Return to office plan

The Return to Office initiative has been evolving as the pandemic has also evolved – influencing and impacting our timelines.

During the fall of 2021 we have been assessing how much space is needed which will inform the allocation and readiness of our facilities while maintaining public health as well as health and safety measures. Foundational to all of this is the continuation of flexible work arrangements to include working from home for staff where feasible.

We are working to identify how many employees need to return to the office and how to manage available workstations. We will also identify work and collaboration areas where physical distancing can be maintained to support connection, teamwork and effective mixed presence (virtual collaboration).

The pandemic situation remains unpredictable, however we will continue to look at how Canadian Blood Services can allow for safe and controlled return of employees working remotely who want or need to return to the office environment.


When will phase two start?

Phase 2 planning has now resumed, and we are assessing demand for space which will inform planning and preparedness of our facilities while still being able to maintain public health and heath safety measures. Foundational to all of this is continuing to encourage flexible work arrangements including work from home for staff where feasible.

We will continue to share details about plans for phase two of the return to office project as those details become available, and we appreciate your patience and adaptability as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do I need to return (ever) if my work can be done virtually?

As our work progresses into phase two of this project, we are developing a future vision for our workplace. This will be informed by the work being done by our planning team in terms of building a hybrid work environment.    

This work will help us answer questions on how we want to operate as individuals, teams and as an organization in the hopes of adopting a flexible work environment where the focus is on a safe and welcoming transition process. 

Canadian Blood Services is supportive of flexible work arrangements where it is operationally feasible and cost effective. 

I am having personal challenges at home, and I am not comfortable sharing. How can I express my need to come back to office while protecting my privacy?

We have now made it possible for employees to return to the office for operational or personal needs. If you have a personal reason for returning to office, you can express this to your manager or supervisor and do not need to share the reason. If you need additional support, please reach out to your PCP business partner. 

What if I have a new operational or personal need to return to the office that I didn’t express during the survey about return to office?

If you have a new operational or personal need to return to the office, please discuss the need with your manager. Your manager can work with our facilities team to figure out how your need can be accommodated. Kathy Macdonald ( can support your manager in this process. 

What if my manager and I don’t agree on whether or not I need to be in the office – who can support me?

We have now made it possible for employees to return to the office for operational or personal needs. If you and your supervisor have differing opinions, and you need support, please reach out to your PCP business partner. 

How can I set up my workstation at home successfully and with ergonomics in mind?

It is important to keep in mind the effects on your health, safety and productivity when setting up your home workstation. 

Employees working from home are encouraged to visit our ergonomics page on Connect to get tools on how to successfully set up a temporary home office. On the page you will find helpful information, including how to properly set up your computer monitor, incorporate a sit/stand desk into your setup and stretching exercises that you can incorporate into your day. 

Another exciting feature of the ergonomics page is our virtual assessment tool. To receive a virtual ergonomics assessment personal to your needs, fill out the form and submit it to your manager. From there, your manager will send it to the OHS/EHS team who will schedule a virtual assessment with you.

Can I go into the office and get my monitor and other items from my desk?

We ask that only employees who have an operational imperative or essential task that impacts our products and services for patients enter our facilities. 

However, if you think you need to enter a facility to retrieve something from our workspace essential to your work, please discuss your situation first with your supervisor. In that discussion, please consider the risk of not completing the task you need to do or delaying it for a few weeks vs. the risk you may create for other essential staff and our operations by going into the facility.

If you will be entering a site to gather essential items, such as files, monitor, keyboard or mouse, please promptly exit the building afterwards. Furnishings including chairs, desks and tabletops are not to be removed as these will be needed to support RTO planning.

Furnishings cannot be removed because they will be needed as employees return to the office. Additionally, there are cleanliness and health and safety concerns. The items required for employees to work from home can be addressed through the OH&S group through an ergonomic assessment, and there is through the Flexible Workplace Guidelines.

When will Canadian Blood Services be reopening its fitness rooms?

We understand that the continued closure of our fitness facilities is frustrating for some employees. We also recognize and appreciate that the availability of gym spaces is important to employees’ physical and mental health.  

