How to plan for the workplace this Winter

campus historic buildings with snow covering a large open space in front of the buildings

snow covering the ground surrounded by historic buildings on campus

We know that each working situation is unique at McMaster. Some of our staff have worked in person throughout the pandemic, others started their return to campus and other university sites last fall. Many still will be returning to in-person work for the first time in January, as we continue increasing in-person services and classes, with limited exceptions. 

Throughout this process we have listened to the feedback from our community and incorporated that thinking into planning. Recently, McMaster released its guidance for the winter term: Guiding Framework for Planning Decisions During the Pandemic, which can be found at the end of this message on the McMaster website.  The principles remind us that we must deliver on the academic and research mission of the University, while prioritizing the health, safety, and well-being of all members of our community.  

As staff and faculty continue returning to in-person work, we want to encourage teams to be creative and to work together to build plans that meet operational requirements while also respecting the flexibility needs of individuals, as a way of building a positive culture at work. We encourage teams to launch pilot work operational models and continuously evaluate. Many teams are trialing different approaches, including scheduling staff two to three days a week in the office, depending on the nature of the work. Student-facing and service-based roles may find they have more in-person demands. More guidance on scheduling models can be found here. 

“Our hope is that teams come together to work in a collaborative way to meet their unique operational goals and objectives,” says Susan Tighe, Provost and Vice President, Academic. “We are looking forward to seeing more faces in person while prioritizing the health and safety of our community.” 

The guide provides various resources to support you in your planning: 

For more information about COVID-19 safety measures like vaccination, masking, physical distancing, MacCheck screening, training, and more visit the Back to Mac website: Health & Safety.  

It is also important to remember that your area may have internal processes for some of the topics below. Contact your office administrator or building manager for information specific to your workspace.  

Exploring Flexible Work Plans and Schedules 

As we focus on delivering on the academic mission of the university, managers are encouraged to reflect on what has worked well for their teams during the pandemic and to continue to pilot flexible work arrangements for the Winter that support flexibility, connectivity, and inclusion.  

Review the updated online Supervisor Guide which provides guidance in exploring Back to Mac work arrangementsThis material is a resource to inform the planning process for pilot plans as you determine what is best for your unit or team in delivering on the academic mission of the university, in consultation with your VP, Dean and AVP. Contact your Human Resources partner for additional assistance in reviewing proposed plans and schedules. 

Additional materials are under development in support of longer-term University planning, in consultation with the Workplace and Employee Experience Working Committee (which was established in February 2021 as a subset of a larger initiative to guide planning for our Return to McMaster)Additional community consultation and input opportunities will be established as this work proceeds.  

Health, Safety and Ergonomics 

As team members continue to return to site, review appropriate health and safety checklists and guidelines to ensure that your space is ready for a safe return.  

If team members are continuing to work remotely, it’s a great time to ensure that the following are reviewed:  

Space Planning, Furniture and Physical Barriers  

Check out the Facility Services webpage on Space Planning Tips to find the following:  

  • Tips to help managers set up office space for teams, while thinking about physical distancing and hybrid work. 
  • See the video below with space planning tips for private offices, open office spaces, small and large meeting rooms, while maintaining physical distancing. 
  • An FAQ about furniture, office layouts, hotel station layouts and physical barriers (plexiglass). 

Information Technology  

Check out the University Technology Services (UTS) website to find the following:   

  • For hybrid work arrangements, continue to explore using available tools under McMaster’s Microsoft 365 license. For instance, all McMaster staff, faculty and students have access to the Microsoft Bookings tool which provide an online and mobile appointment scheduling app. 

Eating, Drinking and Celebrating 

  • McMaster’s guidelines for eating on site, including eating at restaurants, catered events, or a packed lunch can be found on the  Back to Mac website. 
  • Looking for ideas to celebrate that are engaging and inclusive? Read through our Team Celebration Guide for inspiration.  

MacID Badge, Parking, and Commuting 

  • Team members coming to work in-person on site for the first time may not yet have a MacID Badge.To Request a MacID photo access card – Send their name and employee number to to confirm employment. Once employment is confirmed they will need to provide a government sized photo through More information can be found on the Security Services website. 
  • Part-time parking permits will be available during winter term for staff and faculty members at McMaster’s Main Campus, Ron Joyce Centre and David Braley Health Sciences Centre. More information will be shared with you directly by the Parking Office in the coming weeks if you currently hold a McMaster parking permit. You can also check the Parking Services website for updates. Parking fees returned in the fall of 2021 and will remain in place.  
  • Commuting to a McMaster location for in-person work may require travel by car, bus, or other modes like walking. It is the employee’s responsibility to pay for any costs incurred by commuting to work at a McMaster location. 

Additional Resources

Additional resources are available on the McMaster Human Resources website to support planning, including information about Employee EngagementPsychological Well-Being (which has links to many other resources including topics of burnout, equity and employee health).  

Reach out to your Human Resources partners for additional assistance. 

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