Remote Work
Toolkit

Information for Staff and Faculty

UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 1, 2020


The scenario is rapidly evolving. All attempts are being made to provide as current information as possible.

NOSM is an inclusive community where everyone is treated with respect. We are grateful to each of you for the efforts you are putting in to keep our students safe during this time. We are committed to keeping each of you safe, and respecting your individual needs. Please be kind and compassionate to one another.

Returning to Campus

August 10, 2020

We had a great turn out for the Whole School Webinar on Friday morning. If you were unable to join us, you can watch the recording on the NOSM website. The webinar covered the following topics:

  • Education & Research Updates
  • Return to Campus
  • Minimizing COVID-19 Risk on Campus
  • Mandatory Use of Face Mask Protocol
  • Travel Guidelines (attached)
  • Event Planning on Campus (attached) 
  • Positive Case on Campus Protocol

On July 6, 2020, NOSM began a Return to Campus process to gradually and safely return people to campus and to slowly restore on-site operations that were partially shut down in early March after the pandemic was announced.

I want to thank our learners, staff and faculty for their patience, dedication, creativity, understanding and support during these very unpredictable and volatile times.

For those who have returned or are returning, NOSM requires that you review a mandatory training presentation (attached) and sign an online Attestation that follows the training. The goal of the training is to provide a baseline set of practices to be followed by everyone returning to campus. The Attestation will confirm your commitment to: practice proper physical distancing; use the recommended personal protective equipment; and to self-monitor for symptoms or possible exposure.

We understand that returning to campus may create fears about associated health risks. For that reason, NOSM has instituted enhanced safety measures to ensure that employees and learners are returning to a safe workplace. Despite our plans to return people to campus in a staged and safe manner, the overarching principle throughout this process is to refrain from having people on campus if work or learning can occur virtually. All members of the NOSM community are asked to support this approach.

Updates from Human Resources: September 1

Additional Information – Parking on Campus During COVID-19

PARKING ON CAMPUS DURING COVID-19

Introduction
 
On July 6, 2020, NOSM began its four stage Return to Campus (RTC) process to gradually, and safely, return people to campus to slowly restore on-site operations that were partially shut down in early March due to COVID-19.
 
NOSM’s RTC plan is aligned with Government directives and public health guidelines and is being staged to allow NOSM to pivot in the event of a 2nd wave of the virus or changes to Provincial rules.
 
While there are a number of individuals who have been authorized to be on campus for essential operational or academic needs, (i.e. activities can only be delivered on-campus), the underlying principle throughout the RTC process is to refrain from being on campus if work or learning can occur virtually.
 
Because of the disruption of on-site activities and the intermittent nature of our RTC, NOSM will provide free parking to those who are required and authorized to be on the Lakehead University and Laurentian University campus during Stage 2 and 3 of the RTC (September to December 2020). In November 2020, NOSM will provide further information on the parking process for the Stage 4 RTC, which begins on January 1, 2021.  
 
The campus parking rates and processes vary by campus as they are governed individually by Lakehead University and Laurentian University.  As such, our approach to supporting learners, staff and faculty will differ depending on which campus you attend. The following procedures will apply between September 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020:
 

Lakehead University – Staff and Faculty

NOSM staff and faculty that have been authorized to be on campus for no greater than 1 day per week or less than 5 times per month will be provided with a parking code to either obtain a daily parking pass from the Pay and Display machines or a code to enter at the gate. Please contact hr@nosm.ca to obtain the parking code if required.
 
NOSM staff and faculty that have been authorized to be on campus by their supervisor/program lead for more than 1 day per week or more than 5 times per month, during Stage 2 and 3, should proceed with purchasing their annual pass from Lakehead University (see attached HR Form for Lakehead).  During this time, NOSM will NOT process payroll deductions. Starting on January 1, 2021, normal payroll deductions for parking will resume.
 
The Lakehead University parking passes went on sale Wednesday 19 August 2020 at 9 a.m. The process to obtain a parking permit is as follows:
  1. The attached parking payroll deduction form needs to be submitted in an electronic format by emailing parking@lakeheadu.ca and payroll@nosm.ca
  2. To obtain a parking permit go the Lakehead University Parking Service and complete the online application at https://lakeheadu.parkadmin.com/login.
  3. Pick up your parking permit at the Security Office located in the Agora and display on dashboard.

Laurentian University – Staff and Faculty

Laurentian parking passes will automatically renew for NOSM full-time faculty, staff, and those on NOSM contracts for a year or more. NOSM will continue to pay for the monthly fee for parking passes from September 1 to December 31, 2020.  Those who currently have a parking pass will receive the new 2020/2021 pass via interoffice mail.  

Those who wish to purchase permits for the first time are asked to submit a copy of the Payroll Deduction Authorization Form to Laurentian Security (attached) in order to pick up a pass, and then return the form to payroll@nosm.ca for processing by August 28, 2020.

NOSM staff and faculty will be responsible for any parking fines or violations incurred on the University campus if a parking pass is not properly displayed on the dashboard.  If you have any questions please contact NOSM Payroll at payroll@nosm.ca.

Please contact hr@nosm.ca for any questions related to this process.

