeslots are indicated, other days the employee would continue to work remotely.)

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Staff 1

8am – 5pm

 

 

 

 

Staff 2

 

8am – 5pm

 

 

 

Staff 3

 

 

8am – 5pm

 

 

Staff 4

 

 

 

8am – 5pm

 

Example 2:

Staff are working on-site on the same days, but their on-site work times are staggered so there is no overlap in the office.
(On-site times are marked, the other times the employee would work remotely)

 

8am

9am

10am

11am

12pm

1pm

2pm

3pm

4pm

5pm

Staff 1

check

check

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff 2

 

 

check

check

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff 3

 

 

 

 

check

check

 

 

 

 

Staff 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

check

check

 

 

Example 3:

There is some overlap for staff, but it is minimized for workspace requirements and staff preferences.
(On-site times are indicated, the other times the employee would work remotely)

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Staff 1

8am – 5pm

8am – 5pm

 

8am – 5pm

12pm – 3pm

Staff 2

 

12pm – 5pm

 

 

 

Staff 3

 

 

8am – 5pm

 

8am – 5pm

Staff 4

10am – 12pm

 

 

10am – 12pm

 


You can also consider alternative work schedules such as four 10-hour days or split shifts if requested by the employee.  Work with your HR Consultant if you are considering a schedule change for classified staff to ensure the applicable collective bargaining agreement requirements are met.