A Safe Return to Campus in Times of COVID-19: A Survey Study among University Personnel to Inform Decision Makers

Tugce Varol, Francine Schneider, Ilse Mesters, Robert A.C. Ruiter, Gerjo Kok, Gill A. Ten Hoor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Halfway through 2021 in the midst of a public health crisis, a new academic year was fast approaching. Dutch universities were preparing to reopen their campuses to students and personnel in a safe manner. As the vaccination uptake was increasing and societies were slowly reopening, inviting students and personnel to campus became the next step to "the new normal". To absorb this change seamlessly, it was considered important to investigate personnel's beliefs about returning to campus and their perceptions of a safe working environment. An online survey was conducted among personnel (N = 1965) of Maastricht University, the Netherlands. University personnel's beliefs about a safe return to campus were assessed. The data were collected between 11 June and 28 June 2021. This study showed that, while most personnel (94.7%) were already vaccinated or willing to do so, not all personnel did feel safe to return to campus in September 2021. Over half of the respondents (58%) thought that the university is a safe place to return to work when the new academic year starts. However, the remainder of personnel felt unsafe or were uncertain for various reasons such as meeting in large groups or becoming infected. Moreover, when returning to campus, employees stated that they would require some time to reacclimate to their former work culture. The group who felt relatively more unsafe indicated that returning in September was too risky and that they worried about being infected. They wanted the safety guidelines to still be in force. On the other hand, the "safe" group stated safely returning to be "certainly possible" and trusted that others would still stick to the prevention guidelines. The findings led to practical recommendations for the University Board as they were preparing for organizing research and teaching for the upcoming academic year in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. A brief intervention was developed: a webinar in which the data were linked to the board's plans for safe returning. This study demonstrates that university boards may use research among personnel to develop adequate measures promoting safety and feelings of safety among personnel in similar future situations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number371
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • COVID-19
  • beliefs
  • return to work
  • safety
  • university personnel
  • vaccination


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