AUGUST 12, 2020

PREPARING FOR STAGE TWO – RETURN TO CAMPUS:

This past Friday (August 7, 2020), Dr. Sarita Verma, Dean, President and CEO of NOSM hosted a “Whole-School” Webcast to update all learners, staff and faculty on the status of NOSM’s Return to Campus (RTC) plan and next steps related to moving to Stage-Two (September/October). Despite summer vacations, about 200 people attended the Webinar Presentation and offered some excellent feedback during the session.

As we continue with our four-stage plan to gradually restore operations on campus, we first want to thank everyone for their patience, dedication, creativity, understanding and support during these very unpredictable and volatile times as we continue to design and create new (never done before) pathways back to campus.

During Stage-One (July and August), we learned a lot about what worked and what did not work in our plan. As well (during this timeframe), the Government moved from its Phase 1 to 3 “reopening of Ontario” (along with new public health guidelines) which resulted in NOSM’s Emergency Response Team having to continually recalibrate its plans.

While our RTC Plan is aligned with provincial guidelines and public health best practices, we understand that returning to campus may create fears about associated health risks.  For that reason, NOSM has instituted enhanced safety measures to ensure that employees and learners are returning to a safe workplace. Despite our plans, the overarching principle throughout this process is to refrain from being on campus if work or learning can occur virtually.

Individuals approved to return to campus will be decided based on operational or academic needs (i.e. activities can only be delivered on-campus).  As such, people must have supervisor/program lead authorization to be on campus. This will be tightly coordinated/monitored to mitigate potential risks and ensure the safety of our campus and the communities we serve. All NOSM buildings are closed (locked) to the public (swipe-card access is required).

For those who have returned or are returning, NOSM requires that you view a mandatory training presentation and sign an online Attestation that follows the training.  The goal of the training is to provide a baseline set of practices to be followed by everyone returning to campus. The requirement to complete the Attestation is required only once and then self- monitoring will be required daily. The Attestation will confirm your commitment to practice proper physical distancing; use the recommended personal protective equipment; and to self-monitor for symptoms or possible exposure. Once your supervisor or program lead has identified your name as being approved to be on campus, you will receive a training package via email.

FACE COVERING:

NOSM has implemented a Face Mask protocol that includes mandatory use of masks/face coverings in enclosed spaces where public encounters/exposure to others occurs.

As per the city by-laws (Thunder Bay and Sudbury), the following individuals are exempt from the mask or face covering requirement:

  • children under two years of age;
  • persons with an underlying medical condition which inhibits their ability to wear a Mask or Face Covering (medical note not required);
  • persons who are unable to place or remove a Mask or Face Covering without assistance;
  • and persons who are reasonably accommodated by not wearing a Mask or Face Covering in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code

Learners, Staff and Faculty will each receive two cloth face coverings (these will be distributed upon your return to campus). NOSM also has disposable masks available if needed (contact NOSM Facilities at facilities@nosm.ca). Individuals can also contact their Supervisor if other PPE is required.

EVENT PLANNING AND TRAVEL:

Travel between campuses will not be permitted until Jan 2021 and all events should be planned virtually in order to support NOSM’s goal to reduce the number of people on campus to help slow the potential transmission of the virus and protect vulnerable population. Under exceptional circumstances, if an on-campus event is deemed essential, that requires learners or employees to travel between campuses, all travel must be approved by the Associate Dean or Chief Operating Officer. Click on the following links for more information and guidance on Event Planning and Travel during COVID-19.

POSITIVE CASE ON CAMPUS PROTOCOL:

NOSM has developed a “two-step” process to be followed when a member of the NOSM community reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and/or have had close contact with someone that has tested positive (or close contact with someone who knowingly has symptoms and is being tested for possible COVID19).

Staff and Full-time Faculty are to report to their Supervisor (Division Head for Human and Medical Sciences) via email or telephone as a first step and Supervisors / Division Heads are then asked to report to hr@nosm.ca or call (text) 705 280-7023. Flow Charts have been developed to describe each step of the process. The NOSM COVID-19 Webpage also includes additional wellness resources aimed at reducing the anxiety for our Staff and Faculty regarding returning to campus.

We would like to remind all staff and faculty whether on or off campus, if you have concerns about your current working environment, please inform your supervisor or your HR consultant to discuss resources and / or options available for you. Enquiries can also be sent to hr@nosm.ca

July 7, 2020

TO ALL NOSM STAFF AND FULL-TIME FACULTY:

As you know, NOSM has initiated a multi-stage approach to, gradually, restore operations on campus. The plan began with the opening of Research Labs in late June, and we are now entering “Stage 1” of our Return to Campus (RTC) Plan, with some staff functions returning this week on both campus sites.

During Stage 1 (July/August), it will be critical to maintaining a low density of people on campus to protect the health and safety of those whose work requires them to be on campus at this time.  During stage 1, visitors to campus will be prohibited, and our buildings will remain card-access only. At this stage, we ask that you not come to campus unless you have received prior approval to do so from your Supervisor and have completed the required clearance process described below.

Over the next few months, we will be preparing for Stage 2 RTC (September/October), where other functions and services may be approved to return. As these plans are developed, and if you are needed to return to campus, you will be notified by your Supervisor and Human Resources.

