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Sunrise Plan FAQs

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Return to Safe Campus COVID-19 Updates

President Joan Gabel announced the creation of a workgroup aimed at developing a University of Minnesota Sunrise Plan that follows guidelines from the State of Minnesota regarding how to safely and gradually return to workplaces. The resulting Plan includes a process for faculty and staff to request a return to their worksite, as well as a series of requirements and guidelines for all University units as they begin to permit employees to return. The plan was updated November, 11, 2020. As the directives from the State and health officials change, the Plan and FAQs will continue to be revised.

For more details on the FAQs below, view the systemwide Sunrise Plan.
For HR related questions, visit the 
Office of Human Resources COVID-19 FAQ. 

FAQ content

Returning to University campuses and facilities

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Who may return to campus or a University property now?

  • Until further notice, the University expects that any faculty or staff member who can work from home will continue to do through June 30, 2021. 
  • Some faculty, staff, researchers, and undergraduate student workers who needed to return to campus or another University location to complete their work could consider doing so as long as they discussed the need with their manager/supervisor and secured approval by using this form. This process continues. All requests must be approved by leaders within your unit or on your campus. View the Plan for full details.
  • This unit-wide process will run in parallel with existing processes that will continue to be required for individuals if their return is specific to clinical functionson-site reopening of labs (including fieldwork, labs, and core facilities), consideration for return of work that can be performed remotely, and the process for engaged learning that occurs off campus.
  • Over time, and as public health conditions allow, we expect the Plan to evolve to allow more faculty and staff to slowly return to workplaces. See the Plan for updated request criteria and details on who may qualify to return.

    Last updated 11/13/2020

Does this plan include student workers?

  • Yes. Any student workers working on-site are expected to follow the requirements of this Plan
  • Individual students should not file requests under this process; those requests are submitted by supervisors.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

If I am currently considered an “Essential On-Site Employee” and I have already reported to my workplace, do I need to reapply to continue my onsite work?

  • No. Any faculty or staff who are currently considered “Essential On-Site Employees” will maintain their status and do not need to seek approval under this plan.
  • However, the University encourages all “Essential On-Site Employees” to continue to follow the health and safety guidelines outlined in the Plan and that have already been established for their work circumstances.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

If my request to return was declined, should I reapply using the same process?

  • If your request was previously declined, you can revisit the request with your manager and reapply using the updated criteria.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

When will all employees return to campus and who will make that decision?

  • While some faculty and staff will return to campus or to other sites in the near future because they must do so to complete their work, the University’s long-term plan to return to normal operations must be done gradually and will closely rely on public health conditions. President Gabel instructed all employees to continue to work from home, if they are able to do so, through at least June 30, 2021.
  • The University will follow guidance from Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) before any widespread return to campuses or facilities is allowed.
  • The responsibility for requesting a return to campus moves from the individual to the unit level. For a faculty or staff member, onsite work could involve less than a full-time on campus schedule, which would allow for the balance of the work to be remote. If you have questions about when you will return to your worksite, contact your supervisor.

    Last updated 11/13/2020

Why is the University moving so slowly to return faculty and staff to their workplaces?

  • Faculty, staff, and students are the University’s most important assets, and the health and safety of all members of our University community continue to be the top priority in our COVID-19 response.
  • University leaders and public health experts agree that returning people to University facilities too quickly, could lead to further spikes in the COVID-19 spread. The University will approach our return to workplaces in a gradual and slow manner to prevent unnecessary health risks and to avoid, as much as possible, a situation in which we must send employees home again for an extended period of time.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

What must each campus, college, or unit do to prepare for employees to work on campus or at another University location?

  • First, the leaders of campuses, colleges, and units are encouraged to consider if the employees within their unit or department can continue to work in a remote working environment. If that is the case, those employees should continue to work from home.
  • If work cannot continue from home, leaders or supervisors are encouraged to develop localized plans that are unique and specific to the needs and safety of their faculty and staff. Such plans must align with the University’s Sunrise Plan. Each request to return must receive approval from a number of leaders in the requestor’s department and on their campus prior to employees returning to any University campus or facility.
  • Ultimately, these steps will allow the University to slowly and gradually return certain aspects of our work to campuses and facilities across the state without placing health and safety at risk.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

Do I need my campus or building ID to access my workspace?

Yes. Public access to most facilities requires a U Card, ID and/or keys will be needed to gain access to University buildings.

Last updated 11/13/2020

Will I be able to continue to work remotely once my unit has returned to campus?

Supervisors are empowered to determine the best working arrangements for each team, which may include a phased or staggered return and work-from-home options, depending on individual departmental needs.

Last updated 5/1/2020

I am a caregiver whose children attend schools and/or daycare. What guidance can the University provide?

