University of Guelph employees who can perform their work remotely will do so exclusively beginning Monday, following a new directive from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health and CEO of WDG Public Health, issued a letter of instruction to all Guelph businesses late Thursday, with support from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore. The work-from-home order begins Monday and remains in effect until further notice.

Mercer said the action was necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19 amid the rapidly growing threat of the Omicron variant, whose potential impact remains unknown. “I may amend these instructions (if and as required) and will rescind them as soon I determine they are no longer necessary,” Mercer said in the letter.

Exceptions are provided for people whose jobs require them to be on-site, health-care workers, government operations, delivery of services, and people or organizations that deliver or support government services.

“Throughout the pandemic, our No. 1 priority has been public health and safety,” said U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates.

“This new development means that we must once again make some modifications. But we are taking these steps to help ensure the health and well-being of our campus and the greater Guelph community.”

Yates added: “We know that this ever-changing and unpredictable environment has created incredible challenges for our faculty, staff and students. The continued uncertainty and change are stressful and make planning difficult. As mentioned. in our communications earlier this week, guidelines and decisions can change daily, if not hourly, during a pandemic.

“We must work together to tackle this next phase of the pandemic. I encourage everyone to get their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible to help protect themselves and slow the spread of the Omicron variant.”

Following the public health directive, U of G employees who can do their jobs remotely will begin working from home Monday.

Many U of G employee roles cannot be performed effectively or efficiently on a remote basis. This includes employees working on-site to deliver services such as animal care, maintenance, food services and health care. Some in-person employee and leadership presence is also needed to support students and employees who remain on-site as well as on-site research activities.

Employees with questions about whether their job requires them to be on campus should speak to their manager or director. The Ridgetown Campus and the University of Guelph-Humber are governed by different health units and are not affected by this new announcement.

U of G hopes to continue with its plans for the winter 2022 semester, which include delivering winter semester courses remotely between Jan. 10 and Jan. 24 to allow time for people to receive their third doses.

The annual winter break begins Dec. 24 and University operations resume Jan. 4, 2022.

Depending on the status of the public health directive, employees performing critical on-site and time-sensitive work will return to on-site work Jan. 4, and employees who can work from home and who are not needed on campus to support in-person activities will continue to work from home until Jan. 24.

We will update the U of G community when the situation changes and/or as soon as new information is available. Details will be provided on the University’s COVID-19 website and the intranet and through COVID-19 email updates.

“We know how important on-campus experiences and in-person learning are to our students and that physically coming to campus is also important to the mental health and well-being of many of our faculty and staff,” Yates said.

“I look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, I appreciate your continued dedication, understanding and patience.”