Clearance Process

Mandatory e-training: Returning to Campus Presentation and Attestation Link

A 15-minute online program will help you understand the hazards and risks, and what you can do to protect yourself, your colleagues, and family from COVID-19. This training will also inform you what safeguards NOSM has established to protect the returning employees and to ensure a safe working environment. All staff and faculty who have been given the authorization to be on-site are required to complete this training presentation and then follow the link to the Attestation, which is your pledge that you will self-monitor for symptoms on a daily basis.

Employees returning to campus will only be required to submit an Attestation Form once. During each stage of the re-entry, Human Resources will work with supervisors to compile a list of staff planning to return and on which day(s) of the week/month (if applicable). This scheduled list will then be assessed to ensure appropriate staging (building occupancy and physical distancing) requirements can be maintained on either campus.

Once authorized to be on-site, a link will be emailed to the staff/faculty member to access the training presentation and to review and e-sign the Attestation. Once complete, a list will be given to both Lakehead and Laurentian Facilities Departments (for enhanced cleaning schedule) as well as campus security. Building (pass card) access will be granted to employees approved to be on campus.

It is important to note that maintaining the health and safety of those working on campus is highly dependent on each of us rigorously observing the required individual behaviours outlined in the training presentation.

In addition, to the training presentation and Attestation, please visit the COVID-19 resources page on the NOSM website for a list of FAQs related to Returning to Campus that may provide additional information.

As the very first of our team members return to campus, we would like to remind all staff and faculty whether on or off-campus, if you have concerns about your current working environment, please inform your supervisor or your HR consultant to discuss resources and/or options available for you. Enquiries can also be sent to hr@nosm.ca

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to the design and implementation of our Stage 1 RTC and wishes everyone a safe and healthy summer.


May 27, 2020

Update on NOSM’s Return to Campus Planning

Further to our last update, the purpose of this communique is to inform you of the process and next steps by which NOSM is preparing to gradually resume operations on both Lakehead and Laurentian campuses.

Of course, much of our planning will be tentative, as we will be directed by the Government of Ontario as to when and how learners, staff and faculty return to campus.

The NOSM Emergency Response Team (ERT), led by our Dean, President and CEO, Dr. Sarita Verma, has developed a Return to Campus Planning Framework to guide individual Units/Portfolios with developing a plan to restore on-site operations.

Guiding Principles and Key Elements

NOSM’s Return to Campus Planning Framework will recognize and be supportive of staff, faculty and learner needs and circumstances with a strong focus on everyone’s health, safety and security. In preparing a “whole school” plan, our approach will be one that is flexible and reasonable and will accommodate the personal needs of employees who may not feel safe working with a larger number of people or will have ongoing family issues (e.g. childcare) that require working from home.  In other cases, some employees may need to work on campus due to distraction issues (bandwidth, etc.) at home that affect their productivity.

Initially, employees will be given the choice of continuing to work from home or return to campus (or a mix of both). In some cases, operational needs will require some employees to be on campus. Depending on staff availability, this may require a reconfiguration of duties and work assignments to ensure activities continue uninterrupted both on and off-campus.

As a general rule of thumb, if an activity can continue to be performed safely and efficiently off-site (i.e. from home), then we will not be rushing people back to campus.

Prior to returning, employees will be pre-screened (e.g. Ontario Government COVID-19 Self-Assessment tool) to include standardized public health questions and would ask if employees prefer to work at home or on campus (or both).

From a personal health, safety and wellness perspective, ongoing requirements for physical distancing will result in reduced availability of space for employees and learners. Occupancy and space assignments will need to be established to ensure safety of employees to ensure physical distancing. This may require scheduling of employees (rotations or staggered work hours) and requiring a mix of working at home or on-site.

Prior to returning to campus, PPE (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer) will be made available for all learners, faculty, staff and clients and enhanced janitorial cleaning will be required to minimize virus transmission.

Features of the Planning Framework

The Planning Framework document provides guidance to Units/Portfolios in planning and decision making for re-opening NOSM during COVID-19. The framework includes a plan development/approval process that identifies key dates and milestones that need to be met in order to have a “whole school” plan in place before the end of June 2020.

Each portfolio will designate a Return to Campus (RTC) Planning Lead who will be responsible for developing/coordinating individual unit plans within their portfolio.

The Dean (with ERT support) is accountable to the NOSM Board of Directors in developing and executing a RTC Plan  All individual Unit/Portfolio Plans and the final “whole school” Plan must be approved by the Dean (or delegate) before a plan can be executed or communicated.  Where situations require urgent/immediate action (outside of the RTC Planning Process), ERT will work with the affected Units to support their particular circumstance.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments on the RTC planning process, please email hr@nosm.ca.

May 12, 2020

Update on Campus Closure:

Subject to the Government of Ontario’s decision to reopen Post-Secondary Institutions and extend its list of allowable and/or essential services, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) will be extending its campus closure (at both Lakehead and Laurentian sites) until June 30, 2020.

Planning a Return to Campus:

As the Ontario Government begins to gradually allow businesses and organizations to return to limited operations, and eases some restrictions that have been in place to address COVID-19, planning is underway at NOSM to gradually restore operations at both campus locations.

