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EDUCAUSE QuickPoll Results: Post-Pandemic Plans for Remote Work - Appendix

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Appendix: In Their Own Words

Many survey respondents offered specific and innovative ideas about how they plan to approach leading and managing a hybrid IT workforce. Others listed practices that will need to be started or rethought. We have collected their comments in this appendix for those interested in learning more.

What steps can be taken to alleviate any negative effects and improve the outcomes of IT staff working remotely?

  • Purposefully planned/intentional online interactions that build community and conversations/direction on work expectations that keep people from working crazy long hours.
  • Strong leadership. Clear (as much as possible) policies, processes, guidelines, expectations. Strong communication throughout the organization.
  • Deliberate and frequent engagement, and some staff will not adapt well to remote work and will be allowed or required to work on site.
  • Regular and clear communication and interaction; performance goals, one-on-one conversations to better understand individual circumstances.
  • Provide opportunities for onsite collaboration, invest more purposefully in career development, hire managers that can manage to outcomes, not heads on site.
  • Leadership sets expectations for communicating with team, no matter the location of staff. Use software that helps staff organize and share work and progress with team and leadership. Management trust professional staff to do their work and put any doubts about success to the side unless a specific reason to discontinue or change remote work is identified, verified, and agreed upon.
  • Focus on managerial development for remote staff. Organizational change to promote intentional communication and inclusion of remote workers in decision-making.
  • Effective communication and positive relationships with colleagues and supervisor.
  • Regular check-ins with the ability to chat about anything—not just work—regular check-ins with other departments (we don't have the staff to assign specific people to be liaison for specific departments).
  • Team supervisors have been holding daily check-in meetings since last March. These meetings are short (i.e., 15–20 min.) but help the team to maintain focus and stay connected.
  • Regular "all hands" meetings and continuing to have one-on-one meetings with directs...and directing managers in the unit to do the same. In short, frequent communication.
  • Daily catch-ups, IT chatroom, weekly social hour, team-building online activities.
  • We must be intentional about collaboration and connection. We must focus on the college's mission and communicate that to the college community. We must consciously make space for water-cooler conversation and building relationships.
  • Intentionally create cross-department collaborations, create social opportunities where we can.
  • That is the $64,000 question. A few years ago we redid our performance review process to be more focused on employee development. The team is thinking that we will have to be much more intentional in addressing the issues of organic communications, adequate work/life boundaries, and building attachment to the institution as we look to expand telework post-pandemic.
  • Define and execute new practices for measuring productivity that are more based on outcomes than on hours. Find creative ways to build connections amongst the IT team and between the IT team and other depts; group Zoom meetings are fine [but] limited—we need to find other ways too; periodic on-site events, retreats, etc.
  • Training, more explicit and directed communications and culture.
  • Need to be intentional about culture sustaining practices, informal communication approaches.
  • Daily quick "check-in" meetings—promote/market "wins"
  • Providing non-work related virtual get-togethers. Being thoughtful and consistent with all communications, throughout the department. Investing in a discussion platform that would allow more organic conversation to happen virtually and even synchronously.
  • By laying out clear expectations and timelines, utilizing tools like Slack, Teams, Discord, Zoom, to stay in contact. Encourage the use of designated space to limit the work life invading the personal life space and manage hours and workload carefully to limit the impact of removing the boundaries between work and personal time.
  • 1. Evaluate work space and equipment to ensure the employee can be productive, communicate well, and be safe at home. 2. Better/consistent connectivity in our communities. 3. Create "hy-flex" meeting spaces to have as seamless as possible mixed meetings. 4. Be intentional about employee engagement at all levels, regardless of if in-person or not.
  • Concerted effort to engage with remote workers via video conferencing/telephone/etc.
  • Transparent communications. Active engagement of all staff.
  • Helping staff with strategies for establishing boundaries. Being intentional about communication, although organic communication may still be a challenge...I do see this happening at the beginning of video conferences before meetings actually begin.
  • When possible, planning some in-person engagement. Making a point of regularly connecting. Using Slack channels set up for socializing (e.g., random, pet, and food channels). Talk about challenges with staff and hear their suggestions.
  • Set up on-campus retreat, set up no-work-discussion virtual meetings, keep them involved in staff engagement activities, set up regular meetings with departments...
  • Regular meetings. If having a social event, find a way to connect with the remote workers. If remote workers live locally, make sure they come to campus on a regular basis.
  • More focus on meeting regularly with remote staff to keep them connected. Bring them in occasionally to reconnect with colleagues
  • More engagement activities. Reaching out and communicating more.
  • Employee engagement activities—town-hall meetings, etc.
  • Regular, scheduled communication opportunities with supervisor, team, department, and organization-wide. May need to include specific times all employees are required on campus (thinking back-to-school professional development opportunities).
  • Leveraging online communication tools to connect and having annual face-to-face retreats. Also, requiring individuals to be on camera.
  • Use videoconferencing as the default meeting method regardless of participant location. Schedule regular open office hours with videoconferencing to make staff accessible to each other and clients. Schedule regular but brief operational meetings. Coordinate presence via shared team calendars. Normalize calendar use for organizing personal schedules. Use collaboration platforms to demonstrate team member activity with daily or weekly news and activity posts.
  • More documentation on work assignments. Continue to have more teleconferences to stay connected.
  • Proactively developing mechanisms to build connection and organic communication. Having staff and managers articulate regular hours that set limits and boundaries around what could be nontraditional work schedules.
  • Institute new or different processes like a morning all hands touch-base to keep everyone connected.
  • Have Zoom connection meetings; frequent check ins, require people to be on camera in a meeting.
  • Encourage routine and regular teleconferencing (and encouraging/mandating camera use).
  • Requiring some campus time each month for all employees; establishing better collaboration approaches using technology; helping employees navigate through the changes at their pace.
  • Put collaboration tools in place to facilitate real-time communication. Work with HR to implement programming to build stronger inter- and intra-departmental bonds.
  • Design practices to include remote workers via video for in-person meetings. In-person meetings will happen, and those working remotely need to participate regardless of their on-campus presence.
  • Encouraging virtual meetings, chats, and maintaining connections. Training on managing virtual staff and maintaining productivity and work/life balance.
  • Setup conference/meeting rooms for video conferencing that allows remote attendees to see in-person attendees. Require remote staff to come on-site for 3 days quarterly. Frequent check-in meetings.
  • Frequent check-ins, purposeful cross-department conversations.
  • Create spaces and time for people to connect and have organic communications—chat rooms/channels, scheduled team times, more cross-team engagement and projects.
  • More frequent communication and collaboration.
  • Regular conference calls and Zoom meetings even just to touch base.
  • Open and frequent communication.
  • Communication strategy.
  • Develop opportunities for serendipity via technology especially in the area of ad hoc human interactions.
  • Need very frequent communication between supervisor and employees.
  • More communication that is both formal and informal.
  • Collaboration tools like Slack.
  • Finding additional ways to engage the campus community.
  • 1. Update HR policies. 2. Engage in a collaborative dialogue with unions and staff associations. 3. Goal-based performance metrics. 4. Agreement on flexible work hours (after hours and weekends).
  • Culture is key, but purposeful design of how we work together and engage is also important. We also have to focus on equipping our managers to be better remote managers.
  • Keep the employees engaged and make sure they feel they are part of the team and university. This will require additional management time but it is time well spent.
  • Intentional leadership and commitment in creating a cadence of meet points for teams. As the senior leader, I must also commit to town halls and engaging community remote forums to keep the team motivated.
  • Ways to implement better engagement of leaders and staff.
  • Providing tools needed to perform the jobs remotely. Providing training/guidance to supervisors on how to supervise remote employees. Being more explicit about project deadlines and productivity expectations.
  • Clearly defined work objectives and priorities, allowing some excellent staff to set their own priorities, and more management attention to make sure it all is coordinated well.
  • It requires a change to how we manage and measure outcomes.
  • Ensuring staff have a collaborative day on campus per week. Maintaining personal relationships with staff regardless of work location. Offering a virtual employee lounge.
  • Best practices, frameworks, and a lot of leading by example. Staff will need to see leaders apply what they are saying (e.g. boundaries for work/life in remote work).
  • Respect true work/life balance in terms of working hours and do not allow "sight unseen" to enable project proliferation.
  • A greater focus on task-based performance rather than standard shift work. Ultimately, individual initiative and drive determine the output and not all employees seem well-suited to this, but most have proven to be.
