Carnegie Mellon University

Working Norms for a Return to Campus

The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined much regarding how work is accomplished, including where work is done and how individuals and teams work together.

As Carnegie Mellon University continues the transition back to an increased presence on campus, we must acknowledge the changes associated with a return to campus, working to foster an environment that sets up individuals and teams to be successful. The guidance and resources provided recognize that this transition may be challenging for some of our colleagues. Also, during this transitional period (now through December 2022), some colleges and divisions may need to adjust to a hybrid work environment with staff onsite, in telecommuting arrangements, and with flexible working hours outside of the normal work schedule.

One example of how the pandemic changed work habits is prevalence of Zoom meetings. Often, days have been filled with back-to-back meetings with no scheduled breaks. With the return to the onsite workplace, we must examine how best to remain connected to our colleagues, whether they are on site or not. Examining this and other work "norms" will be important as we work to create a new normal with a focus on enhancing productivity, morale and balance.

  • Refrain from scheduling meetings beyond typical work hours (e.g., during early morning or evening hours). Most staff work 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. (refer to the Staff Handbook [pdf]) and it is important to delineate between work and personal time. This is important for all employees, and especially important for non-exempt employees.
  • Respect individuals' work schedules and calendars. Do not push to schedule meetings during times that are unavailable.
  • Reduce the number of meetings. Consider whether a meeting is necessary to accomplish the end goal. LinkedIn Learning has a selection of courses that cover meeting management. Check out the course, “How to Have Fewer, Better Meetings.”
  • Where feasible, agree on and institute department-wide or team-wide “no meeting hour” or “no meeting day,” to allow time for focused work without interruptions.
  • If possible, designate a physical space for meetings where team members on campus can congregate and access technology that will facilitate members joining the meeting from an off-site location. Typically, a large screen equipped with a microphone and camera will allow members joining virtually to view and hear the meeting room, while also allowing those in the meeting room to view and hear members joining remotely. If this is not possible, try to ensure that Zoom or other calls will not distract other employees who may be sharing a common space.
  • To avoid Zoom fatigue, ask if attendees would prefer an audio-only call or schedule meetings at appropriate times to meet their needs. Prepare an agenda to help facilitate discussion and to help determine the length of time needed for the meeting.
  • If some employees cannot attend a meeting, consider if an email will suffice in place of a meeting, record meetings to allow for later viewing, or designate someone to take notes.
  • When planning meetings, it is important to remember that team members on campus may need to physically move from one location to the next. Unlike virtual meetings, which can be scheduled back-to-back, planning time to meet with members on campus may require you to consider travel time. Having time between meetings is an important consideration for all.
  • Create virtual office hours to allow time for informal check-ins that might occur naturally when all team members are sharing a physical space. The ability for employees to connect with supervisors and colleges will help to promote engagement.
  • Set time aside to foster social interactions for your team, since this may not happen as naturally as it used to, but still remains vital for an effective team culture.
  • Structure time for collaborative efforts in a predictable, recurring way so that everyone knows what to expect and how to prepare given their different circumstances.
  • Create a shared calendar where employees can record their work schedules and look to see when team members are working.
  • Add work schedules to email signatures to inform colleagues and those with whom you collaborate of the standard times you are available.
  • Create an out-of-office message to communicate alternate schedules.
  • Informal messaging apps and services such as Jabber can be a great way for colleagues to chat no matter where they are and keep communication at an optimal level.
  • For new employees who will be starting in a remote setting, take time to introduce team members and their roles as well as any relevant norms and expectations. Certain things that are learned through observation in an office setting will not be as easily perceived by those working remotely.
  • Set the expectation that employees will be responsible for their own digital proficiency as this will be essential to operating smoothly in a hybrid environment.
  • Consider “the office” to be a state of working, rather than a physical space. When someone is “out of the office” it simply means they are not available to work at this time, rather than commenting on their physical location.
  • Identify norms important to your team and plan ways for remote team members to participate seamlessly with those on campus.
  • Ensure all employees have an equitable manner of participating in meetings. This is especially important when some employees are in person, some on Zoom, and some on a phone.
  • Family and Child Care Resources — Listing of relevant university-offered benefits, information about child care, and resources helpful to parents and families.
  • Care@Work — Through the Care@Work program, prescreens qualified caregivers to help eligible individuals find backup emergency care for children and adults.
  • Carelink — Members of the Carnegie Mellon community in Pittsburgh can use CareLink to find care givers or find a job.
  • Employee Assistance Program — Carnegie Mellon is committed to being a healthy workplace, which includes providing resources to help you manage personal and work-life issues.
  • Requesting Accommodations — The university provides reasonable accommodations to staff and faculty members with disabilities, including those related to COVID-19, to enable them to perform the essential functions or duties of their positions.
  • Support Resources — Faculty and staff members have access to a number of resources to help cope with the ongoing strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing to return to in-person work.
  • Healthy Living — The university provides employees with resources to help you live a healthy lifestyle, manage your stress and address health issues.