Office Policy

On June 22, Stanford entered Stage 2 of its research restart process, enabling a small number of additional researchers to return to campus with access to labs and libraries essential for their research. All such work must be carried out in accordance with the specific protocols documented in the Cardinal Recovery website. Since that initial restart, other research activities have been added, including both field research and IRB-approved in-person non-clinical human subjects research. Both of these activities have specific guidelines to promote safe operations during the current pandemic.

This section extends prior guidelines to permit additional researchers (faculty, research staff, postdocs and graduate students) and instructors (including those in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and computational sciences) to return to campus if their activities require them to have access to campus facilities, in all instances subject to all applicable local and statewide rules.

There are many reasons a researcher might want to return to campus; until the COVID situation improves, however, Stanford will continue to enforce the Santa Clara County rule to maximize telework and bring workers into their offices only if remote work is not practical. School/unit leaders will determine whether an on-site staff presence is required, either fully or partially, and Deans, Vice Provosts, and Vice Presidents (or assigned delegate) must approve all recommendations for return to work. While reasons for return will depend on the individual, schools and units should prioritize requests to return that generally fall into one the following categories:

  1. Work requires access to material or data that is located at Stanford, and cannot be accessed remotely. This might include confidential information, protected servers, unique teaching materials, or large datasets in lab computers.
  2. Work requires access to information technologies equipment that is present at Stanford, but not at the remote location. This includes high-bandwidth connections needed for quality interactions with remote students, or equipment for recording high-quality remote presentations.
  3. In rare cases, researchers with other evident and significant barriers to productivity off-site.

In many cases, researchers and instructors will need to spend only short periods of time at Stanford in order to access the material they need, and will otherwise be able to complete most of their work remotely. We will encourage this approach so as to limit the number of people working concurrently on campus.

Our plan is to initiate this program by first allowing back a small number of people with the strongest need. This will allow the school and managing department of the facility to prioritize those researchers with the greatest need first, while ensuring the safety of all participants. We hope this process will reduce the number of reviews for exception requests for building access that are currently being handled in the different schools.

It is critical during this process that Stanford’s physical distancing requirements are always met. Before researchers can return to a building, the building manager, or other appropriate person designated by the School, needs to document the maximum office1 capacity of that building, with the following rules:

  1. The maximum occupancy of office space in each building will be set to 20% of the computed maximum office space capacity of the building.
  2. The maximum density of offices is 1 person per 125 square feet, rounded down in all cases. For example, any office space 249 square feet or smaller (249/125=1.9) can only accommodate a single person. No in-person meetings may take place in these offices.
  3. While a person can occupy any small office, a cluster of small offices can only accommodate the number of people according to the formula: # people = total sq. ft. of office space in cluster / 125 sq ft. The number will be rounded down in all cases. For example, if the total sq. ft. of office space is 450, the space can only accommodate 3 people (450/125=3.6).
  4. This capacity, # people = total sq. ft. of office space in cluster / 125 sq ft, holds for open-space offices as well. In open office space, there must be more than one vacant cubicle between occupied cubes. See additional safety guidelines below.

This program will roll out in two stages. In the pilot stage, starting September 8, 2020, a small number of buildings became available. During the pilot, only a limited number of buildings were accessible: Braun, Crown, Durand, MSOB, Neukom, the Humanities Center, and one building each from the schools of Earth and Education. The full program will be rolled out across the university, on November 2nd, 2020. The exact timing of when each building will become available will depend on the logistics and readiness of the managing department of the building. This program is to support the research and teaching mission at Stanford, and will allow graduate students, postdocs, research staff and faculty to use their offices for tasks that can not be done remotely.

Selection Process

Our goal for this process is to enable Stanford to set the overall safety standard, while allowing people to make informed decisions. This goal will be accomplished by the following measures. When local units are logistically ready to allow office access, then researchers with compelling needs can use their offices with local approval starting on November 2nd, 2020.

  1. The maximum office space capacity numbers will be made available to the occupants of the building.
  2. Faculty/Instructors will then make a request for anyone in their group (including graduate students, postdocs, and research staff) who needs access, and indicate which shift(s) on which days each person is requesting. Requesting faculty/instructors can prioritize their request based on the overall allocation.
  3. Requests will be sent to the department chair/building manager or designee set by the School. If the requests exceed the allocation, the designated person can prioritize the requests; if there are still more requests than space, requests will be chosen by a lottery system.
  4. Once access requests are granted, each participant will need to complete all the safety protocols listed below, and schedule their desired time at Stanford on an Outlook or other school-approved building calendaring system prior to beginning work on campus.

Safety Rules

Returning researchers will follow the same safety rules that all on-campus researchers currently follow which include:

  • COVID-19 Hygiene Best Practices, EHS-2470-WEB training and daily health check
  • Calendared access to the building, to ensure that building density is maintained appropriately, and to support contact tracing
  • Maintaining at least six feet of social distance from individuals who are not part of their household
  • Wearing face covering at all times unless alone in a single room office
  • Self-cleaning protocols for all space occupied
    • This is especially important for space that will be time-shared between different occupants

Additional Protocols for Open Office Areas

For open office areas, please reconfigure workspaces to reduce the number of seats that face each other or alternate seating to allow for physical distancing. Consider removal or reconfiguration of seats, furniture, and workstations to preserve recommended physical distancing and the maximum occupancy requirements. Further details can be found here and here.

Open office area recommendations include:

  • Identify which workstations meet the 6-foot physical distancing requirement.
  • If 6-foot physical distancing between workstations is not achievable:
    • Determine alternating work schedules between adjacent staff or moving staff to alternative rooms/ work desks to limit the number of people working onsite
    • Consider the use of physical barriers (e.g., cubicle wall, rolling whiteboard placement, clear plastic between workstations).
    • When placing new physical barriers, ensure emergency egress paths are not blocked and maintain at least 2′ clearance to the ceiling. Barriers should not be suspended from the ceiling.
    • Consider the use of visual reminders such as floor circle radius with blue tape to indicate 6 foot radius.

Where possible, reconfigure workstations so that employees do not face each other or establish partitions if facing each other cannot be avoided.


1 In this document dry-lab space is treated as the same as office space so the capacity of a building contains the number of people in office and dry lab spaces.