In the Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) communication of 5 November 2021, it was indicated that more detailed guidance regarding the phased return of staff members to our campuses would be provided in due course. In the meantime, consultation with deans and Rectorate members took place, and we can now report as follows.
Based on feedback from environments and in the interests of ensuring clarity and consistency across the institution, the principles and practices below will serve as return-to-the-workplace arrangements for the remainder of the year. This will ensure the maximum physical presence of staff on campus for SU as a residential university.
This document draws extensively upon a document that was developed by the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, which was henceforth discussed, slightly amended, and supported by the deans and members of the Rectorate.
Please note that all the necessary health and safety protocols will be strictly enforced to combat COVID-19. These include daily health screenings (please use Higher Health's HealthCheck daily risk assessment tool before coming to campus), the wearing of masks, sanitising and physical distancing.
To comply with physical distancing requirements, environments may roster staff to come to the office on different days or at different times.
Additional measures will apply for employees who are older than 60 and/or suffer from comorbidities. These could include working from home, isolating the persons, or rostering so that contact is minimised. The precise measures must be assessed on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with medical and health and safety specialists.
Return-to-the-workplace arrangements will be reviewed should the situation on our campuses change or the country again be moved to another risk level.
- There are tasks and engagements with colleagues that require a physical presence on campus.
- Being physically present on campus is valuable for the informal and spontaneous interaction and exchange of ideas that facilitate innovation, and that cannot be achieved in case of remote-only work.
- A physical presence prevents estrangement from our campuses as the primary workspaces of SU as a residential university.
- There is a need to strengthen cohesion, collegiality and cooperation among staff, especially regarding the induction of new staff and students.
- It is important to discern which meetings can take place online and which will benefit from a physical presence.
- Misunderstandings and miscommunication are reduced when we can engage (even briefly) in person.
- Once we return to a full face-to-face academic offering in 2022, students have a reasonable expectation of being able to interact with staff in person.
- When only some staff return to the office, those individuals typically bear a disproportionate burden of work (e.g. the interruptions associated with foot-traffic). In the interests of fairness and collegiality, it is expected that all staff come to the office for some period each week.
- Working from home is a privilege, not a right. Permission to work from home is always at the discretion of the appropriate line-managers.
- Current national regulations under adjusted risk level 1 still indicates that working from home is the default. However, the considerations listed above provides the context within which an employer may require staff to return to their place of work to fulfil the expectations of their employment contract.
- Staff should be encouraged to be vaccinated because we need to create a safer working environment for one another.
- Working arrangements for staff over the age of 60 and/or with comorbidities (or those living with at-risk household members) should be individually assessed. (See the reference to this category in the introduction above.)
- Staff should always be available for work during their set working hours, even if they are working from home.
- Staff must be available to come to campus at short notice, even on days on which they had expected to work remotely.
- We understand that some staff might not yet have made comprehensive child care arrangements, but these need to be in place by the time staff return in January 2022.
- Staff must enter “Leave of absence – Work from home" on SUN-e-HR for all days on which they do not come to campus.
- Staff should ensure that their Outlook diaries are up to date. Please do not mark periods of working from home as “busy", as this will make you unavailable even for online meetings and telephone calls.
- The broad guideline for minimum campus attendance for all staff is at least 2–3 days per week.
- All staff will be expected to return full-time as from January 2022 unless their job does not require any interaction with students, clients or colleagues, and the line manager agrees that the nature of the job is such that being present on campus makes no material difference to job performance.
- Academic staff must advertise their consultation times in their module frameworks and preferably also on their office doors. It is acceptable to continue to do student consultations via Teams if that is the preference of the staff member or student.
- The provision of data allowances should be discontinued (except in specific circumstances for staff expected to work outside of normal office hours, and for staff who have legitimate reasons for working from home, e.g. comorbidities), since all staff have the option of working on campus.
- Poor connectivity hampers meetings and academic engagements. If a member of staff has an important meeting at which they need to make a presentation, they should consider coming to campus to ensure that they have good connectivity. The same applies to synchronous lectures and tutorials.
- Staff should consider pro-actively arranging to work on campus when they expect loadshedding at home and they have meetings to attend.
- The expectation is that cameras be on during online meetings, and staff should always maintain professional standards.
- It is important that senior staff set the example with their return to working on campus.
Colleagues, please note that the Division of Human Resources has completed interviews with members of the General Managers' Meeting about long-term flexible working arrangements. A report will be submitted to the Rectorate to consider guidelines for permanent flexible working arrangements.
We also remind you that 2020 annual leave may be utilised until 31 January 2022. The 2020 leave was due to expire on 31 December 2021, but the ICBC decided earlier to extend the expiry date. So, please put in leave, in consultation with your line manager. And please record all leave, including sick leave, accurately on SUN-e-HR.
Prof Stan du Plessis
Prof Nico Koopman DVC:
Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel