The Future of Remote Work - Southeastern and the COVID-19 Pandemic
June 30, 2021
During the months following the transition to remote operations last Spring Semester, we witnessed the resilience and creativity of our faculty, staff, and students. The difficult but largely successful shift in operations taught us much, including some things we may wish to consider keeping as well as some we would probably rather leave behind.
This is consistent with reports from other institutions and organizations, and there have been numerous accounts in the media regarding the plans of businesses and other enterprises for their future work environments. Clearly, major shifts are occurring as employers and employees sort out their experiences and establish their preferences regarding the future of remote work.
To date, this landscape reveals what appears to be a mixed bag, with some extolling the virtues of remote work, allowing employees to enjoy greater personal flexibility and sometimes achieve enhanced productivity, with others bemoaning the loss of creativity and mentorship facilitated through structured as well as unstructured personal interactions. There are also plenty of examples across different industries and organizations acknowledging essential work tasks that simply cannot be effectively accomplished remotely.
While there is no obvious answer to the question regarding the future use of remote work, the one thing that is obvious is that we cannot ignore the question – the genie is out of the bottle, and we must address the question directly and thoughtfully.
To that end, I am appointing an ad hoc Task Force on the Future of Remote Work to develop a set of recommendations, including a policy framework, on the future use of remote work at the University.
After careful consideration and discussion with the division heads, I will ask the Task Force to rely on the following guideposts to frame their work:
- Southeastern’s existing educational and business models, which are based largely on traditional face-to-face interactions and bricks-and-mortar facilities, must be preserved.
- Remote work, when allowed, must serve a legitimate institutional purpose that advances the mission of the University, not merely individual convenience or preference.
- Remote work, when allowed, does not preclude an expectation or requirement for periodic physical campus presence.
- Remote work, when allowed, would heighten, not diminish, managerial expectations and transparency relative to productivity and accountability.
- Remote work, when allowed, should not result in additional costs or liability exposure for the University.
- Realization that some positions are inherently not appropriate for remote work as they involve tasks that cannot be effectively accomplished remotely.
I look forward to updating the campus on the progress of this group as we navigate the future of work at Southeastern.
John L. Crain