SMPH Smart Restart Plan

Updated on August 19, 2020: Added links to OHR Workplace Flexibilities guidance documents for employees with childcare needs.

Posted on August 4, 2020

The following guidance, enacted on August 4, 2020, is the reopening plan for the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) in accordance with the broader UW–Madison fall semester 2020 reopening plan referred to as “Smart Restart.” Elements of this plan:

Health and Safety

Members of SMPH serve as role models during the pandemic for practicing behavior that lowers the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Abiding by UW–Madison’s health and safety measures and the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policy is a shared responsibility of every SMPH learner, staff and faculty member.

All members of the SMPH community are expected to:

  • All SMPH employees must complete the online training program for on-site workers. Completion of the module is required prior to reporting for on-site work. Those who work remotely are also expected to complete the training as an awareness measure.
  • Use your facemask: A facemask is required in all UW-Madison buildings, except if you are alone in a private office. When alone in your office, place a sign on your door asking visitors to knock so that you can put on your facemask if it is off before they enter. When outdoors, use a mask if you are unable to maintain your distance. Get into the habit of covering your nose and mouth in the workplace.
  • Keep your distance: Transmission is a function of proximity and time. Meet virtually whenever possible. In person, maintain a 6-foot buffer between yourself and others. Follow the campus guidance for the number of people per room. In SMPH buildings, the maximum number of people per room is clearly marked. For more information, see “Physical Space Modifications” below.
  • Be aware: Make self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms part of your daily routine. If you have symptoms, stay home and get tested.
  • Practice consistent hand hygiene: Frequent hand hygiene is the key to stopping infectious droplets from getting to you. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when entering and exiting a common space used by others.
  • Promote a safe culture: Care for your safety and that of your coworkers.
  • If you oversee workplace safety for on-site work units, order personal protective equipment (PPE) as needed. For now, all units should order PPE through the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) online ordering catalog. All PPE ordered through the EOC is purchased through central campus funding. Soon, there will be an online SMPH system to facilitate centralized PPE ordering for the following SMPH locations: CSC, MSC, HSLC, WIMR, WisPIC, MSC, MFCB. All other locations should continue to submit orders to the EOC.

As the pandemic unfolds, be receptive and responsive to the guidance of public health entities such as the Wisconsin State Department of Health Services and Public Health Madison & Dane County as they assess current conditions. Public health officials may advise a variety of contingencies based on possible scenarios as we move forward in time.

Changes to Key Services

Workplace Plans

Return to On-site Work: Department Assessment Guide

In accordance with the COVID-19 Workplace Safety policy, all schools, colleges and divisions that plan to have one or more employees return to on-site work must demonstrate a substantive need for those employees to return to the on-site workplace and will be required to maintain specific plans appropriate to those area and function, consistent with the campus COVID-19 Workplace Safety policy.

This guide does not apply to the approval of on-site work for research personnel. For information regarding this type of request, please see the SMPH Research Reboot Phase 2 informational page. Once a request is approved through the Research Reboot process, contact your HR Representative to inform them of the approval and facilitate administrative tracking of which personnel are approved for on-site work. Employees approved to return on-site through this process should be issued this letter from their supervisor.

Please note the following regarding on-site work that was approved prior to the launch of the SMPH Smart Restart:

  • If research personnel have already been included on a Principal Investigator’s Research Reboot plan previously submitted to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, it is not necessary to submit an SMPH plan through this Smart Restart process outlined below for those same personnel. Please work with your HR representative to ensure they are aware of the employees that were approved for on-site work so adequate tracking can be maintained.
  • If non-research personnel have already been approved by a department to work on-site, the SMPH form (Step 4) should be submitted and the employee should be provided with an on-site work letter (Step 5). This is to maintain adequate tracking of on-site personnel and to ensure all employees have the most up-to-date information about the Smart Restart. Therefore, the SMPH form must be submitted for any employees who were not previously listed on a Research Reboot form. If it is not feasible for the department to complete this process for previously approved on-site work, the department should work directly with their HR representative to provide the needed information for tracking purposes.

SMPH departments should utilize the following steps to justify the return of employees (not previously returned directly through the Research Reboot) to onsite work during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Step 1: Evaluate the work unit and the need for on-site work.

Step 2: Determine whether returning employees to on-site work is appropriate.

Step 3: Discuss returning to on-site work with the employee.

Step 4: Prepare and submit justification for the return to on-site work to the SMPH Dean’s Office.

Step 5: Inform employee of official return to on-site work decision and expectations.

