Manager Guidance for Return to Campus - Human Resources at Ohio State


Manager Guidance for Return to Campus

At The Ohio State University, we celebrate the power of the residential, in-person campus experience, and our values reflect our commitment to students, faculty, staff and the broader community we serve. The safety of our campus community is always the university’s top priority, so we have connected in alternative ways during the height of the pandemic based on the best available science, data and public health guidance. With the availability of vaccines and continued safety protocols, we look forward to reactivating our face-to-face experiences in Autumn 2021.

The return to campus timeline uses a discretionary approach that allows college and unit leaders to determine the optimal timing for their areas. In general, the timeline below provides pre-planning and planning steps to guide implementation in advance of a change in operations. When possible, colleges and units should give employees 30 days’ notice if their work schedules or arrangements will change.

While some faculty and staff may continue to work remotely, and those who are returning may return at different times, the university aims to create an inclusive culture where those on campus, offsite and in hybrid arrangements have the same employee experience and social connection.

College and unit leaders should use this as an opportunity to positively influence the employee experience. Campus Reactivation plans should consider the physical, emotional and social wellness needs of individuals and teams. Managers can view this as an opportunity to create new team norms and traditions, work collaboratively in new ways and enhance experiences.

It is recommended that colleges and units identify a Campus Reactivation team comprised of individuals from different areas of the organization. This team should assess workspace plans, make recommendations and implement decisions in collaboration with leaders, managers, HR partners and employees.

Throughout the transition, colleges and units are required to continue following health and safety protocols as well as building readiness recommendations found at Safe and Healthy Buckeyes.


Ohio State faculty and staff are a vital part of supporting the mission of the university and the experience of students, patients and visitors. To strengthen recruitment and retention efforts of faculty and staff while supporting our core services to these constituents, flexible work arrangements can be a viable workplace option. Flexible work can include remote work and other kinds of arrangements. Leaders and managers are encouraged to look broadly at their organization to identify what is appropriate for individuals and/or teams.

We strongly encourage units to notify employees at least 30 days in advance of any changes or updates to their work schedules or arrangements.

Two tools help with the evaluation of how we prepare for fall 2021 as well as evaluating individual requests for flexible work requests are linked below. We recommend you first use the Manager Considerations tool to work through overall planning. Next, consult the Decision-Making Criteria when considering flexible work arrangements for teams and individuals.


Transparent leadership communication that covers any changes that will impact employees will help them prepare for the return to campus. Because each college and unit leader has discretion about their timeline, a leader or manager will be the primary source of information about return-to-campus plans. It’s important for leaders and managers to convey what employees need to know.

When sharing information, understand the communication styles for your whole team regardless of where they work and adapt your communication approach. Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues that indicate how individuals are feeling about the transition. Be intentional about listening to understand individual and team needs. Continue to utilize a common place for information that all team members can access via collaboration platforms.


In response to the safety needs of COVID-19, our teams, systems and organizations were challenged to pivot, with little time to prepare. We were able to continue operations, services, education, research, health care and support to our Buckeye and Ohio communities. We did this while managing the needs of our families. Over time, the line between work and home life may have blurred.

One goal with this new transition is to help faculty and staff become accustomed to the next normal, including how to integrate work and personal life in a balanced way. Managers can expect a period of adjustment. Empathy and understanding can help managers lead their teams through change.

Many faculty and staff are dealing with feelings of anxiety, stress and possible burn out. If you feel an employee is struggling, please refer them to the university’s wellness programs and resources.

  • Your Plan for Health (YP4H) is Ohio State’s preventive approach for providing benefit-eligible faculty/staff and their enrolled spouses with the tools and resources for living a healthy life.
  • Buckeye Wellness provides innovative and evidence-based programs to help individuals optimize their well-being, based on the nine dimensions of wellness.
  • Ohio State’s Employee Assistance Program offers tools and resources to help address complex issues that can be affecting your mental and emotional well-being.

Recruitment, selection, and hiring processes have largely been conducted virtually since the onset of the pandemic to align with our facility and meeting guidelines. Interviews will continue to be conducted by phone or video to protect the safety of our candidates and team members. Exceptions to this should be minimal and must be approved by the Human Resources Business Partner for the college or unit. Information on how to conduct virtual interviews can be obtained through your assigned recruiter.

