COVID Campus Climate Survey #3 Results 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

As the official voice of University support staff, the UWSA has surveyed its members annually throughout the pandemic. These survey results are used to identify top areas of staff concern so we can direct our support where it is most needed. They also allow us to knowledgably present staff concerns to senior administrators of the University of Waterloo.  

The UWSA exists to represent staff interests, so when you respond to our surveys, you’re making sure your voice is included in decisions impacting staff; thank you. 

UWSA Statement on Survey Results 

Detailed survey results are presented below, but this table outlines key observations and recommendations. Much of this document, including the recommendations below, were shared on April 11, 2022 with President Vivek Goel, Provost Jim Rush, Director of Safety Kate Windsor, and Director of HR Client Services Michelle Hollis. The UWSA was pleased to that Waterloo took notice of employee concerns, announcing on April 14 that the Face covering requirement would be extended until further notice.  

Observations  Recommendations 

Staff have a strong preference for the mask and vaccine mandates to continue through spring 2022. This is in alignment with faculty preferences. 

Continue both the mask and vaccine mandates on campus for spring 2022.
Nearly half of staff are still working remotely more than the maximum 2 days per week allotted by the Work from Home Guidelines.   Acknowledge that the restrictions imposed by the current Work from Home (WFH) Guidelines render it inadequate to meet current and future workforce needs and will prevent Waterloo from remaining a top Waterloo Region employer. In accordance with Policy 1, strike a Policy Development Committee to establish a University-level Class S Policy to replace the guidelines.  

Future workforce planning is a top concern among staff. And staff members seem to have a much stronger interest in flexible work options than other employee groups. 

Ensure that staff have a voice in future workforce planning activities. 

Whether working remotely or on campus, staff feel well-prepared to do their job. 

Appreciate managers who are providing their direct reports with the resources and supports they need to do their work regardless of physical location. Acknowledge the efforts of both management and non-management staff to remain effective and productive through frequent change. 
Improved work-life balance the top reason that respondents prefer working from home.  Demonstrate that work-life balance is valued at the University by developing a comprehensive and equitable process for staff in different areas to arrange for more flexible work. 

COVID Vaccine and Mask Mandates 

On March 21, 2022, Waterloo announced its intention to suspend on-campus vaccine and mask mandates. To find out how staff felt about this decision, we asked respondents to indicate their preference for the continuation of each of these mandates. A significant majority of respondents indicates a preference to see both the vaccine and mask mandates continue to spring 2022. 

These results are in close alignment with the preferences of faculty members. In a recent poll, the Faculty Association found that 72% of respondents were in favour of the vaccine mandate continuing, with 54% supporting the continuation of the mask mandate for spring 2022.  

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Staff Work Location 

The number of respondents working fully on campus in 2022 has increased to 16% since our 2021 survey. Most respondents (72%) spend part of their time working on campus and part of their time working remotely. Nearly half of respondents (46%) are still working remotely more than the maximum 2 days per week allotted by the existing Work from Home (WFH) Guidelines.  

Work is well underway at Waterloo to define our future workforce. This is a significant project, and a new Workforce Planning unit has been established within Human Resources to help guide this work.  

Above we recommend that the existing WFH Guidelines be replaced by a University-level Policy. The reasoning behind our recommendation is that the development of this important policy would then be governed by Waterloo's mandated policy development process, which stipulates oversight and approval of Class-S policy development by the Staff Relations Committee. 

But even if the WFH Guidelines aren’t replaced by a University-level Policy, your UWSA has been promised a seat at the table when the time comes to review the work of the Workforce Planning office and make final workforce planning recommendations. And we promise to keep equity and staff interests at the forefront when that time comes. 

Work Location 2020 2021 2022
Remote 89% 79% 12%
Campus 2% 6% 16%
Both 7% 15% 72%
Other 2% n/a n/a

 

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graph 3 

Workforce Planning: A Top Concern 

We asked respondents to indicate which of the five concerns listed was their top concern. Most respondents (53%) indicated concern about either work location or consultation about the future of work at Waterloo. 

graph #4 

We also asked how respondents would prefer to work going forward as we increase presence on campus and establish a new normal. Only 8% of respondents indicated a desire to work exclusively on campus, with the majority of respondents (60%) indicating a desire to work remotely more than the current WFH Guidelines allow. It’s clear that the WFH Guidelines must be revised if Waterloo is to retain existing staff and remain an employer of choice for future talent. 

graph #5   

graph 6 

Staff Feel Well-prepared to Do Their Jobs 

Two months into lockdown, we asked staff about their feelings of preparedness to do their work. We were pleased to see that staff had readily adapted to remote work, with only a small group (4%) indicating that they disagreed with the statement, I feel well-prepared to do my job. Staff have continued to grow and evolve over this time of constant change and rapidly shifting priorities, and we’re proud to see that the number of respondents indicating disagreement with the statement is even lower than it was in 2020. We see this as an indication of our members’ ability to adapt, and while we are impressed, we’re definitely not surprised. 

graph #7 

Deeper Insights into Waterloo COVID-19 Employee Survey Results 

Waterloo surveyed all employees from January 20 to 26, 2022 (6 days) and received 3603 responses. The results of that survey are available at https://uwaterloo.ca/employee-communication/news/covid-19-employee-survey-results (login required). 

One question asked for employees’ “main concerns about coming back into the workplace,” and 42% of respondents indicated “I prefer working from home” as a main concern. The table below shows the frequency that each reason option was selected by respondents to the UWSA survey. Some respondents chose Other and provided a reason not listed in the question. Most were able to be coded into the reasons below, but two reasons were not: better parking (N=2) and better office setup (N=1). 

Question: 42% of respondents to UW’s COVID-19 Employee Survey indicated that they prefer working from home. We’d like to know if this is true for you, and what the reason(s) might be. Select all that apply from the options below: 

Reason Count
Improved work-life balance  378
Cost savings  347
Better productivity/time savings  325
More flexibility in hours  296
Improved mental wellness  276
Increased sustainability  233
Improved physical wellness  227
Improved sense of safety (personal or household)  213

UWSA Membership 

It is noteworthy that almost half (42%) of respondents to Waterloo’s COVID-19 Employee Survey indicated that they prefer working from home. In our survey, only a very small minority of respondents (10%) indicated that they do not prefer working from home. This suggests that among staff respondents, there may be a much stronger interest in flexible work options than among the greater employee population.  

The vast majority of respondents in all three surveys were UWSA members, but in this most recent survey, more respondents were unsure of their UWSA membership status. You can check your UWSA membership status by sending an email using your UWaterloo email address to uwsamemb@uwaterloo.ca; you will receive a response within the hour, during hours of operation. Also noteworthy was the increase in non-member responses to survey 3. This is an indication that our members shared the survey with their colleagues (thank you!) and that we have more work to do to connect with staff who are not yet UWSA members! 

UWSA Membership Status Survey 1 Survey 2 Survey 3
Member 88% 92% 78%
Non-member 10% 6% 16%
Unsure 2% 2% 6%

Overview of UWSA COVID Campus Climate Surveys 

Survey 1 

Dates: May 22 to 29, 2020 (8 days) 

Responses: 738 

Survey 2 

Dates: March 24 to April 7, 2021 (15 days) 

Responses: 655 

Survey 3 

Dates: March 24 to April 6, 2022 (14 days) 

Responses: 487 

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