Staff enthusiastic about remote work policy, although some want more | BU today

Boston University employees have responded enthusiastically to news on Wednesday that some staff will be allowed to work remotely two days a week, although some have said they want the new policy to go even further. .

“As a father of two children under the age of four living in Framingham, having the ability to avoid long commutes and work from home will dramatically improve my quality of life,” said Jeff Murphy (Questrom ‘ 06), Senior Associate Director. , Alumni Career Ed and CAS programs. “I’ll be home for family dinners!” ”

In a letter to staff on Wednesday, BU President Robert A. Brown and Acting Ken Freeman vice president of human resources, and Natalie McKnight, dean of the College of General Studies, chairs of the Committee on the Future of Staff Work, said some staff will be eligible to work remotely for up to two days a week , an idea that brought Steam together after the COVID-19 pandemic made working from home (WFH) a reality for almost everyone at some point over the past year.

The new policy applies only to staff (not faculty) and all 6,100 University staff will not be eligible. But for those who meet the criteria and get the approval of their director, dean, or vice president, working remotely will allow them to cut the time, expense, and psychic cost of Boston’s notoriously horrific commuter traffic and better. negotiate challenges such as child care and elder care. It will also reduce the University’s carbon footprint.

“I applaud President Brown and the BU management team for making this forward-thinking decision that makes the BU an even better place to work than it already is,” says Murphy. “As a member of the Alumni Relations staff, I think of the more than 5,000 BU alumni who work at the University and how this support policy will have a positive impact on our professional life. “

For Matt Bae (CGS’10, COM’12, Wheelock’17), a CGS academic advisor, hearing two days a week was a surprise. “It gives people more flexibility and will make us more productive,” he says. “I was preparing for a day, if even that.” So two days is shocking. Two seem appropriate, it’s pretty huge and very compassionate.

Bae says he cycles to work most of the time from Cambridge, so his commute is only 15 minutes. But he acknowledges that on a blizzard day it would be a relief to be able to work from home and not have to worry about getting in or taking a day off. “It’s very fair, a good middle ground.”

It gives people more flexibility and will make us more productive.

Matt Bae (CGS’10, COM’12, Wheelock’17)

Kathy Morley (MET’11), a learning and event technology services design project specialist, says she has a dedicated home office and is productive there without any interruptions. Using Microsoft Teams and Zoom to connect with colleagues across campus is easy. “I’m grateful for the flexibility offered by the WFH,” says Morley, “but I’m also aware that flexibility has to work both ways. “

The new policy is “good news, especially if the University allows managers to tailor the policy to the circumstances of their own department and their employees,” says Louise Kennedy Corrigan, senior editor at Development & Alumni Relations Development Communications. “I’m a working parent, but I think everyone will benefit from having more space to balance work and home – and, as a writer, I know I’ve been more productive working remotely. , so I’m happy to be able to continue to incorporate “writing days” into my schedule.

The remote work plan emerged from the Committee’s 72-page report on the future of staff work, which included an in-depth staff survey. After digesting the committee report, Brown and the committee co-chairs informed BU staff of the changes.

Many employees have to be on campus to do their jobs, and working from home will not be available to them. But managers can approve remote work for employees whose work can be done independently and without supervision, who do not need extensive in-person contact with students or others on campus, and whose evaluations have shown that they are performing very well. (The changes cover non-unionized staff; discussions with unions, representing approximately 1,400 workers, will take place separately.) The program will not be implemented until the final human resources guidelines are released by the end. of summer.

Employee morale was one of the reasons cited by Brown and the committee co-chairs for moving forward with the new policy; others were recruiting and retaining employees.

“There has been a radical change in the working landscape,” says Judi Burgess, director of labor relations at the BU. “Remote work, depending on the type of job, will help facilitate the creation of a more agile and positive work culture that attracts and retains high-level talent, and helps staff to thrive and achieve success.” better.