  • Strong management and leadership to continue to build and offer the time to build connections while remote.
  • Stress expectations set deadlines and monitor progress.
  • Focus on the outcomes and not the time shifts.
  • Help managers better manage a remote workforce.
  • Much more deliberate engagement with staff—really think through frequency, format, "fun factor," purpose, etc. Same with departmental contacts and leadership—more intentional. Give more thought to when to meet, how to meet, how to engage.
  • We must pay special attention to the hiring and onboarding process, make efforts to create personal bonding, and teach our values and goals explicitly.
  • Need to come up with intentional plans to address many things which occurred organically, especially around engagement and community.
  • Structured and purposeful non-work-task related activities. Group activities that foster community.
  • Brainstorm, visioning sessions. Conversation, guidelines, best practices.
  • Focus on organizational design and staff development so a shift in culture can be achieved.
  • Our institution has developed an all-hands meeting culture that encourages casual participation (in-meeting chatting about what's going on, cheering, GIFs, etc). That has gone a long way to produce an environment that is welcome, engaging, funny, and generally uplifting. All-hands meetings used to be a great opportunity to get busy work, but ours have become something everyone is eager to join and participate in.
  • Strategically build a culture that blends remote and onsite work forces.
  • Intentional focus on team building/connection efforts. We are gaining more than losing by adding more workplace flexibility.
  • We are already very deliberate about developing organizational culture, which is vital to our success as a remote-first workplace. Building and maintaining that culture is very high in the minds of department heads and senior leadership.
  • Innovate in how we work both inside and outside IT. Find new ways to create and cultivate ideas.
  • Strong culture development—we have been working on that, and I believe it will be a core success factor to a team that is hybrid at home and on campus
  • Retreat, collect staff opinions, think about morale and ways to increase or improve, take working models and try within own institutions.
  • It is hard to replace the natural development of communities of interest and support in organizations that often lead to friendships and lifelong relationships. These relationships are vital to the health of an organization, often being able to recognize a change in a person's well-being or frustration with a project, a group, or individuals. We have a couple of staff who have started grassroots initiatives to engage more individuals across the organization to share ideas to improve services and the work environment.
  • We all need to learn how to translate human community into the digital realm. We should look at the younger crowd, gamers, etc. and share practices on creating digital "mirth."
  • Change culture.
  • Setting structured expectations, communication systems, and performance standards. Maintaining occasional (monthly or quarterly) in-person meetings. Rotating on-prem responsibilities among team.
  • Have "work rules" that everyone follows for availability and working hours. Provide opportunities to recognize contributions and opportunities for collaboration with other departments.
  • Establish team norms for remote work.
  • We will prefer, but not necessarily require, all IT staff to spend some time in the office. We will strive to better define tasks/goals for remote employees.
  • Being very intentional about mitigating any negative effects.
  • Explicit acknowledgment of possible downsides and use Zoom to mitigate in a very intentional way.
  • In areas of concern, we will need to be very deliberate in how we recognize the concerns and identify solutions.
  • Requiring video when in meetings, regular 1:1 and staff meetings, quarterly in-person events, online engagement such as challenges, games, etc. Training on how to be productive and work/life balance, training for managers on how to manage remotely.
  • I envision periodic on-campus retreats, celebrations, brainstorming, and co-working days, while typical meetings and individual work are often done remotely (like a flipped workplace). We are generally not expecting out-of-area hiring or 100% remote for many folks.
  • Planned F2F social events for locals, virtual staff clubs, Weekends at Bernie's.
  • Regularly scheduled engagement events, non-official channels of communication.
  • Clarity about work requirements. Opportunity for remote opt-in team-building engagements. More understanding and kindness for disparate remote work environments
  • Dedicated time for casual convo among the team and across departments. Using tracking methods (ticketing system, scrums...) to measure performance.
  • We are increasing our "work from home" equipment/supply stipend. Once our lease is up, we will set aside a certain amount for work co-op space for those staff who wish to use it. Additionally, we will offer training on "getting the most out of your remote work tools/environment." Finally, we have already increased the organizationally paid social gatherings such as virtual escape rooms, mixologies, wine-tasting, etc. to encourage social interaction among staff.