However, to ensure the safety and well-being of all employees, onsite gym spaces will remain closed. We are disappointed that we are still not able to open these spaces, however, we cannot in good conscience increase the risk to our teams that the reopening of these spaces could introduce.  

Based on National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidance, there is insufficient evidence on the duration of the protection of COVID-19 vaccines and the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing asymptomatic infection and reducing transmission. In addition, our gym spaces are not set up to accommodate many people and we don’t have the resources at this time to monitor and sanitize the spaces or set up an appropriate booking system.   

The COVID-19 program is reviewing all safety measures and protocols with a view to amending those that might be refined without increased risk to employees, and this includes gym spaces. The program will provide guidance for the Return-to-Office team to consider when determining how and when gym spaces might re-open safely.  

Considerations include: air filtration, size of gyms, capacity limits, availability of the facilities teams to maintain additional space and the need for a booking system. More information will be shared soon. In the meantime, if you are feeling overwhelmed and need a break for physical exercise, we encourage you to speak with your leader to build physical activity, such as a break for a walk outside, into your workday.  

Our organization is committed to maintaining agility and flexibility on our approach to gyms as the COVID-19 environment shifts across the country. Our COVID-19 Program team will continue to assess and revisit decisions on gyms, and other related safety measures to protect our teams, donors and operations. 

I can work virtually, but I don’t have the proper IT equipment to do so. How do I get what I need?

An overview of the tools required to work from home can be found here. This is an excellent resource to make sure you have everything you need to work from home effectively.  

If you do not have the tools to work from home, please speak with your manager to put in a request. Once the request has been approved, you will receive an email from IT with next steps. 

If you are feeling anxious about coming into your local office to retrieve your equipment, please notify your manager who can work with your local facility to receive further guidance.  

Will CBS be compensating work from home employees for office equipment?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we understood that we needed to help our teams adapt to the evolving realities of remote work. To support those employees who were able to work from home, we offered a $200 rebate towards eligible office supplies during fiscal year 2020–2021.

Although that specific funding is no longer available, any employees (remote or frontline) who require ergonomic equipment so they can do their job safely, still have access to virtual ergonomic assessments and funding through Canadian Blood Services.

We are currently exploring opportunities to support employees longer-term as remote and/or hybrid work continues. In the meantime, support is available for employees through our normal expense claim processes (with manager approval). The process is quick and easy.

If you are looking for ergonomic support, complete the form on the OHS ergonomics page on Connect. Reminder: remote employees must be connected to VPN to access the form.

Once you have completed the form, provide it to your manager/supervisor to review and submit to OHS/EHS with a request for a virtual home office assessment for you.

A member of the OHS/EHS team will get in contact you to schedule the assessment. Once the assessment is complete, they may suggest additional equipment that can be purchased directly by the OHS/EHS team on your behalf.

If you are looking to access funding for other office equipment that may be necessary for your role, please speak with your manager who may be able to process your request through your departments cost centre. Visit Connect for more tips, tools and practices for home office safety.

Will the sites be assessed for air quality and ventilation to ensure all buildings are safe for when more people return?

We are constantly reviewing and optimizing our safety measures in our environments based on Public Health Agency of Canada recommendations with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) being part of the Return to Office (RTO) phase two planning.

We have developed IAQ measures to assess and monitor ventilation, filtration, and air balancing. The implementation of RTO will include site by site assessment and alignment of occupancy to system’s capacity or application of additional measures to align to IAQ standards.

Additional measures may include increased ventilation, additional filtration and enhanced monitoring. Where buildings are leased, we will be working with landlords to measure and provide ventilation to align with guidelines.

Will I be able to return a couple days a week to the office and continue to work remotely the rest of the time? 

Canadian Blood Services is supportive of flexible work arrangements where it is operationally feasible and cost effective. At this time, only employees who need to be back in the office based on operational need, have been permitted to return. For employees who want to return a couple of days a week, we are currently working on a plan to determine what needs to be put in place during the first half of 2022 to ensure employees can safely return to the office.

Will the RTO plans change if COVID-19 variants cause an increase in cases?

We will continue to monitor cases and provincial guidelines across the country, and as always, our decisions will be informed by case counts, vaccination rates and government or public health guidance and requirements. Our priority is to offer more employees the opportunity to return to the office as long as it is safe to do so.