This is an important message that workers need to hear from the University – that it recognizes and values ​​what I think are clear preferences people have – and that we have shown that we can be trusted. .

—Allyson Baughman

“It’s great for the staff in terms of flexibility,” says Alyse Bithavas (CGS’85, CAS’87, Wheelock’89, ’97), director of student services and academic advice at CGS. “Personally, I have seen people throughout the pandemic doing their jobs and doing it well remotely, so I have no concerns about people working remotely. On the contrary, I think it’s good for morale.

She admits that after working at BU for almost 25 years, the news of a policy change came as a surprise. “I never thought we would have remote work – I’m just, wow, impressed and amazed. “

“I feel like it gives people flexibility. I think the majority of people will probably be happy with this, ”says Allyson Baughman (SPH’07), program director of the Center for Social Work and Health Innovation at the School of Social Work. “It’s certainly not ideal because everyone’s situation is different, but it’s an important message workers need to hear from the University – that it recognizes and values ​​what I think are preferences. clear that people have – and that we’ve shown we can be trusted.

“The way I think about work now after a year and a half is very different,” she adds. “I think of it in terms of really getting things done and working with a team of people. We touched the base every day during the pandemic. ”

It was the most important thing for Baughman: not to be isolated from his colleagues.

“I hope the BU will also find ways to improve work-life balance for employees whose jobs do not allow them to easily work off campus,” Corrigan said. “It’s pretty clear that the world is moving in this direction, and BU needs to do it too in order to attract and keep the right people. “

The new policy “allows change, but does not create revolution,” says Freeman.

But a revolution is what some employees were perhaps hoping for.

“I am certainly delighted that the process by which BU came up with this policy took into account the overwhelming view from staff that flexible and remote working options are a necessity for us going forward,” says Sarah Thomas (COM’11), Center for Career Development responsible for marketing and communication, stressing that she speaks only for herself. “But I don’t think viewing homework as a benefit, as opposed to a tool that responsible employees use to do the job to the best of their ability, is in line with what is going to be the expectations of the workforce. work of the 21st century.

“Plus, I think presenting this as a gift to top performing employees overlooks the incredibly important context that working from home and flexible work environments open up vast new layers of the workforce to employees with disabilities or traditionally under-represented communities. . ”

Change is coming slowly and it gives it a positive spin. They could have gone much further.

—Anonymous Charles River Campus staff

Thomas also notes that many neuro-atypical employees, for example, have thrived while working entirely remotely during the pandemic.

A staff member, who does programming and data work on the Charles River campus and has no contact with students or faculty, recounts BU today that working 100% remotely during the pandemic has “dramatically improved” his quality of life, while he was as productive as ever and received nothing but positive feedback from his supervisor. Coming back to the office “will be an adjustment,” he says.

“I am upset and resigned. I hadn’t planned for anything different, although I was hoping. Change is coming slowly, and it gives it a positive spin. They could have gone much further.

There are also some staff members who like the new policy, but say they won’t regularly take advantage of the opportunity.

Elizabeth Amrien (Questrom’08), deputy director of the Pardee School of Global Studies Center for the Study of Europe and its Latin American Studies Center, has been cycling from Melrose and working on campus by choice since last August. The new policy is “fairly liberal, fairly generous,” she said. “One of the lessons for managers of the pandemic is to start to trust their employees more.”

She is also aware of the benefits of remote working: “If it is three degrees, I can say that I am working from home today and it will not cause consternation. Or if I don’t feel good, but I don’t feel bad enough to make me sick, now you have the option: I can still work, but let me work from home. Or if you have a new refrigerator delivered, you no longer need to take a day off.

But Amrein will not make remote work part of his regular weekly schedule.

“I like being on campus. It is a community. I think it’s important that the students who basically pay my salary know that I want to be here, ”she says. “I’ve worked from home here and there, but I’m mostly on campus. It works for me, so I make a choice. I don’t make a sacrifice. It is an absolute pleasure to be here. I like to think that what I do contributes to the academic life of the University.

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