Division Title

​Return to Physical Workspace

NIH Personnel Expectations

On November 4th, 2021, HHS notified NIH employees of the plan for personnel to return to the physical workspace. The framework identifies four groups and their anticipated return timelines. The four phases, personnel expected to return within each phase, and timeline for return are listed in the table below:


Personnel Affected

Tentative Timeline (subject to

change based on pandemic trends and NIH-specific requirements)

Phase 1. Voluntary Return

Personnel that have continued to report to work during the pandemic and other personnel

eligible to return

Ongoing – Throughout December 2021
​Phase 2A. Leadership Return​HHS leadership, support staff to leadership, and additional critical on-site employees​December 5-18, 2021
​Phase 2B. Full Return (group a).​Employees in specific cross-agency positions including the following functions: budget/finance, grants, acquisition, human resources (HR), equal employment opportunity (EEO), and information technology (IT). *​March 28, 2022
​Phase 2C. Full Return (group b).​All remaining agency employees. *​April 10, 2022

* -contingent upon the successful completion of NIH collective bargaining obligations.

Personnel returning to the physical workspace must regularly check the current CDC hospital admission level for their work location.  This information is updated every Friday afternoon.  Workplace hospital admission levels are listed as “Low", “Medium", or “High". As levels change, requirements for onsite personnel change, particularly in regard to facial coverings, physical distancing, onsite density limitations, and in-person meetings. These requirements are reflected throughout this COVID-19 Safety Guidance website.

Personnel returning to the physical workspace in the Clinical Center and other healthcare support activities  should take note that there are special requirements for those locations.  This includes a requirement for facial coverings in those locations. Other requirements can be found through the COVID-19 Safety Guidance website. Personnel working in the Clinical Center should consult with their supervisors for additional requirements.  

Important information on re-opening an office can be found in the section “Returning to Physical Workspaces After Extended Absence" located lower on this page.

Institute and Center Operations (ICO) leadership should note that although personnel are permitted to return during these phases, Operating Division (OPDIV) leadership should still utilize telework and workspace flexibilities to keep our workforce  safe and the NIH competitive with other employers.


It is important to note that the only persons allowed on NIH campuses or in NIH leased buildings  are staff, patients, study subjects, and approved visitors (e.g., delivery personnel, vendors, contractors). Children are permitted at the NIH in accordance with Manual Chapter 3015.