The decision to return employees to onsite work is delegated to SMPH departmental leadership and tracked by SMPH Dean’s Office. SMPH HR is available for consultation in this decision-making process. This process is meant to evaluate situations where the employee is required to return on a regularly scheduled basis (e.g., once per week for three hours; twice per week for two hours; five days per week for eight hours).

To the extent possible, taking into account the operational needs of the university, the unit, and as determined by their supervisor, employees who can successfully work remotely – in full or in part – should continue to do so. Maintaining reduced density of faculty and staff in the on-site workplace reduces risk of transmission of COVID-19 and protects vulnerable members of the campus community.

  Step 1: Evaluate the work unit and the need for on-site work.

  • Consider your work unit’s function, how work is currently being performed and potential need for on-site work to be performed by your employees.
  • Thoroughly review the campus COVID-19 Workplace Safety policy.

If you’ve identified work that should be performed on-site, proceed to Step 2.

  Step 2: Determine whether returning employees to on-site work is appropriate.

  • When possible, we would like to maintain a decreased density of employees working on-site. Employees currently working remotely, whose responsibilities do not meaningfully change as we transition into fall, would be expected to continue to remain remote.
  • The following questions may help determine whether return to on-site work is appropriate for an employee or group of employees:
    • When would the employee need to return to the worksite?
    • What duties need to be performed on site? All or some of job?
    • Will the need for onsite work be ongoing?
    • Can we limit the amount of time the employees are on site? (e.g., Could they fulfill their on-site duties, keeping that on-site time at a minimum, and work remotely otherwise?)
    • Has this work been performed remotely since March? If so, what has changed to create the need to return on-site?
    • Why is it essential to be on site in this role during this time?
    • What percentage of their time or how many hours per week needs to be on site?
    • How many employees in this unit are requested to return on site at this point in time and can that number be limited? Can we limit the number on site at one given time?
    • Could others who are already on site do this work instead?
    • What would be the consequences of not allowing this work to be done on-site?
    • Does the proposed workspace allow for adequate physical distancing based on public health protocols?
    • Will the workspace need to be altered? If so, how?
    • Do you share space with other groups outside of your department? If so, are you aware of their space use plans?
    • Do you have concerns about compliance with the campus COVID-19 Workplace Safety policy?
    • Will the department chair/director approve of the proposed onsite work?
    • Has the employee already raised concerns with the return to onsite work that you know will require flexibility or possibility of referral to HR for handling?

If after considering the above the department has developed its justification for returning the employee (or group of employees) to on-site work, proceed to Step 3.

  Step 3: Discuss returning to on-site work with the employee.

  • Even if you are considering returning a group of employees in the work unit to perform on-site work, you should have individual conversations with employees about the proposed return to on-site work.
  • For functions that benefit from an in-person presence, units should consider modifying on-site work schedules to reduce the number of employees in a given place at one time. This is particularly important for areas with a high number of shared space environments.
  • Remember: Your employees have unique situations that may call for Accommodations and Workplace Flexibilities.
  • Discuss the proposed plan regarding when, where, and how often the employee will be required to work onsite. If there is a proposed schedule, share that with the employee. Speak with them about their ability to return during that timeframe. To the extent that is operationally reasonable, provide flexibility to employee regarding the timeline to return to onsite work.
  • Inform the employee that this arrangement is subject to change based on many factors, such as operational needs and evolving public health information.
  • Listen for hesitancy for the employee to return to the workplace.

Once you’ve familiarized the employee with the tentative return to on-site work plan and any accommodation or other concerns have been resolved, proceed to Step 4.

   Step 4: Prepare and submit justification for the return to on-site work to the SMPH Dean’s Office.

  • Departments within SMPH are delegated the authority to return employees to onsite work during this time. Departments are responsible for considering guidance from the school and public health officials when finalizing these decisions.
  • If after considering the information learned in the previous steps the department determines it is appropriate to return the employee to onsite work, you should prepare the Return to On-site Work: Department Justification Form, which will be tracked by the Dean’s Office. (Information closely mirroring the information considered in Step 2 must be submitted via the online Return to On-site Work: Department Justification Form.)
  • SMPH Human Resources will retain this information for audit purposes and tracking of on-site staff. Please inform your HR Business Partner or HR Manager of any changes in the on-site arrangement for approved employees.
  • The department chair/director will receive a report of all department submissions for employee return to on-site work.

Once the department’s justification has been submitted, proceed to Step 5.

    Step 5: Inform employee of official return to on-site work decision and expectations.

