Brown is supporting employees in returning to a traditional two-semester academic year and mostly in-person operations by the start of the Fall 2021 semester.

Transition to Mostly In-person Operations

Brown University plans to return to significant on-site operations on August 16, with the goal of nearly all faculty, staff and students returning to campus in some capacity by the beginning of the fall semester. Plans to return to full on-site operations by mid-August are based on the current state guidelines that offices can return to 100% occupancy starting May 21, 2021.

At the beginning of the Fall 2021 term, we expect that all University offices, locations and services will be open during normal business hours and staffed to ensure the availability of in-person services in accordance with this public health guidance. With the recent lifting of public health restrictions by federal and state agencies and the continued increase in vaccination levels, we are asking all departments across Brown to begin easing into increased on-campus operations this summer in preparation for more in-person operations.

Many in our community have already been working and learning on-site, and we will strive to bring nearly all faculty and staff back to campus in a way that continues to protect the health and safety of the campus community.

Principles Guiding the Transition

Maintaining Brown’s strong sense of community and the University’s collaborative environment is a priority in planning for the year ahead. The experiences of the pandemic have demonstrated that, while many job functions can be performed remotely, it is extremely difficult to maintain the levels of collaboration, collegiality and sense of community that are core to Brown’s culture without being physically together.

One of Brown’s great strengths is that it has a people-centered culture. Professional and personal relationships within and across academic and administrative units are vitally important to the functioning of the University. Newer employees learn from established employees through formal and informal mentoring. Students benefit from the personal relationships they establish with Brown faculty and staff. And the chance encounters and organic conversations that arise in unplanned interactions throughout the workday and outside of scheduled meetings promote collaboration and innovation. Even as we recognize the flexibility of some remote work, as we plan for the year ahead, we are sensitive to the reality that our people-centered culture cannot easily be nurtured, cultivated or sustained via screens.

Options for Flexible Work Arrangements

Many employees in essential on-site functions have been working on campus throughout the entire pandemic, while others have returned in recent months. Although many currently-remote employees are eager to return to campus, others would like the option of choosing a hybrid or remote schedule.

For faculty, the provost has outlined a process for applying for exceptions to the requirement that faculty be on campus for normal in-person attendance to perform their regular duties, including advising and mentoring students and participating in University and departmental activities and events. 

While the University expects the majority of currently-remote employees to return to full-time campus work before the start of the fall term, we are creating the possibility for some staff jobs to be done in hybrid or remote fashion in cases where alternative ways of working will not negatively affect academic or administrative operations or disrupt the ability of others to do their work. The University has established three new classifications for staff positions:

  • entirely on-site (not eligible for a hybrid or remote fixed work schedule),
  • hybrid eligible (eligible to request a mixed on-site and remote work schedule)
  • remote eligible (in very rare cases, eligible to request an entirely remote work arrangement).

Staff in eligible positions will be able to request an alternative work schedule through the University’s expanded and enhanced Alternative Work Assignments (AWA) policy. All requests will be subject to the approval of supervisors.

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Hybrid and Remote Work Position Classification Guidance


The University is committed to providing support and training to guide employees through this transition. Department heads have been encouraged to engage in conversations about the transition and plan for phased re-entry, and University Human Resources is providing resources to help supervisors work with staff to adjust to this time of significant change.

The following information and resources are being provided help support employees during this transition:

  • UHR Talent Development is compiling training resources for employees focused on transitioning back to on-site and hybrid work.
  • Facilities Management and Real Estate are working with the Office of University Communications to produce a video on what to expect when returning to on-site work. The video will be shared with all employees this summer.
  • The teams in UHR-Benefits and UHR-Worklife/Wellness have resources and programs for helping with change and transition, including access to counselors from the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program, backup childcare, elder care, and other resources.
  • The Ombuds Office offers a safe, informal place to discuss matters or raise a concern confidentially. Email [email protected] or call 401-863-6145 to make an appointment. Employees can leave a message anonymously and provide times when they would like to receive a call back or have an appointment.

Staff-related inquiries about the transition can be emailed to University Human Resources at [email protected].

Last updated July 2, 2021. Information on this page may be updated as the University’s planning evolves and/or public health guidance prompts a shift in Brown’s operations and protocols.