  • Buckeye Learning Burst (includes content about CarmenZoom, virtual interviews, meetings, onboarding and performance management)

Employees who started their employment at Ohio State during the pandemic may have missed opportunities to build relationships and network. Employees coming to campus for the first time will need some basic onboarding information, such as the locations of workspaces, parking, lunch/break rooms, restrooms and office supplies, as well as guidance for any preferred workplace attire or office procedures. While onboarding is an important responsibility of the manager, a team member can also assist a new employee with traditional onboarding activities.


Performance management is an ongoing, two-way conversation between the employee and manager, and that doesn’t stop when one or all of a manager’s team members work a remote or hybrid schedule. Regardless of where employees and managers are working, regular performance conversations must occur. These conversations provide opportunities to manage team productivity and verify work is getting done. Being intentional about these conversations also helps managers learn and grow, while creating a work environment for employees to perform at their best. This ensures strategic and business objectives are achieved.

The performance management process includes resources such as performance expectations, goal-setting documents, and career and performance development plans. Conversations should include dialogue related to:

  • What work the employee is expected to perform.
  • How the employee is expected to perform work based on established values.
  • Future areas of focus that highlight the employee’s short- and long-term career aspirations; employee development and growth opportunities; and work priorities/goals focused on business objectives for the remainder of the current or future fiscal years.

Influenced by lessons learned during the pandemic, the skills employees are most focused on include adaptability and the ability to learn and apply new skills quickly. Employees have signaled a robust appetite for learning and are looking for guidance on understanding the skills they need to build their careers. The organization will continue to build a culture of continuous learning, development and curiosity.


Team culture and engagement are essential for establishing expectations for how people interact and work together and can ultimately impact productivity, collaboration and performance. We encourage managers to find creative ways to provide experiences that will shape or reshape team culture. Huddles, meetings, team commitments and paying close attention to the perception of group dynamics are just a few ways to address and maintain a desirable culture and level of engagement. Strategies that will be covered in more detail during “Leading Today for Tomorrow” training are below:

  • Hold regularly scheduled team huddles or meetings virtually for all members. If you decide these gatherings will be a mix of employees in a conference room and virtual, make sure those attending virtually can see everyone in the room and vice versa.
  • Have a group discussion with your team about work practices that will contribute to a desired team culture.
  • Make sure to engage remote and in-person team members in similar ways.
  • Encourage employees to offer possible solutions if any issues are discovered, and make sure you address those appropriately and in a timely manner.

As some faculty and staff continue working remotely and others start returning to the workplace, Human Resources is hosting a training series to help managers be more confident in their ability to support their unit, employees and themselves. This transition is an opportunity to positively influence the employee experience, and importantly support an inclusive culture.

Starting July 6, four sessions for managers and HR staff will be offered and focus on various important aspects of leading successful in-person and virtual teams. Managers can register for one or more of the sessions. Live discussions will be recorded and available following each session.

Session One: Considering Flexible Work Arrangements (Instructor-led Zoom)

Tuesday, July 6, 2021, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Recording coming soon

In this virtual instructor-led session, managers will examine Ohio State’s philosophy on flexible work arrangements, including the potential benefits of these arrangements. Managers will also learn about the different types of flexible work arrangements that exist at Ohio State as well as the team and employee-related factors to consider. The instructors will review Ohio State’s Flexible Work Proposal and Agreement forms and conclude the presentation with managers practicing specific flexible work scenario conversations.

By the end of this session managers will:

  • Understand Ohio State’s philosophy on flexible work arrangements and the considerations for assessing requests.
  • Be able to identify the different types of available flexible work arrangements
  • Be able use the decision-making criteria for flexible work to evaluate individual employee requests objectively and equitably, as well as assess the potential for flexible work/hybrid work for their team
  • Be prepared to review flexible work proposals with their employees and engage in thoughtful dialogue with them about those proposals
Session Two: Leading Transitions (Instructor-led Zoom)

Thursday July 29, 2021, 12-1 p.m.
Register Here

Response to change is largely based on emotions, and it’s important to remember that resistance and reluctance to change should not be interpreted as insubordination. As a manager, it’s critical to understand what motivates an employee’s response to change and how to best guide them through it. Leading Transitions will help managers prepare for autumn 2021 and guide them through the change and transition process.