To assist in this process, the NOSM Emergency Response Team is drafting a “planning framework” document to provide guidance and clarity on what activities and provisions need to be in place as NOSM gradually normalizes its operational environment.

The primary goal of a “return to campus” plan will be to ensure it promotes a safe and healthy work and learning environment. Job one is to support the wellness of the NOSM community including your families. We will be reaching out to various units/portfolios and stakeholders over the next two weeks to further develop and finalize this plan prior to sharing it broadly.

While much of how and when we bring people back to campus will be directed by the Government of Ontario, as well as our host universities (Lakehead and Laurentian), NOSM’s plan will be flexible and will take into consideration, where reasonable, the needs and circumstances of its learners, staff and faculty.

Vacation Scheduling:

NOSM promotes and supports a healthy work/life balance and recognizes the importance that vacation plays in the well-being of its employees and their families.  All employees are encouraged to plan for and schedule vacation time necessary for optimal job performance.

As we reach the end of NOSM’s vacation year on June 30, 2020, those with vacation balances that exceed the permitted maximum of two (2) times their annual entitlement on July 1 will receive a courtesy email from Payroll to inform you of this exceedance.  As many vacation plans have been interrupted due to COVID-19, we will be providing an extension to use vacation credits in excess of the permitted maximum until November 15, 2020, which may reduce or prevent vacation payouts.  Another vacation balance review will be conducted by Human Resources on November 15, 2020.  Those who remain over the maximum balance of two (2) times their annual entitlement will receive a payout on the November 30, 2020 pay.

And Finally…

We would like to, again, thank everyone for their extraordinary efforts, patience and resilience over the past 8 weeks. We truly appreciate all you are doing to keep NOSM’s operations moving forward. It seems like ages ago when we moved our work off-site. In an odd way, it feels almost normal to be “working from home” and attending meetings via WebEx or Google Meet. While it has been 8 weeks since we initiated off-campus work arrangements, it is nice to turn our attention on planning a return. Please be assured, this will be gradual and that NOSM will take all precautions and follow public health guidelines and protocols to protect the health of its leaners and employees.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please email hr@nosm.ca.

April 20, 2020
Campus Closure Extended
  
This week, the Government of Ontario announced the extension of the Declaration of Emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until May 12, 2020. The extension of the provincial declaration of emergency allows Ontario to continue to enforce current emergency orders, such as the closure of all non-essential workplaces. As a result, NOSM will be extending its current “working at home” arrangement until Friday May 15, 2020, or until further notice. If you are using the “out of office” email reply function, please amend it to indicate the new date.  Again, staff are reminded to only use the “out of office” function if in fact clients are going to experience a delay in responding.
 
Coping with Working in Isolation
 
As we pass the one-month milestone of working at home in isolation, it is important to take some time to acknowledge and reflect on the psychological resilience of NOSM Staff and Full-Time Faculty and to celebrate the tremendous work that continues daily in our “new normal”. Thank you for all of your contributions and commitment to NOSM.  
 
It has not been easy to adjust to working in an environment of uncertainty. As such, we have been tasked with setting new work standards and developing flexible attitudes required to cope in this crisis.  Some of you are struggling with feelings of guilt at not being able to manage full-time work. Whether you are home alone, educating small children, caring for family members, or having to attend WebEx meetings while noise and disruption is occurring in the background, it has affected how you feel and act.
 
This past month, you have abruptly lost your ability to “socialize” or connect with people directly. Things you took for granted, have suddenly been taken away. Constant exposure to negative media related to COVID-19 continues to fuel further feelings of fear and worry. These all manifest in a way that adversely affects your energy and impairs your ability to focus. You are not alone in feeling this way.
 
For anyone who may be struggling, please know that support is available to you. We ask that you focus on your family and your personal health, as a priority, and for work, to focus on tasks, not the hours. To move us forward (and to ease our pressures), expectations of productivity, working hours and work standards, need to be reassessed in a COVID-19 environment.
 
Consider the following for establishing a more personal and flexible work schedule:
  • If you are sending emails later in the evening or weekends, use the google email function of timing the emails for the next business day. Staff who receive emails in the off-hours may feel pressure to respond or it may trigger feelings of anxiety that could affect their sleep. Remember we are not all on the same work schedule.
  • Consider staggering your work day (earlier or later start), or compressing your work week if you are able, especially if you need to tend to or accommodate family needs during the day. The most important part of building your work schedule is to ensure that you communicate with your team and your Supervisor about when you are not available to meet or respond to issues.
  • Do not worry if children, your spouse, or if your pet jumps into a video conference, this is natural and to be expected. Please introduce your family to the rest of the team.
  • Rethink the number of meetings you may be having with staff or colleagues. Are they necessary? Is there another way to get the tasks done?  One of the most common complaints received during the first four weeks of our campus closure has been a sharp increase in the number of WebEx meetings. While many of these meetings were necessary to organize and plan new ways of delivering our education, operationalizing our new work and teaching environment, some meetings may be due to a sudden need for people to feel more connected (a replacement for naturally seeing people at work).
  • You should not feel guilty if you do not respond to an email in a timely manner. Our society has established an “unwritten” rule that we respond to emails immediately…that everything is “urgent”. The new reality is that you are not always attached to your computer or phone – that you may be out for a walk with the kids or taking a family member to a medical appointment or may have a need to take a nap if you feel tired, etc. During COVID-19, these are all natural and acceptable behaviours. Nobody will fault you for your inability to respond immediately.
By communicating needs with others, we can continue to support each other now and into the future as we re-integrate back to normal operations. Over the next few weeks, we will be developing a plan to ease everyone back into the workplace. We understand that even though some may be ready to return, others may not be able due to continued disruption of services or family needs.
             
