Colleges are slowly embracing Work From Home policies; and why it’s important.
Vaughn Calhoun, Ed.D is Assistant Vice President of Student Services & Dean of the Center for Academic Success at Seton Hall University
In March of 2020, colleges across the country directed employees to work from home as classes went virtual to curb the impact of Covid-19. This was supposed to be a moment, not a movement.
Two years later, colleges find themselves immersed in a ‘Work From Home’ (WFH) movement that is sweeping many industries across the country. For example, Spotify, Facebook, and Twitter have instituted seemingly permanent WFH policies. As the nation is facing the Great Resignation, companies are using WFH as means to attract and retain the best talent.
So, where does this leave higher education?
Higher education’s business model has always relied on the value proposition of having a vibrant and bustling campus full of people. Yet, the tradition of an exclusively face-to-face campus might do more harm than good as we emerge from the pandemic; most notably, losing top talent and not being able to attract the best talent. Thus, colleges cannot afford to anchor themselves in a tradition that will no longer serve them.
I believe higher education is at a ‘tipping point’ as described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point.” Gladwell says, ‘the tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.’ So, for almost 2 years employees of colleges have proven they can work from home and be effective. They have realized the increased quality of life that can be afforded by working from home. Now, it’s not a matter of if a college will adopt a WFH policy, but when and how.
These are the questions college leaders are asking themselves. They are the kind of questions that lead to an enhanced work culture, a wider pool of talent to choose from, and greater employee retention.
Consider a few recent Work From Home policies adopted within NASPA’s Region II:
Howard University has created a permanent telework policy for all regular full-time and part-time, non-union, non-faculty, and non-student employees. Telework allows employees to work from home or an offsite workstation for all or part of their workweek. The new policy requires the submission of a telework agreement to the Office of Human Resources.
At Montclair State University, eligible employees may request one or more of the following: (1) Compressed Schedule: a schedule that reduces the number of workdays in a workweek while keeping the total number of hours worked in a workweek the same. (2) Flextime Schedule: a schedule with variations in an employee’s starting and departure times that are outside of a standard shift (for many employees, this is 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). (3) Hybrid Schedule: a schedule that permits employees to work from an alternate workplace.
At the University of Maryland, to be considered for telework the employee must have successfully completed the required probationary period for their current position and must have worked in the current position for a minimum of 12 months (unless the employee is hired to work fully remotely in unique circumstances). In addition, the employee must have received a rating of at least “Meets Expectations” in all categories on their most recent PRD for their current position. The supervisor must have confidence that the employee is fully capable of efficiently and effectively working off-site.
So, forget a horoscope. A clear vision into the future is here; Work From Home is here to stay.
Given these trends, why hasn’t higher education pivoted away completely from the traditional face-to-face campus? Simple, not all jobs can be remote, in particular public safety, food services, residence life, or facilities. Some jobs may require a certain amount of student interaction such as academic advising, student activities, and athletics. But this does not mean variations of flex-work and compressed work schedules could not be created.
Nevertheless, the post-pandemic university must reimagine who it will be and create new traditions.
- Institutional leaders must resist the urge to ‘go back to normal,’ and reimagine how to best serve the needs of a shifting workforce.
- Institutional leaders must define what is productivity.
- Institutional leaders must be transparent and clear in communicating expectations of WFH policies.
- Institutional leaders should allow each Division/Department the autonomy and flexibility to determine how the WFH strategy will work best for their unit.
If you see Work From Home as a tipping point, I’d love to hear from you. If you disagree, I’d like to understand why. I welcome a thoughtful discussion that will help our NASPA community grow and move forward.
Cook, I. (2021). Who is Driving the Great Resignation. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2021/09/who-is-driving-the-great-resignation
Fox, M. (2021). The Great Resignation is Altering the Workforce Dynamic - Maybe for Good. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/01/great-resignation-may-be-altering-workforce-dynamic-for-good.html
Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
Howard University (2021). Telework Policy. https://hr.howard.edu/articles/telework-policy-update
Howard University (n.d.). Telework Request Agreement. https://secretary.howard.edu/resources/telework-requestagreement
Montclair State University (2021). New Flexible Work Arrangement Policy. https://www.montclair.edu/human-resources/2021/10/29/new-flexible-work-arrangements-policy/
University of Maryland. (n.d.) UMD Telework. https://uhr.umd.edu/telework/
Ward, M. (2021). Spotify says it's letting employees work from anywhere, while still paying San Francisco and New York salaries. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/spotify-unveils-new-remote-work-option-for-all-employees-2021-2