  • Virtual happy hours, games.
  • We need a way for the staff to socialize that doesn't take a lot of time or require effort outside of office hours.
  • Intentional plans for team socializing.
  • Be intentional about allocating and scheduling time for "unofficial" engagements. Examples: Virtual parties, happy hours, water-cooler time.
  • More opportunities for remote non-work events.
  • Be sure people stay connected to others, even remotely. Allow time for water-cooler chat online before/after meetings.
  • Creating opportunities for employees to connect and maintain personal relationships.
  • Encourage team-building events—virtual and in-person.
  • Follow best practices related to remote work as part of lessons learnt post-pandemic and establish a framework that supports a hybrid workforce model offering flexibility for both in-person and remote options.
  • Regular in-person all staff meetings; regular virtual hours and consistent availability during business hours.
  • Ensure inclusion of remote and onsite workers in meeting. Enable onsite presence such as once per quarter or twice per year. Training for employees and supervisors. Pervasive use of collaboration tools.
  • We will typically not have 100% remote work where we would require some onsite to build relationships/teams and connect to the university.
  • Ensuring every role has some time on campus and meets their team in person on some sort of regular basis.
  • Hybrid approach with remote work with some time required on site on a periodic basis.
  • Increased team engagement events both virtually and in person.
  • Implement an office sharing program where people can use the same desk space and coordinate using the office. It may be two employees sharing one desk, or possibly a greater employee-to-desk ratio, depending on needs. Another idea is on a regular basis everyone in the department comes together in a meeting space to catch up and meet together.
  • A blended approach, with people coming together for connection-oriented activities will go a long way to mitigating the downsides of remote work.
  • Bring staff on campus periodically.
  • Plan occasional on-site meetings/events to stay connected to people and campus culture.
  • Having a period that isn't remote periodically for in-person interactions and ability to connect with colleagues and the college.
  • Schedule in team-building activities.
  • We are going to have core days in the office so folks can meet in real life.
  • Provide benefits to employees such as online training, communication allowances, and even financially help buy emerging tech devices such as AR/VR or even assist buying a laptop/Chromebook.
  • There should be a written agreement documenting the expectations for working remotely, once it is no longer a requirement for COVID.
  • Developing equitable compensation for both on-prem and off-prem staff so neither feels significantly disadvantaged. Clarifying when in-person meetings are essential and mandatory and when remote work is acceptable.
  • Some staff handle working remotely very well and can be more productive due to less travel and distractions. Other staff fail to focus and produce, and it's difficult to assess how much they are working.
  • Consider telecommuting on a case-by-case basis; however, unions wouldn't allow it.
  • Treating each other with respect.
  • Determine if remote will work on an individual basis.
  • Allow staff members to have input in the direction the department and area will take.
  • Have conversations about potential negative effects so everyone is mindful of the challenges going into the post-pandemic transition. Agree that the arrangements need to be flexible and iterative.
  • Hybrid work.
  • Biggest factor is the percentage of remote work. Periodic remote work can be a real positive for the organization, but full time creates issues. Our IT probably worked 30–40% remote throughout the pandemic.
  • Institutional recognition that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to remote work. At this university there is apprehension [that] permitting IT staff to work remotely will cause ill will with other departments whose mission is not optimally suited for remote work.
  • In meetings with remote staff, hold them remotely for everyone whether you are in the office or not.
  • I think we'd need to agree to keep almost all meetings on Zoom all the time for staff equity of experience. Otherwise, remote staff have a bad collaboration experience and schedulers have to do acrobatics to book meetings with rooms plus Zoom.
  • Proper balance between on-campus and remote work. Effective use of digital tools to help drive engagement.
  • Train staff to actually be hybrid/remote workers rather than just hope for the best.
  • We've been working face-to-face for decades and are still learning how to be an effective organization with remote workforce. It's amazing how far we've come in less than a year. But I'm worried that some success is built on the relationships that existed prior to working remotely.
  • We did a large amount of telecommuting before the pandemic started. The biggest challenge: making sure that the people who are "in office" don't think of the telecommuter as somehow unavailable (for whatever purpose).
  • Certainly, numerous private-sector organizations have figured out how to overcome these challenges. We need to learn from them.
  • Ideally providing both options. Some staff do not have a home environment conducive to work.