Established in November 2020, the Future of Work@Iowa project aimed to reimagine how and where University of Iowa employees work after COVID-19.
The project focused largely on understanding the long-term potential for remote and hybrid work, flexible schedules, and other types of work arrangements that have proven effective—but not without challenges—during the pandemic.
Our key observations and recommendations:
- Developing reasonable, realistic options for work arrangements—primarily at the college/division level—will help the university compete for talent and satisfy employee calls for more options.
- Greater adoption of remote/hybrid work may yield space-management and cost-saving benefits by reducing demand for on-site space (whether university-owned or leased).
- Strategic, mission-driven adoption of remote work is good for the state of Iowa. Savings may be redirected to student-facing programs, competitiveness may attract more world-class teachers and researchers, and flexibility will help some university employees stay in their Iowa hometowns rather than moving for work.
- Many university jobs require on-campus work. Teaching and health care, in particular, depend on in-person interaction.
- Work arrangements must put university mission needs and service expectations first. They need to be implemented intentionally and equitably, backed by mission/service rationales and subject to review.
- Colleges, divisions, and central service units should continue progress toward a work-arrangement pilot for fall 2021. Colleges and divisions should determine which jobs are suitable for remote/hybrid work or flexible schedules, document specific arrangements with employees, and track impact on costs, productivity, engagement, and other factors.
- Any long-term remote/hybrid work or flexible schedule arrangement requires formal documentation, reporting, and periodic review. Short-term arrangements of 30 days or less (14 days or less for international remote work) do not require formal documentation.
- Improved process for out-of-state and international work ensure these arrangements support mission needs and keep the university competitive with research institutions in other states. Out-of-state remote-work arrangements lasting more than 30 days and international arrangements lasting more than 14 days require additional review by University Human Resources and other central service units.
- University Human Resources should develop new resources and training to support remote/hybrid work, particularly for supervisors managing remote employees and/or hybrid teams.
- All university employees should have access to professional development, support services, and other resources regardless of their specific work arrangements.
- Mental health resources, family caregiving programs, and other supports for employees are essential as most work shifts back to campus and as the university establishes long-term options for work arrangements.
- In most cases, the university should provide employees working remotely with university-owned computers. Use of university computers rather than personal equipment is strongly preferred.
- In general, the university will provide equipment only for an employee’s primary work location. The university can provide IT equipment, some non-IT equipment (e.g., office chairs), and supplies for remote-work locations.
- Employees working remotely will provide their own workspaces and large furnishings (e.g., desks) as needed. Employees working remotely must minimize distractions and keep environments conducive to quality work.
- Employees working remotely will be responsible for their own internet service and home network, ensuring bandwidth and coverage necessary to participate in work activities.
- Gauging long-term impacts on campus space utilization and management will take time and data from the fall 2021 pilot. Space-related recommendations are expected by mid-2022.
- Space-management decisions should follow established practices that balance college/division interests with university-wide needs.
- Greater adoption of remote/hybrid work may require the university to develop and manage new kinds of work spaces. Planning and piloting for those developments should begin now.