Future of Work@Iowa

University Human Resources (UHR) and campus partners developed a pilot flexible-work project for the fall 2021 semester. The pilot was later extended to include a spring 2022 phase. The following preliminary findings were released in late 2021.

Background and Resources

Prior Future of Work milestones included:

  • Project launch in November 2020
  • Preliminary guidelines released in March 2021 to help colleges and divisions manage decisions about work arrangements and establish the fall 2021 pilot
  • Full report released in June 2021, expanding on the preliminary guidelines and identifying issues to address around  process, university and employee responsibilities, space management, and other topics.

As a result of the project, colleges and divisions received criteria for establishing fully remote or hybrid arrangements that blend remote and on-campus work. In addition, the university implemented systems for reporting and evaluating work arrangements.

Initial Observations

Colleges and divisions reported about 1,800 remote and hybrid work arrangements. In more than 96 percent of these arrangements, employees performed remote work from sites within the state of Iowa.

Participating colleges and divisions reported that offering a greater range of work arrangement options helped them compete in the current labor market. Regional unemployment rates remain low, and competition for employees in sectors such as information technology is fierce. Retaining top talent is critical to the university’s overall success.

The university opened its first on-campus co-working workspaces for employees with hybrid work arrangements and began tracking space utilization patterns associated with remote and hybrid work. Extending the pilot and analyzing space utilization data promised to provide a clearer picture of potential savings from reduced demand for office space.

Future of Work project leaders identified these priorities to address over the remainder of the Phase I Pilot (fall 2021) and the Phase II Pilot (spring 2022):

  • Review data to understand how work arrangement flexibility affects employee retention
  • Explore opportunities for remote and hybrid work arrangements to positively impact recruitment
  • Evaluate and optimize hybrid work arrangements to strengthen business rationales and standardize options shown to be effective
  • Ensure compliance with wage and employment laws for remote employees working outside Iowa
  • Fully assess impacts on space utilization and project any associated savings
  • Explore the impact of blended teams on workplace culture, employee well-being, and other factors
  • Augment supervisor/leadership training to address hybrid and remote work arrangement options and best practices

Assessment and Reporting

UHR established plans to assess pilot project data with campus partners, including faculty researchers in the Tippie College of Business. Assessment strategies were slated to include:

  • Employee exit interviews to evaluate the effects of work arrangements on career decisions
  • Client/colleague feedback surveys to assess effects on service, workloads, communication, and other factors
  • Supervisor/employee pulse surveys to gauge satisfaction with pilot work arrangements
  • Space utilization metrics to quantify effects on space needs and associated costs

Project leaders aimed complete a final report by March 31, 2022, with data collected through early 2022. Findings were expected to inform future work arrangement policies, best practice recommendations, and implementation decisions at the college and division level.

Download a PDF version of these preliminary pilot findings.