As we look forward, we anticipate that The Government of Ontario will likely have explicit rules on how organizations will be staggered back to work or allowed to resume operations. There will likely be limits on how many staff can be in a defined space which will require businesses to create workforce schedules. These, of course, are all speculative as nobody knows for certain how this will be transitioned. Regardless of the directives and requirements of Government, NOSM’s re-entry plan will be flexible and supportive of personal and family needs.
 
As for now, you will have good days and bad days. Please let others know how you feel.
 
We want each of you to know that we are grateful for what you do and extend our sincere thanks for all of your efforts as we support both learners and health-care professionals in Northern Ontario during COVID-19.
 
If you have any questions or concerns, please email hr@nosm.ca.
April 16, 2020

Temporary Waiving of Parking Fees

The purpose of this communique is to inform all NOSM Staff and Full-Time Faculty, who pay for parking at either Laurentian University or Lakehead University campuses that, effective May 1, 2020, parking fees will no longer be deducted through NOSM payroll.

Free parking will remain in effect until such time as the campus closure has been lifted and we are returning to the worksite.

While Lakehead has established a “parking-free period”, and parking display tags are not required, Laurentian on the other hand has not waived parking fees. Despite that, NOSM has decided to extend this benefit to NOSM at Laurentian campus and will therefore, waive parking fees on Laurentian campus as well, to ensure equity across our employees. As such, those NOSM employees who are required to be on-site at Laurentian will still be required to display their parking tag in a visible place (or they could get ticketed).

For staff who have prepaid parking for the year, Lakehead University has indicated they will offer and manage a credit towards the purchase of a future parking pass for the equivalent of the impacted months.

For the staff at Laurentian University who have prepaid their parking, NOSM will commit to reimburse the prepaid parking fees from May 1st, 2020 until return to normal operations to match the period of the Lakehead credit. NOSM Administration will provide further direction on this reimbursement process once the known return dates have been established.

In the meantime, please let hr@nosm.ca know if you have any questions, issues or difficulty with parking on site.

April 6, 2020

Home Office Equipment

As we transition to working from home, we have received some questions regarding the purchase of office equipment for home use, particularly requests for printers, sit-stand desks and other ergonomic tools.

As working from home is a temporary response to the COVID-19 outbreak, at this time, we are not approving the purchase of office equipment or the purchase or borrowing of office furniture for home use.

If you require IT equipment from your NOSM office in order to perform your duties at home, please fill out a Helpdesk Ticket submission form and arrangements will be made to facilitate these requests.

We fully recognize the benefits of sit-stand workstations and other ergonomic tools and encourage staff to be creative in finding safe “do-it-yourself” alternatives that can be used in the home.

It is important that we take regular breaks and stretch as needed, as this can be an effective way to alleviate pain/discomfort. Attached are some resources that demonstrate proper ergonomic set up, as well as examples of exercises that can be done at your workstation to help promote a healthy workspace while working from home.

As noted in our communique last week, it is important to maintain communication with your supervisor and team to minimize the false expectation of responding immediately.  We encourage you to discuss work schedule adjustments with your supervisor as required to remain productive while still maintaining personal obligations such as caring for children, walking your dog, regular exercise and/or stretching breaks, etc.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your supervisor, union representative and/or your Human Resources Consultant.

Ergonomics – Useful Tips for Working at Home

Exercises at Workstation

OHCOW Office Ergonomics Handbook


March 27, 2020

Adjusting to the Sudden Impact of Working from Home:  Redefining Work/Life Balance

How are you feeling?

Over the past two weeks, NOSM learners and employees have had to make the very sudden (herculean) transition to “working and learning from home”. It was extremely impressive how the NOSM community overcame all obstacles to quickly manoeuver their lives and daily routine to set-up new “makeshift” office work spaces. Doing this all while calming fears of family members and coming to terms with the impact of global socio-economic changes.

This paradigm shift in our society was very abrupt and the impact it has on each individual is totally unpredictable.

If you (as an individual) are feeling nervous about COVID-19, you are not alone. Being concerned and anxious about this outbreak is normal. People may be experiencing feelings of discomfort, difficulty concentrating or focussing which will impact on productivity and even disrupt sleep patterns.

While there are enormous benefits to working from home, there are also many challenges in this current environment of COVID-19, and we recognize that each individual may be struggling with this adjustment in different ways. You may be caring for children, elderly family members, and may also be experiencing feelings of isolation and disconnection from co-workers/classmates. These stressors manifest and affect people in many different ways.

