Skip to main content

Return to Campus Policy

Updated March 19, 2021


This policy applies to all staff and faculty who return to work physically on our campuses or are planning to do so. This policy also applies to graduate and undergraduate students upon their return to campus to work or research in laboratories.

Separate requirements have been issued for students returning to campus for academic coursework.

The University expects staff who currently work remotely to familiarize themselves with, and abide by, the terms of this policy during any subsequent visit or an eventual return to campus.

Policy Implementation

The following conditions shall apply to all staff, faculty and students instructed or permitted to return to campus during the Phased Return to Campus and until otherwise deemed not applicable by the Provost and the Senior Vice President for Business and Finance.

Reporting to Campus

  • Staff and faculty returning physically to campus should align with their school or unit’s Return to Campus plan and any campus-wide guidance regarding the presence of faculty and staff on campus, such as the periodic guidance during Wildcat Wellness periods.
  • Leadership is expected to monitor their faculty and staff who return to campus and ensure compliance with the school or unit’s Return to Campus Plan.
  • As a condition of returning to campus, all staff, faculty and students returning to campus must complete the mandatory COVID-19 online training (available through myHR Learn).
  • Staff and faculty may be required to return to remote work at any time and are required to cooperate if directed to do so. In any such situations, unit and school leadership will take appropriate measures to ensure on-going participation of such staff and faculty in their core professional and teaching activities, respectively.

General Health and Hygiene Rules

  • All staff and faculty shall refrain from visiting campus or University facilities whenever they are sick or have symptoms of respiratory illness (see below).
  • In all campus public and shared environments, including outdoor spaces and instructional spaces, staff and faculty must wear a face mask or face covering.
  • Staff and faculty must follow these health guidelines as part of the phased return to campus:
    • Monitor temperature and health regularly at home and complete a daily symptom check form (via mobile application or manual form) before coming to campus. If experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory illness, do not report to work in person until such symptoms are no longer present and as directed by CDC guidance. Additional Northwestern guidance can be found here.
    • Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, particularly after coming into contact with high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, handrails, and commonly used equipment.
    • Cough/sneeze into sleeves, preferably into the elbow. When using a tissue, discard it properly and clean/sanitize hands immediately.
    • Avoid touching your face — particularly your eyes, nose and mouth — with your hands to prevent infection.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in personal workspaces.
    • Keep desk work surfaces clean of paper and other materials every night, to allow for proper cleaning.

COVID-19 Specific Health Reporting Requirements

  • All staff and faculty are required to report the following using the University’s online reporting portal:
  • Current testing protocols applicable to faculty and staff will be posted on the COVID-19 website here.  If diagnosed with COVID-19, a faculty or staff member must provide notification immediately by filing an online report. Staff should then contact their manager and the Office of Human Resources to request leave. Faculty should contact their dean or department chair.
  • In the event of a positive or suspected COVID-19 diagnosis, staff and faculty are required to cooperate fully with the University’s self-isolation, contact tracing, and notification protocols, in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
  • Staff and faculty health information reported pursuant to this policy will be shared only with those who need to know to assist with contact tracing requirements.

Social Distancing Rules

  • Staff and faculty must maintain at least six feet of social distance from others wherever possible.
  • All managers and supervisors must continue to develop and refine plans for facilitating and implementing the social distancing of staff and faculty, utilizing resources and guidance provided by the University.
  • Managers, supervisors, staff and faculty are required to follow any capacity and space restrictions outlined by the Return to Campus Workgroup or Subgroups.
  • Staff and faculty are required to follow any signage or instruction regarding the use of common spaces, hallways, or pathways through campus.
  • Staff and faculty are expected to report locations or examples of social distancing congestion to assist with identifying potential problem areas.
  • Additional guidance can be found at

Personal Illness and Quarantine

  • Staff and faculty may not report or return to campus while they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 (or other respiratory illnesses), such as cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, muscle pain or body aches, headache or chills. The CDC maintains a current list of symptoms associated with COVID-19:
  • Staff or faculty who experience an onset of symptoms while at work must leave campus immediately and update their Symptom Tracker. Staff should contact their manager and the Office of Human Resources. Faculty should contact their dean or department chair.
  • Employees who are unable to work due to personal illness should use available sick time. If an employee’s available sick time has already been exhausted, they should contact a Benefits Counselor at to discuss available leave options.
  • Beginning September 1, 2020, if an employee is asked to quarantine or isolate and the employee is unable to work from home, the employee will be paid for the quarantine or isolation time without having to use vacation or sick time.  In order to be eligible for this paid time, (1) the employee’s exposure must have been in the workplace, (2) the exposure must have been identified through the University’s contact tracing process, and (3) the employee must have followed all of the University’s Covid-related polices and processes.

Remote Work

  • Remote work will continue in some units through the Spring Quarter 2021.
  • Staff and faculty returning physically to campus should align with their school or unit’s Return to Campus plan and any campus-wide guidance regarding the presence of faculty and staff on campus, such as the periodic guidance during Wildcat Wellness periods.
  • The University has created the Alternative Work Arrangements Policy which will govern individual arrangements that cannot be determined at the School or Unit Level. 
  • Commuting to campus is the responsibility of employees. Employees not wishing to utilize public transit may evaluate other mechanisms to travel to campus, such as driving and parking, or utilizing ride-share services.


  • Current travel expectations can be found here.
  • The University does not regulate the personal travel of staff and faculty, but faculty and staff should educate themselves about and follow government requirements regarding travel where applicable.

Gatherings, Meetings, Events and Visitors

  • Gatherings, meeting and events must adhere to local guidance for Evanston and Chicago, including limits on room capacity and group size.
  • University health and safety guidelines, including social distancing and mask wearing, must be followed at all times.
  • Additional information on gatherings, meetings and events can be found here.
  • A visitor is any individual who is not a currently enrolled student in good standing, a registered participant in Northwestern programming for pre-collegiate students  or active employee for the University. Expectations regarding visitors, including Contractors, to campus are outlined here.

Staff and faculty knowingly violating any of the requirements of this policy may be removed from campus and required to work remotely and be subject to discipline as may be appropriate. In such cases, building access by their Wildcard may be restricted or suspended.


The following individuals can address questions regarding this policy:

Luke Figora
Senior Associate Vice President, Chief Risk and Compliance Officer
Phone: (847) 491-7696

Gwen Butler
Director, Environmental Health and Safety
Phone: (847) 491-4936