By the end of this session managers will:

  • Have an increased understanding of how people respond to change
  • Learn new skills to lead the return to non-quarantine life
  • Be able to assist staff to consider their work life needs, the team and the organization when planning the return
Session Three: Managing Performance (Self-Paced Online Class)

Link Coming Soon

Managing performance is an essential manager responsibility and important to every employee-manager relationship. Investing in ongoing conversations with employees throughout the year helps contribute to the success of the individual and team, as well as your managerial effectiveness. Sometimes, performance conversations can be difficult and, while having them virtually may add a layer of complexity, they can still be as impactful as having them in person. This self-paced, online session will provide managers with best practices and resources that will support these virtual conversations and activities.

By the end of this session managers will:

  • Understand the importance of setting outcome-driven team and individual goals along with clear performance expectations
  • Receive recommendations on effective 1:1 conversations
  • Obtain guidance on conducting coaching and development conversations
  • Be better prepared to provide feedback remotely
  • Have an improved ability to observe and react to a remote employee’s behavior
  • Be prepared to facilitate virtual, year-end performance reviews
Session Four: Team Culture (Panel Discussion)

Thursday Aug. 5, 2021, 12-1 p.m.
Register Here

Hybrid teams are comprised of a mix of employees where some are in the same work location as their manager and/or teammates while others work at a different location on/off campus. This is not a new practice for the university, and it continues to evolve to meet the needs and expectations of current and future employees. This panel discussion brings together managers who have successfully led hybrid teams over the years to share their experiences on building a high-performing team; communication best practices; maintaining an engaged, inclusive, and trusting team culture; and limiting ingroup/outgroup occurrences.

By the end of this session managers will:

  • Have insights for managing a hybrid work team
  • Learn recommended approaches for effective communication
  • Understand the importance of setting appropriate expectations
  • Hear first-hand accounts and advice on building a high performing team based on trust, cultivating team connection, and ensuring equity and inclusion in all team practices and processes

Moderator: Marilyn Bury Rice, Director, Lhota Office of Alumni Career Management


  • Lindsay Heil, MBOE, RHIA, LSSBB, Associate Director, Student Life Student Health Services
  • Max Treboni, Director of Service Operations, Office of the Chief Information Officer
  • Jacqueline Kirby Wilkins, Ph.D., Associate Dean and Director, Ohio State University Extension, Chair, Department of Extension, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Below is a timeline for consideration by college and unit leaders, managers and HR partners to review in preparation of faculty and staff returning to campus. Colleges and units will determine their specific timelines, based upon business needs.

Pre-Planning (90 days prior to return)
  • Assess workspace, workflow, constituent flow and work priorities
  • Assess the appropriateness of workplace options based on college/unit leadership expectations and in collaboration with employees
  • Assess individual and team readiness
Action steps using the above resources:
  • Establish an implementation committee, including a change coordinator
  • Define college/unit transition methodology
  • Engage in regular conversations with individuals and team members throughout the transition process about the return to campus. Listen to understand employees’ needs and fears
  • Establish college/unit return-to-campus strategic communications plan
  • Begin conversations with individuals interested in flexible work arrangements
Transition (60 days prior to return)
  • Continue to assess readiness and gather feedback
Action steps:
  • Begin conversations with individuals about flexible work arrangements
  • Develop action plan to address concerns
  • Engage individuals in college/unit to assist with planning, messaging and implementation
  • Establish work plans that address space, facility needs, technology etc.
  • Develop team engagement activities
  • Share progress and celebrate milestones
  • Provide appropriate notice to employees of individual and team plans (30-day minimum notice)
Transition (30 days prior to return)
  • Flexible work agreement
  • Team agreement template – coming soon
  • “Leading Today for Tomorrow” training for employees – coming soon
  • Continue to assess readiness and gather feedback
Action steps:
  • Gradually begin to implement your college or unit’s return-to-campus plan
  • Implement action items to overcome barriers to change
  • Finalize flexible work agreements.
  • Establish your team agreement.
  • Communicate final return to campus plans to individuals and team members
  • Implement team engagement activities
  • Gradually implement return to campus decisions
  • Track implementation issues and other items for consideration
  • Continue to evaluate the impact on culture and effectiveness using university measurement tools (in development)
  • Review flexible work agreements and adjust as appropriate