During this time, some are able to compartmentalize, turn off their feelings and focus on the tasks in front of them. Others may have a difficult time getting motivated due to feeling overwhelmed and anxious about what the future holds, both reactions are normal.

We have not experienced anything like this before and each of us require different types of self-care and ways to cope.

It is important to realize that your classmates and co-workers are experiencing heightened anxiety and may be exhibiting different behaviours than what you are accustomed to.  With that in mind, your colleagues need your support, empathy, kindness and compassion, more now than ever before. We are all in this together.

Tips for Working from Home

Manage Expectations:
Be mindful of “perceptions”. There is no requirement to appear “super productive” to ensure to others that you are indeed working at home. This pressure can cause anxiety. Trust your co-workers and your staff, avoid comparing yourself to others. Focus on your own deliverables (others may be looking after children or parents during the day and are doing work in the evening). You may not be chained to your computer all day so the false expectation of responding immediately will have to be tempered. Many of us who worked in the 80s will recall that we did not have computers on our desk (or email) and that communication was delivered mostly by “snail” mail. Often, responses to letters arrived two weeks after sending. While we are not going back in time, people need to be patient and realize that they may not get a response immediately.

Filtering social/news media:
We have all been inundated with communiques on COVID-19 to the point of “information overload and fatigue”.  Instead of reading every article and going to every website, staying offline for a period can be beneficial to your health. While Social Media can be entertaining (and it is important to pursue items that are amusing and entertaining), it can also amplify misinformation about COVID-19 that further exacerbates feelings of fear and anxiety.  If you want accurate information about COVID-19, visit the official WHO, provincial, federal sites linked to NOSM’s COVID-19 website.

Set Boundaries:
Work on setting boundaries between work and home. Sometimes the lines can blur as we take a break to walk the dog or toss in a load of laundry. As a result, we may feel associated guilt and find ourselves logging in more hours that can cut into family time or disrupt sleep.

Create a Routine:
Create your own unique routine, take time for self-care within that routine. Remember that each of our routines will be different. Co-workers will have to adjust to this as well.

Setting Up a Work Station:
Your current workstation may not be as ideal as the one you had while working at NOSM on campus. Remember, this is a temporary adjustment and there are several ways to create a small space within your home.  If your chair is not ideal, use pillows or small rolled towels or roll a small towel and place it between the chair and your lower back for lumbar support. Monitor your posture. Remember to take breaks and stretch as you would have in your NOSM space.

Reach Out If You are Having Difficulty:
If you find that you are having difficulty or feeling isolated in a work from home environment, reach out to others. Chances are they too may be feeling the same. If you are looking for additional tips or information contact hr@nosm.ca who can assist in providing resources.

You also have access to professional assistance and resources 24/7 from our EAP (Morneau-Shepell). The following is a link to a Morneau Shepell 25 Minute Webinar – Emotional Well-Being during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Morneau Shepell also provides regular tips and resources to help support you during these challenging times. You can find these at 
COVID-19 Toolkit

Please also view a document that was provided by Laurentian University (a guide to working at home). We think it includes useful information that may be of assistance.

Next week, the Pulse will be announcing an initiative from the Healthy Workplace Group. This group will be organizing virtual coffee breaks as a way for staff to reconnect. Be sure to check out the article which will provide the information on how to join.

Updates from NOSM Finance: April 20, 2020

Ordering Supplies For Home Use
After a month of working from home, we recognize that you may require small amounts of office supplies to replenish items that have been depleted during this time. NOSM will provide you with financial support to purchase office supplies. The attached document provides a list of the standard items typically provided in the business centres at NOSM. NOSM will also reimburse you for the purchases of ink toner that is being used on your personal printer at home.

As retail stores are closed to the public, and we are discouraging you from accessing your office on campus, the following process is recommended:

If you need to order any of the supplies listed in the attached document for use at home, please follow these steps:

  1. Search for products from an online supplier (Grand & Toy, Staples, Amazon etc.)
  2. Get total cost for order by putting items in ‘shopping cart’
  3. Save an electronic copy of the cart and forward to your supervisor for approval (cc. accountspayable@nosm.ca)
  4. Once approval is received from your supervisor, proceed with the purchase and save all documentation electronically (order, proof of payment etc.)
  5. Submit all documentation along with a cheque requisition to Finance for reimbursement using the online expense reimbursement process

If you hold a NOSM purchase card, orders can be paid for using the card and follow the regular process for purchase card reconciliation.

Please note: Only standard office supplies (per attached list) or personal printer toner will be reimbursed. Office equipment or furniture is not a reimbursable expense.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or require additional information, please email accountspayable@nosm.ca.

April 3, 2020

COVID-19 Communique from NOSM Finance Unit: Claims Processing and Timelines

The Finance Unit would like to thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding while we operate remotely. We want to reassure you that claims and payments for reimbursement, invoices and other financial transactions continue to be prioritized and processed.
 
We are working hard to process your claims as quickly as possible; however given the large volume of requests, current working arrangements and limited access to systems, you may encounter delays in processing times. Many of NOSM’s financial transactions are still paper based requiring finance staff to take scheduled turns coming into the office to process documents. This has resulted in additional delays beyond our control.
 
