After 15 months of living in a pandemic, we have come to expect that plans will evolve as our community and society learn more about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is with this recognition that I share an update on the University’s plans for Fall 2021.
The University of Toronto is an institution with a tri-campus community built around—and for—in-person interaction. A focus on students and student experience underpins our collective work. We are therefore hopeful that we can deliver as many in-person activities as permitted by public health guidance in September.
This means that our faculty, librarians, staff, and especially those who support our students and research activities, should expect to work on-site this fall.
The University of Toronto is a complex organization, and not everyone will be expected to work on campus in Fall 2021 with the same regularity. Some individuals will need to be on-site daily because of the specific role they perform, while others, based on their roles, may be able to continue partially working from home. We understand that a lack of definitive answers at this time can be frustrating and stressful, but please know that campuses and divisions are currently hard at work creating return-to-campus plans that specify who will need to be on-site to support our students.
In the coming weeks and months, please look to your divisional leaders for more specific direction on what a return to campus will mean for your team, and for details on how often you will be working on-site.
Different divisions and campuses may take their own approaches, while sharing the same U of T guidelines. Specific directions will be guided by the recommendations and regulations of local and provincial public health authorities.
To support these conversations, the Division of HR & Equity has created an Alternative Work Arrangement Guideline that outlines which roles may be able to continue working remotely at least part-time as we transition back to on-campus work. The Guideline will be provided to Divisional Chief Administrative Officers and Divisional HR Offices in the first two weeks of July before being posted on the HR & Equity website. This document provides guidance for leaders on how to implement flexible work arrangements for employees based on principles of equity, inclusion, student support, and sustainability. It also provides guidance for staff who wish to request a formal flexible work arrangement for this fall, and how they can go about doing so. In all cases, the University’s focus on students, research, and learning supports remains at the forefront of decisions pertaining to alternative work arrangements.
Many of us have discovered that a hybrid and remote workforce brings a new flexibility that allows us to examine where, when, and how work is completed. With our communities returning to our campuses, I am committed to applying what we have learned in order to support a culture of flexibility and innovation, foster a sense of tri-campus community, and move forward as an institution.
Our highest priority in this gradual return will be to follow public health guidelines and to do our best to protect the health & safety of our community. Though vaccination will not be mandatory for faculty, staff, and librarians at this time, I do encourage you to get vaccinated if you are able. Our UTogether website offers more information about Ontario’s vaccination plan. It also identifies the University’s measures to protect the health and safety of students and employees throughout this transition. These measures have enabled employees in certain roles to continue working on-site throughout the pandemic—and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those individuals who have been working tirelessly on our campuses during the past several months.
As we have all experienced in our personal lives, planning anything during the pandemic is a challenge. Over the summer, I will provide monthly updates for faculty, librarians, and staff on our evolving understanding of what Fall 2021 will look like. As we make this transition together, I urge you to treat one another with kindness and understanding. I also hope each one of you uses your vacation and wellness days to take a well-deserved break this summer.