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In line with Massachusetts phased reopening plans, the university is actively developing a phased approach to resuming all campus operations. Return to work dates may vary depending on your school, unit, work location, and job function. 

Return to Campus Guide

To help you prepare for your eventual return to your workplace on campus, Tufts has created a Return to Campus Guide [PDF] with helpful information about what to expect. This guide will change as new directives and information become available. Check the date on your guide to ensure you have the most recent edition.

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Training Module

When you are asked to return to campus, you must complete a training module to prepare for the new safety protocols.  Once you have completed the module, you will need to complete the acknowledgment form. The training course Returning to Tufts Campuses is available for completion on the Tufts Learning Center. 

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Daily Health Survey

To promote the safety of the community and reduce the impact of COVID-19, anyone visiting or returning to a Tufts facility is required to complete a Daily Health Status Survey before coming to campus. 

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Human Resources

HR is offering many programs and services to help Tufts employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Return to Campus: A Manager’s Guide

This guide is designed to help managers as they prepare to return to the workplace and includes a manager’s checklist for one-on-one conversations with staff members. This guide will change as new directives and information become available. Check the date on your guide to ensure you have the most recent edition. 

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For Researchers

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) has addressed potential research issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For information and guidelines on research, visit the OVPR website.

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Top FAQs for Faculty, Staff & Managers

Who qualifies as an Essential On-Campus Staff Member?

The university has identified certain critical job functions necessary to support a strong response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The selection of these job functions was informed by guidance at the federal, state and local level. Consistent with that guidance, Essential On-Campus Staff include, but are not limited to, the following job functions:

  • Medical professionals
  • Veterinary health professionals, including animal care attendants, and those involved in the distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines and animal drugs
  • IT staff members
  • Research laboratory staff associated with basic maintenance and limited approved research exceptions afforded by the OVPR
  • Law enforcement officers/dispatchers
  • Food service workers
  • Plumbers, electricians and others necessary to maintain safe operation of essential facilities
  • Custodial workers/cleaning personnel/waste removal
  • Educators and staff performing critical student support functions

Your manager will notify you if you have been identified as essential on-campus staff.

What will determine when faculty and staff are required to return to campus?

All staffing decisions will be communicated through your respective dean, vice president or vice provost.

The dates when employees will need to return to campus will be determined as part of the overall COVID-19 planning process and will likely be phased in, based on an employee’s function.

When and how will full on-campus operations resume?

Tufts has not set a specific deadline for returning to full on-campus operations. Instead, the university intends to take a phased approach, which can generally be described as follows:

  • Phase 0 – Stay-at-Home Advisory (essential employees only)
  • Phase 1 – Limited Access (essential employees plus limited staff to support certain labs and clinics)
  • Phase 2 – Preparation for Hybrid Reopening* (Phase 1 staff plus necessary support staff)
  • Phase 3 – Hybrid Reopening* (Phase 2 staff plus additional support staff)
  • Phase 4 – New Normal (all staff)

*Hybrid Reopening may include a combination of online and in-person academic and extracurricular activities.

On Tuesday, June 23, the university announced its plans for restarting residential campus operations in Fall 2020, for students in the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. Please see the Fall 2020 Campus Guide for AS&E Students for more information. For information about Fall 2020 and the graduate and professional schools, please refer to the individual websites of the schools. 
Tufts plans to phase in the return of staff over time in a coordinated process to prioritize appropriate social distancing, availability of PPE (personal protective equipment), hygiene protocols, symptom screening, testing capabilities for COVID-19, and contact tracing.  
All members of the Tufts community will be given advance notice of when they will be expected to return to work on campus. 
No one should report to work on campus unless and until they have been explicitly cleared to do so by their school or department leadership.  
Tufts will expand on-site staffing based on an assessment of mission-critical operations, ability to control and manage specific work environments, and necessity of accessing on-site resources. Return-to-campus decisions, once approved, will be issued by your respective dean, vice president, or division leader.

How can staff and faculty maintain social distance when they return to an office?

If you work in an open environment, be sure to maintain at least six feet of distance from co-workers. If possible, have at least one empty workspace separating you from another co-worker. You should always wear a face mask or face covering while in a shared workspace/room. Departments must assess open work environments and meeting rooms to institute measures to physically separate and increase distance between employees, other coworkers, and third parties, such as:

Place visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape, or signs to indicate where people should stand while waiting in line.

Place one-way directional signage in large open workspaces with multiple thruways to increase distance between employees moving through the space.

If you work in an office, no more than one person should be in the same room unless the required six feet of distancing can be consistently maintained. If more than one person is in a room, masks/face coverings should always be worn.

Temporary structures to better define private workspaces may be necessary. Consult with your department head for guidance.