We ask for your continued patience and that you refrain from calling or sending emails regarding payment status at this time, as these inquiries only compound delays. Be assured we have received your claim and will process as soon as possible.
 
Finance staff will reach out directly if they have questions or require additional information related to your claims.
 
In particular, we are receiving a large number of inquiries related to travel expense reimbursements affected by COVID-19. The following is a collection of FAQs that we have received that you may want to reference:
 
FAQ’s RELATED TO TRAVEL EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT AFFECTED BY COVID-19
To help guide those individuals who had booked travel or conferences and had those plans interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak, Finance has put together a guide to help you submit for reimbursement.
 FLIGHTS
I booked a flight but had to cancel. What do I do? How do I submit?
You must either cancel your flight directly with the airline or contact Red Tag if you booked through Red Tag.
 
You can submit for full reimbursement of the original cost of the flight to NOSM Finance through the online Expense Reimbursement submission portal.
 
Include your airline cancellation information in your travel claim. If you have already submitted for your flight, send a copy of the cancellation to accountspayable@nosm.ca with your expense submission tracking number.      
 
If you booked through Red Tag, they will track your credit for you. If you booked personally, it is your responsibility to track your own credit.
 
In the future when the credit is used, you will provide that information again to Finance. These flights were paid by NOSM and should be used for future NOSM business.
CONFERENCE FEES
 
Many people were planning on attending conferences, such as CCME and Northern Constellations, and had already registered and paid.
 
In the case of CCME, the organizers have determined to refund all attendees 75% of their registration and offer online content.
I submitted my conference registration fees to Finance and have already been reimbursed. Now I have a refund for the fees. What do I do?
 
Please contact accountsreceivable@nosm.ca and arrangements can be made to repay this refund or create a credit to be applied against future NOSM reimbursements. Please provide your original expense submission tracking number, the amount of the refund and proof of the refund amount via your credit card statement.
 
I have already submitted my conference registration fees to Finance but have not been reimbursed by NOSM Finance yet. What do I do?  
  
If you have not received a refund for your conference fees, then do nothing at this time. NOSM Finance will process your claim in full. Once you receive the refund for your conference registration fees, please follow the steps above.
 
If you have received your refund, then please contact accountspayable@nosm.ca as soon as possible. Please provide your original expense submission tracking number, a copy of and the amount of the refund via your credit card statement and your claim will be adjusted accordingly.
 
I have not submitted a claim to NOSM Finance for my conference registration fees.  What do I do?  
 
If you have not received a refund for your conference registration fees then you may choose, if you wish, to submit for the full reimbursement now. You will then follow the steps above once you receive your refund for the conference registration fees
 
If you have received a refund for your conference registration fees, then please submit your claim through the online Expense Reimbursement submission portal.   Please include both your original payment information and refund information in the submission
PREPAID HOTEL OR AIRBNB RESERVATION

Prepayments and refunds of any hotel reservations will be processed in the same way as the conference registration fees above.

If you have any questions please contact accountspayable@nosm.ca and include your expense submission tracking number.

A note about inclusivity

NOSM is an inclusive community where everyone is welcome and treated with respect.

Be respectful and kind to one another and avoid speculating or stereotyping. Accurate information and wisdom should be guiding our actions in times of public health emergencies. Sharing inaccurate information or making prejudicial assumptions may hurt individual people and hinder appropriate processes. Remember we have zero tolerance for racist comments and actions. We encourage all to speak up to support learners, staff and faculty who encounter racism at any time.

If you believe that you, or someone you know, is being subjected to harassment, stereotyping or prejudicial assumptions, please contact the Office of Human Resources, at 705-662-7270.

Working from Home

In order to maintain consistency with the communications of our host universities (Lakehead and Laurentian), we will be working at home until April 30, 2020, or until further notice.

For staff or faculty responsible for maintaining these on-site services, we ask that you work closely with your supervisor for the coordination of the delivery of these services.

While working from home can present some challenges, please coordinate with your supervisor about prioritizing work. The Human Resources Unit has created the Working from Home Tip Sheet for best practice advice on working from home.

Technology for Working Remotely

The Information Technology Unit has developed several tips and resources to assist you in setting up web meetings, using Cisco Jabber for telephone calls, and how to log into our servers.

To accommodate social distancing, the IT Unit will schedule equipment pick up (as needed) at various times of the day.

Please refer to the following process:

  1. Complete a Helpdesk ticket submission form here to request equipment required offsite.
  2. IT will arrange a pickup time with the faculty or staff member for the following day.
  3. Assigned IT staff will pack up the equipment, loads it onto a cart, and prepare for pick up at the main entrance of the building (e.g. HSERC, MSE, ATAC, BSC, MSW).
  4. IT staff person meets the staff member in the lobby of the building at the scheduled pick-up time. (Please note that the IT staff member will be wearing gloves. We ask that you also take protective measures against COVID-19 by following the advice provided by the World Health Organization).
  5. IT staff will wheel the cart out to the faculty or staff member’s car. Each is expected to practice social distancing. Faculty or Staff will pack the equipment into their car, and return the cart to the lobby.
  6. IT staff member will disinfect the cart for next pick-up.
  7. Once the faculty or staff member has the equipment at their home, they will make arrangements to call IT Helpdesk to walk through set up/hook up.

