Reorienting transitioning employees

Faculty and staff transitioning to in-person work will find that things are not the same as they were when the pandemic began. Months of remote work have changed the way we interact and how we do our work. Consideration must, therefore, be given to reorientation for faculty and staff to the work environment.

  • New employees that joined the organization since the pandemic began will need to be oriented to campuses and their work location, and may need to be introduced to their in-person colleagues.
  • Policies and procedures or standard practices that were changed during the pandemic will need to be reviewed.
  • Managers and supervisors should ensure that staff are aware of expectations for attendance, notification of absences, breaks, etc.
  • Managers and supervisors should orient their staff to the safety measures in place to protect the physical safety of themselves and others. In addition, the importance of caring for one’s mental and psychological wellbeing should be emphasized. Frequent check-ins are recommended.

First Days

  • Welcome staff and thank them for the time spent working remotely. Invite them to speak with you about any and all concerns.
  • Discuss the importance of safety and completing the Guide to Returning to Campus Workplace and safety training.
  • Ensure returning team members have taken the required safety training and understand the precautions and changes.
  • Promote a psychologically safe workplace. Check in-with each staff member to ask how you can support them during the return.
  • Discuss expectations, key deliverables, the work schedule, and communication, and share your plan and timelines with your team.
  • Accept and check in returned remote work equipment


The university expects all members of its community, as well as campus visitors, to know the current protocols before coming to campus. All returning faculty and staff must complete the Fall Ready | Coming to Campus 2021 e-learning course.

Unit-specific training should be identified and completed early in the transition.

Creating a positive arrival experience

We’ve been away a long time—transitioning won’t be like coming back after vacation or a long weekend. Some employees will be excited, while others will be nervous or anxious. Just as it took some time to get used to remote work, it will be an adjustment to transition to on-campus work.

There are many things managers and supervisors can do to create a positive transition-to-campus experience. Establish and maintain a personal connection with your team. Ensure you touch base with employees in advance to enable them to be prepared to transition to campus with the following information:

  1. Explain the workplace changes they will experience
    • Ensure all staff are made aware of the safety measures and controls in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
    • Ensure availability of cleaning and sanitizing supplies. See Safety Measures Directives for information on purchasing.
    • Will staggered start times be necessary to avoid crowding in elevators?
    • Ensure the space your employees occupy is clean and tidy, and identify which cleaning and hygiene supplies will be available in the workplace. Consider providing each employee with a “care package” that could include items such as hand sanitizer, a non-medical mask, tissues, or other self-care items.
    • Identify other workplace access concerns such as building access limitations, available campus services (like food vendors and coffee shops), available lunch and break rooms.
  2. Prepare a department- or job-specific re-orientation. Topics could include changes in work routines or standard operating procedures, assignment of tasks, scheduling, or even guidelines for use of meeting rooms and other common spaces.
  3. Define the work priorities, including the goals and priorities for first days/weeks of transition.
  4. Ensure all returning employees complete the required Fall Ready | Coming to Campus 2021 e-training course (available in early August).
  5. Ensure other logistics are in place
    • Do employees have transportation arrangements in place? Confirm they have arranged for parking, transportation, and/or are aware of changes to public transit schedules.
    • Confirm what equipment employees will be bringing back to campus when they return and how it will be transported. Does equipment need to be updated?
  6. Consider a welcome or thank-you activity for your staff.
    Any activity should respect all applicable public health restrictions.

Check in with staff early on their first day to ensure they have what they need and answer questions.

The first few weeks

Before employees transition, define the immediate priorities and expected work impacts, and share your plan with your team.

  • Clearly identify the work priorities. What are goals for the first few days and weeks?
  • Consider what activities changed during the remote work phase. What work ceased and now needs to be re-established? Are there particular steps required to start up this work?
  • Consider what must be done differently to comply with health and safety guidelines. Has the work changed and if so, in which ways? What restrictions or adjustments need to be followed?
  • Ensure that staff are aware of which work activities will gradually resume and when.
  • Were there any adjustments to normal duties or work schedules? Depending on how work is to be assigned, there may be collective agreement provisions to consider. Your HR Service Partner can provide guidance.