  • The University is committed to supporting faculty and staff instructors as they continue to advance the research, teaching, and service of the University while fulfilling their personal commitments. In addition to the information for working parents provided by the Office of Human Resources, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost has gathered information relevant to faculty and instructors.
  • Leaves are still available for parents who need to take time away to care for children due to COVID-19. Learn more information about working parents from the Office of Human Resources.
  • In the meantime, supervisors and managers are encouraged to be as flexible as possible to help those who report to them successfully manage their work and personal responsibilities.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

I am a caregiver of someone who has COVID-19, or I have COVID-19 symptoms myself. Do I return to my campus or workplace?

  • No. According to MDH and the CDC, if you are sick or are caring for a person who is sick, do not return to campus or your workplace until you have been asymptomatic for 14 days after exposure. You should consult with a medical professional before determining you are ready to return to your workplace.
  • The University has leave policies in place that allow faculty and staff to stay home when they are sick, when household members are sick, or when required by a healthcare provider to isolate or quarantine themselves or a member of their household because of COVID-19.

    Last updated 5/1/2020

Are visitors allowed back on campus or at worksites?

  • Until further notice, non-U of M visitors are prohibited from entering any University facility that is not currently open to the public.
  • Separate guidance has been provided for the Landscape Arboretum and Les Bolstad Golf Course and other recreational facilities, which have partially reopened to the public.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

What will occur if Minnesota or my community experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases?

  • Public health officials remind all of us that this pandemic may ebb and flow, and we all will need to respond appropriately to keep ourselves and those around us safe.
  • The University of Minnesota monitors public health data collected and tracked by local and state health officials, as well as the status of our general and pandemic response operations, to determine if and when the University should alter its current operational status.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

Safety and wellbeing

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What role can I play to ensure the health and safety of our University community?

  • The health and wellbeing of our University community is a responsibility we all share in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you can continue to work from home at this time, you are expected to do so. A significant step in reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is continuing to stay at home and away from others if possible.
  • For those who must return to the workplace to complete their work, and who have the approvals necessary to return, you must follow the proper health guidance:
    • Contact your supervisor if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, receive a positive test, or have been informed that you have been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case.
    • If the employee indicates any of these conditions, the supervisor must require that the employee stay home, and the employee should seek guidance from their healthcare provider or public health case investigator.
  • The systemwide Sunrise Plan outlines additional public safety guidelines that you and your colleagues are expected to follow.

    Last updated 8/24/2020

Will there be enhanced cleaning of workspaces to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19?

  • Yes. Regular housekeeping practices are being enhanced by facilities management teams on each campus, including frequent cleaning and sanitization of high-touch areas such as door handles, railings, and elevator panels, among others. 
  • This is a shared responsibility. Please do your part to keep your workspaces clean and to avoid sharing workspaces and/or equipment.

    Last updated 5/1/2020

Can offices or workspaces be modified for increased safety?

  • Modifications to individual offices or workstations are not permitted unless an assessment from University Health and Safety deems health habits and other measures described in the Plan are insufficient to promote a safe work environment.

    Last updated 5/15/2020

Will in-person meetings be allowed?

  • Based on MDH and CDC guidance, in-person meetings are discouraged. If a meeting must be in person to accomplish the purpose of the meeting, it must be in a large room with attendees six feet away from each other, no larger than 10 people, and with face coverings.
  • Continue to use the alternative methods of meeting and interacting with colleagues.Guidance from Governor Walz and public health officials includes no gatherings that exceed 10 people, with smaller gatherings involving physical distancing and other safety precautions.

    Last updated 11/13/2020

Will other spaces in my work area be closed, such as a breakroom, kitchen or other facilities?

  • Yes, if it is impossible in those spaces to maintain safe physical distancing and regular cleaning. Break rooms / lunchrooms will be limited to food preparation only. 
  • When possible, employees are encouraged to bring meals that do not require refrigeration or heating.

    Last updated 5/1/2020

Am I required to wear a face covering on campus or at my worksite?

Will employees be tested for COVID-19?

  • At this time, the University does not intend to test employees for COVID-19 as a requirement to work onsite, unless you are a member of a medical, clinical, or research team directly involved in COVID-19 reponse and testing is deemed necessary to protect your health and that of others.
  • If you have questions about whether you should be tested for COVID-19, consult with your healthcare provider. If it is determined by your provider that you should be tested, your clinician will recommend a testing facility or may refer you to the Minnesota Department of Health’s list of testing facilities across the state.
  • The University’s approach to testing may evolve over time, based on the availability of testing in Minnesota and the changing situation related to the pandemic.

    Last updated 5/1/2020

Is there mental health support for faculty and staff returning to campus?

  • The University of Minnesota’s five system campuses offer a number of virtual care options for physical and mental health. Learn more about mental health resources on the Human Resources website.

    Last updated 5/1/2020


What if I notice unsafe working conditions?

  • If you are experiencing any unsafe working conditions, please contact your manager or supervisor to help address issues and concerns. The Department of Environmental Health and Safety has guidance on its website about how to best report safety concerns. Employees may also report a situation or conduct they believe violates a law, regulation, or University policy through UReport. More information about UReport is available on the Office of Institutional Compliance website.

    Last updated 5/1/2020