While it will take two business days to facilitate equipment transfers, we hope that everyone understands the need for this process and appreciates that it is being done in the best interest of everyone’s health.

For additional IT support, please contact helpdesk@nosm.ca

Phone:

Sudbury: 705-662-7120
Thunder Bay: 807-766-7500
Toll-Free in Canada: 1-800-461-8777 (then press 1, then 7)

For employees who live in the outlying areas of Sudbury and Thunder Bay, where internet access may be limited, please ask your supervisor to contact Steve Kelly, Director of IT, who can explore temporary Wi-Fi interventions for you.

Site Access

NOSM at Laurentian University

Unless deemed as an essential service, NOSM staff and faculty will not be allowed to enter our buildings (HSERC or MSE). Your access card will be suspended until such time as Laurentian University has lifted its Directive on facility closures.

NOSM has identified and provided the following list to both Laurentian University and Lakehead University, as authorized personnel permitted to enter the premises. This list will also be provided to campus security on the respective sites.

Those included on this list are required for building and system maintenance and onsite processing of financial transactions and payroll. If you are not named on the list and need to access the building, please contact your supervisor to help facilitate retrieval of items.

NOSM at Lakehead University

Given the reduced workforce on site, all of the NOSM buildings will be locked and closed to the public, except in cases where there is shared space with the host universities (e.g. BSC). You will be required to use your card access to enter the building during this time. Current card access times will remain in effect.

Security will be available on both campuses. Please keep in mind the following:

    • Access cards will provide access to buildings, office space and common areas (meeting/classrooms and business centres)
    • Working alone – Notify Security that you are working alone in the building and for what timeframe
      Security – access card concerns/issues – please call Lakehead Security 807-343-8569
    • While we will do our utmost to ensure business continuity, there will be disruptions and gaps in our services that are beyond our control. Please let clients know that you are working from home and that there may be delays due to limited access to regular systems and supports.

Spot the Symptoms

If at anytime you become symptomatic (i.e. develop a fever, cough, difficulty breathing), you are advised to:

  • isolate yourself at home (away from others) as quickly as possible
  • DO NOT VISIT, but IMMEDIATELY CONTACT BY PHONE, a health-care professional or local Public Health Unit.(Public Health contact information for your community can be found online.)
  • describe your symptoms and travel history
  • follow their instructions
  • continue to remain home until medical clearance is received

If you have specific questions on any of the above, please send an email to hr@nosm.ca.

What is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (or 2019-nCoV)? What are the symptoms and treatment?

Please refer to the Public Health website for up to date information about the Novel Coronavirus.

What should I do if I get sick?

Employees are to monitor their health for any symptoms. If at anytime you become symptomatic (i.e. develop a fever, cough, difficulty breathing), you are advised to follow the direction of your local health unit.

If you have symptoms associated with a respiratory infection, follow the usual leave procedures for sick days, short term leaves, or long term leave as outlined in the Sick Leave Policy.

Travel Advisory

To help flatten the “virus transmission” curve, we strongly encourage staff to avoid travel regionally, nationally and internationally. We are requiring all employees who are returning to Canada from another country to self-quarantine for 14 days until further notice.

Please be vigilant – monitor for symptoms, practice social distancing by minimizing close contact with others (at least 1 metre/3 feet), limit movement among crowds and be mindful of others who may be immunocompromised.

Employees are to monitor their health for any symptoms. If at anytime you become symptomatic (i.e. develop a fever, cough, difficulty breathing), you are advised to follow the direction of your local health unit.

All events and meetings going forward should either be cancelled, postponed, or conducted in virtual form, until further notice.

If travel has already been booked (e.g. airline tickets) and paid for, please process your travel expense claim as normal and NOSM will reimburse your cost. Please check with your airline as to their policy on travel reimbursement. Our advice is to request a credit on file so that the flight can be used at a later date. If you have already arranged travel for a program meeting or event that has been scheduled at a later date we are monitoring this situation and you will receive further direction from your supervisor once available.

Benefit coverage

Canada Life (Great-West Life) coverage for Out-of-country medical emergency, travel assistance and disability coverage remain without change. Claims related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will be assessed based on the plan coverage like any other claim.

To find out what your plan covers, check your benefits booklet or visit GroupNet for plan members.

Canada Life Phone Number Updates

If you are travelling and need help during a medical emergency, Canada Life has simplified their emergency assistance phone numbers.

If you’re travelling and need help during a medical emergency, contact our Travel Assistance provider using the new simplified phone numbers below. Service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a
week, 365 days a year.

IF YOUR IN:
CALL
Canada or U.S. 1-855-222-4051
Cuba 1-204-946-2946*
All other locations 1-204-946-2577*

*Submit long-distance charges to Canada Life for reimbursement.

If you use a TTY machine, call 1-800-990-6654.

To download your updated benefits card with the new phone numbers, sign in to GroupNet for plan members or the GroupNet mobile app.

For general questions about your out-of-country coverage or claims, contact 1-800-957-9777. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact Laurie Twilley, Human Resources Coordinator (Payroll, Pension & Benefits) at 705-662-7138, or ltwilley@nosm.ca