  • Communicate the return to work on-site decision to the employee and ensure that they understand their return to on-site work date and the relevant workplace expectations.
  • Provide written notice to employee using the SMPH Return to On-site Work letter template (.docx file).
    • Reach out to your HR Business Partner to request assistance in preparing this letter.
    • Share a copy of the final letter with SMPH HR for retention in the employee’s personnel file.
  • Prior to the employee’s return, ensure that you discuss the following:
    • Clear expectations regarding workplace entry/exit, break/lunch, scheduling, face coverings, physical distancing, and other revised workplace expectations related to COVID-19 and their return to on-site work.
    • Details regarding mandatory training that must be completed prior to the return to on-site work. See:
    • Resources and expectations for all UW-Madison employees who work onsite during this time.
    • Information about how the employee may safely return any equipment to the worksite that was taken from the office and used while working remotely.

There are ongoing obligations for all supervisors and employees working onsite during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The supervisor is responsible for compliance with the university’s COVID-19 Workplace Safety policy, including ensuring that all on-site employees have completed the COVID-19 Return to On-Site Work Training and adherence to symptom self-monitoring, face covering, physical distancing and other hygiene requirements. The supervisor is expected to:

  • Direct the employee to leave the workplace immediately if they are exhibiting observable symptoms and/or behaviors in alignment with a severe cold, flu or COVID-19.
  • Explain to employees that the guidelines to request to utilize sick leave and report time off still apply. If an employee is unwell and unable to work, they should use sick time.
  • Provide any information in connection with an employee request for leave based upon a medical condition to the DDR.
  • Encourage a healthy workplace by promoting compliance with campus face covering policy and requiring that employees wear face coverings, engage in regular and good personal hygiene practices, and regularly clean and disinfect their workstations.

The employee is responsible for compliance with the university’s COVID-19 Workplace Safety policy, and expected to:

  • Stay home or leave the workplace immediately if they have one or more symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19, follow unit procedures for notifying the employee’s supervisor of the absence.
  • Report to the workplace only if directed to do so by their supervisor.
  • Adhere to the most current workplace safety guidance.
  • Complete the mandatory safety training before returning to the workplace.
  • Stay up to date regarding changes in workplace safety expectations, guidance or procedures.

If there are questions about this guide, please consult with your SMPH HR Representative. 

Physical space modifications

The following modifications are occurring in SMPH buildings under the direction of the SMPH Facilities Group.

  • Room layouts and barriers have been installed per Environmental Health & Safety guidelines.
  • Floor markers and building signage will be posted to promote physical distancing, personal hygiene, and symptom monitoring.
  • Barriers/shields will be installed at all customer service desks.
  • Modify classroom and instructional spaces to promote physical distancing and follow the room occupancy limit tables for each room. UW-Environmental Health and Safety calculates the room limit by a physical inspection process. For example, the maximum occupancy of lecture hall HSLC 1306 is sixty-one.
  • Follow reservation priorities as follows:
    • For current room reservations prioritization and restrictions please see here.
    • Classrooms and instructional spaces have been modified to promote physical distancing. These modifications take two forms, depending on the type of furniture in the space.
      • In spaces with fixed seats and other furniture, available seats have been clearly marked with a “Sit Here” sign. Seats without signs should be left empty.
      • Furniture should NOT be moved in any space, because it has been set/arranged to limit contact and allow for 6-foot physical distancing.
    • Occupancy in common spaces will be reduced and seating arrangements will be modified to promote physical distancing.
    • Exhaust and outside make-up air in ventilation systems have been maximized.
    • Air filtration will be increased where possible

SMPH learners, staff and faculty should follow these practices as a means of staying safe and mitigating risk of COVID-19:

  • Whenever possible, people in SMPH facilities who can physically access stairs should use stairs instead of an elevator. Elevator capacities will be indicated. For campus-wide accessibility information, refer to
  • Keep to your right in stairways and corridors to promote physical distancing and minimize contact.
  • Keep doorways and corridors clear to reduce congestion.
  • Avoid congregating in lobbies, corridors, and in front of elevators and doorways.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands after touching handrails, doorknobs, and elevator buttons. Hand sanitizer stations will be installed in many building common spaces.
  • Consider using personal touchless tools to open doors and press buttons.
  • In restrooms, maintain an unused sink or urinal fixture between individuals to maintain physical distance from others.
  • Keep restroom doors closed. Do not prop open doors, as this compromises ventilation and code compliance.
  • Whenever possible, use a personal touchless tool to open restroom doors.
  • Do not drink directly from water fountains (bubblers). Use refillable bottles or cups only.
  • During or after periods of low occupancy, prior to consuming or using water from drinking fountains, bottle fillers, or sink taps, it is best to let water run for a few minutes.