Taking Care During the Fifth Wave

The U of A community is encouraged to take time away from work when ill, and support those who need to do so.


As we enter a new year, our community is facing the rapid spread of Omicron and the full force of the cold and flu season. The persistence of COVID-19 continues to impact all of us in our personal and professional lives. I would like to remind the university community that prioritizing our health and wellness is essential—we need to be kind to ourselves, our teams and our colleagues. If you or someone in your household are ill, please take the necessary time away from work to fully rest and recover.

Employees who are unwell

Whether work is being done in a home office, on campus, or in a classroom or lab, we need to be able to disconnect when we are feeling unwell. Missing a day of work can be frustrating, discouraging or anxiety-inducing, but prioritizing self-care keeps you and the campus community safe. Management and Professional Staff, Support Staff and Academic Staff all have casual illness days available, providing the flexibility needed to recover.

If you feel unwell and are unable to work, please advise your supervisor you'll be away and keep them informed throughout your recovery. Work out a plan so you can focus on getting better, and not feel pressured to be in meetings or checking your email.

More on what employees should do if unwell


Teams working with reduced capacity

Supervisors should assure employees that are unwell to stay home if their work requires them to be on campus and to not work if an employee is working from home—it is required and the right thing to do. Employees should not feel afraid or unable to take an illness day and supervisors should have contingency plans in place for when staff availability changes on short notice.

Evaluate what work can be paused, postponed or reprioritized, both to manage reduced capacity and to provide a more manageable environment during these uncertain times. 

Please consider actions that provide time, space and support for employees, such as:

  • Canceling a class or arranging for a substitute instructor or guest lecturer 
  • Canceling or rescheduling meetings
  • Pausing projects and adjusting deadlines
  • Sending only one representative to a meeting

How employees are feeling may change from day to day so check in regularly to manage workload and keep lines of communication open. Supervisors may need to support staff that are caring for someone who is unwell by offering options like a condensed work week, flexible hours and a leave program.

More on how managers can support their teams

Absences and COVID-19 testing

The university does not require proof of a positive test to support an absence. Likewise, proof of a negative test is not required to be on campus for those who are CampusReady, fully vaccinated and not required to isolate. Additionally, a supervisor cannot request to see a COVID-19 test result to accommodate an absence—even employees adhering to all COVID-19 safety protocols may end up ill.

While it may be frustrating or stressful to keep up with service or productivity levels when one or more of our colleagues are away due to illness, remember that those who are sick should prioritize their health and safety. Be kind, caring and empathetic to those who need to take time away from work to recover, and to your colleagues who are managing workloads without the usual levels of staffing and support. 

Todd Gilchrist
Vice-President, University Services and Finance

If you need additional guidance or support, please reach out to your Human Resources Service Partner.