Masks/face coverings should be worn by any staff in a reception/receiving area. Masks/face coverings should be used when inside any Tufts facility where others are present and likely to be in close proximity, including walking in narrow hallways where others travel and in break rooms, conference rooms, and other meeting locations.

What steps should staff take to prepare for the new vacation time accrual policy?

Since this change will impact people in different ways, the following steps are recommended:

All supervisors/managers work with their direct reports to develop a plan to take accrued vacation time with consideration to business operations and essential needs of the department. Managers consider coverage for their department plans and projects to account for the fact that staff will be taking additional vacation before December 31, 2020.

Responsibilities for staff and supervisors include:


  • Can check their vacation balances in eServe and will have 18 months to plan for this change and draw down time that has been earned to the new one-year maximum.
  • Will not be able to accrue additional time as of 1/1/22, until their balance falls below the new one-year maximum level.
  • Will work with their supervisor to develop a plan to use vacation time.
  • It is important to also partner with your department timekeeper and report your time off to them as soon as your time off request is approved so they can track your time accurately.

Note: No changes will be made to the monthly rate at which an employee earns vacation time. The change impacts the maximum level of allowable vacation time.


  • Will monitor their staff’s accrued vacation time. They will work with staff members with balances exceeding one year’s accrual of earned vacation time to ensure that vacation time is taken to reduce excess balances. It is expected that those with vacation balances that exceed one year’s worth of accruals will reduce balances by two-thirds prior to June 30, 2021, with the remaining one-third of the excess balance used by December 31, 2021.
  • Will work with staff to consider vacation requests and prepare for operational coverage while ensuring that vacation time is planned and taken.
  • Will check their staff’s vacation time in eServe; they also can request staff vacation accrual reports from their department administrator to assist in monitoring balances.

For those senior leaders who have high vacation balances, develop and share their plans to lower their vacation balance (e.g., sharing with the team that they are taking Fridays off for the summer; taking a two-week vacation; etc.). This reinforces the message that staff are encouraged to use their time.

It is essential that staff participate in planning time off to reduce these vacation accruals in a timely way. It is every manager’s responsibility to work with their staff to help manage these reductions.

If my staff are uncomfortable coming to work because of COVID-19, what should I do?

If “Essential On-Campus Staff” are not ill and have not been exposed to COVID-19, they are expected to come to work (please see possible exceptions below). Please remind staff working on campus to take preventive measures, such as wearing a face mask and other PPE, frequent hand washing, and not touching eyes, nose, or mouth. All staff should practice social distancing (keeping a 6-foot distance from others) and refrain from congregating in groups of more than 10 people.

If staff have concerns about exposure, including feeling they have been exposed to the virus or that they have health-related reasons that may support temporary work at home flexibility, you may speak with your HR business partner about whether FMLA or ADA processes may be appropriate.

Top FAQs for Research

How can I conserve my lab’s PPE inventory for research experiments?

While disposable PPE should not be reused, labs should evaluate whether activities can be planned so that the number of entries into a lab is reduced, thereby reducing the amount of disposable PPE that is needed. 
Additionally, use reusable respirators. Disposable respirators, such as N95 respirator masks, may be in short supply. Before your supply runs out, consider purchasing PAPRs, which are battery-powered, reusable respirators. 
Finally, secure your stocks of PPE. Make sure the PPE is in a locked cabinet or room that is accessible only to personnel who need it.

Can I substitute face masks with respirators as PPE for research experiments?

No, face masks cannot be substituted for respirators and N95 masks as they do not provide the required respiratory protection. As a reminder, respirators and N95 masks should only be used as required by the research experiment or personal health needs; they should not be used as PHPE to protect against COVID-19.


Are federal agencies providing extensions to grant application deadlines because of the impact of COVID-19?

Yes, some agencies have changed application deadlines. Please check the updates to the funding opportunity or discuss your individual circumstances with your research administrator.

I am planning to travel for research or for a program in the future. Should I book my travel and accommodations?

It is difficult to predict how the spread of COVID-19 will evolve in the future, and what measures will be taken by local and national authorities (both in the US and in other countries). If you book your travel, try to find airlines, hotels or rentals that are offering flexible cancellation and refund policies.  You are highly encouraged to book through  the university’s preferred travel provider, Travel Collaborative.

How can I get more information about research activities during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The OVPR has developed a new webpage detailing the latest guidance for research activities, funding opportunities for COVID-19 research, and other information related to COVID-19. The OVPR also hosts frequent Town Hall meetings via Zoom to update the community on the status of research and answer questions.

I need to suspend my human subjects research activities. Do I need to notify the sponsor of the study?

Please discuss the particulars of your project with your research administrator. If a notification to the sponsor is needed, they will work with the OVPR Pre-Award team who will submit the formal notification.