Future of Work@Iowa

The Future of Work@Iowa initiative aims to reimagine how and where University of Iowa employees work after COVID-19. It focuses on long-term potential for remote and hybrid work, flexible schedules, and other work arrangements that may help the university attract and retain talent and reduce costs.

After releasing an initial report in summer 2021, Future of Work partners established a pilot project for fall 2021 and subsequently added a spring 2022 phase. The pilot officially concludes June 30, 2022.

Released in April 2022, the report presented here includes pilot-project findings and long-term recommendations for flexible work in a residential-campus environment. Download the full report (PDF) or see a summary below.

Residential Campus Experience

The University of Iowa promises students a vibrant residential-campus experience. Face-to-face classroom interaction, engaging campus life, convenient support services, research and creative connections, and an open, welcoming culture are fundamental to Iowa’s community, core values, and missions.

Core to the Future of Work@Iowa initiative is balancing the implementation of flexibility with a robust student experience. Through the initiative’s pilot phase, we have demonstrated that achieving this balance is possible. Flexible work—wisely implemented and evaluated—can provide an experience that complements campus aspirations and goals.

Among the lessons we’ve learned:

  • Providing select services online (with remote or on-campus staffing) expands options for students and opportunities to engage with communities across Iowa.
  • Saving space and funds through flexible work will allow the university to reinvest resources in student-facing priorities.
  • Offering mission-driven flexible work helps the university recruit and retain talent and can improve employee performance and engagement.
  • Studying the impact of flexible work practices on the culture will provide information to determine the most effective strategies for promoting engagement, inclusivity, and success.

Guiding Principles

Guiding principles for flexible work offer a foundation for specific policies, implementation decisions, and assessment. Moving forward, we must ensure that flexible work practices:

  1. Support Iowa’s residential-campus mission and values
  2. Maintain or enhance service to students, visitors, employees, and stakeholders
  3. Align with a culture of engagement and inclusivity
  4. Leverage good stewardship of resources

Policies and principles governing flexible work should be set at the university level. Specific decisions about policy application and implementation should be made at the college and administrative unit level.

Key Recommendations

Using a strong set of guiding principles, the University of Iowa should fully implement flexible work practices developed during the Future of Work project. We will continue to refine policies, principles, guidelines, and assessment methods to support flexible work consistent with university missions.

  • Iowa’s residential-campus experience will continue to shape directions for remote work, hybrid work, and other flexible work practices.
  • Most university jobs require on-campus work. Available work arrangements must align with job functions.
  • Colleges and units must provide business rationales that show how flexible work supports the university’s core missions (e.g., how specific arrangements enhance the student experience, expand services, redirect resources, or support employee recruitment and/or retention).
  • Workplace culture must support both the individual and the unit with the focus on engagement, inclusivity, and well-being.
  • Colleges and administrative units will make org-specific decisions about flexible work implementation in keeping with policies set at the university level. Colleges and administrative units shall apply flexible work practices consistently across their orgs.
  • While long-term remote work suits only certain jobs, Iowa’s workplace culture should embrace intermittent flexibility that helps employees meet day-to-day needs and supports flexibility for all.
  • The university, orgs, or work groups may designate on-campus priority days where most employees are expected to work from campus locations.
  • Remote work from locations outside Iowa requires expanded review and approval at the university level.
  • Flexible work practices will provide opportunities to improve space utilization.
  • Employees working in remote or hybrid arrangements generally should not be assigned dedicated personal on-campus workstations. They should have shared spaces available to them when working on campus.
  • All flexible work arrangements shall be reviewed annually at the college or administrative unit level as part of the annual performance review cycle.
  • University Human Resources will establish a multidisciplinary team to guide ongoing implementation of flexible work practices.

Ongoing Implementation

University Human Resources will establish a multidisciplinary team to guide ongoing implementation of flexible work practices. The team also will facilitate collaboration among campus stakeholders (e.g., ITS, Parking and Transportation, Facilities Management) and conduct university-level reviews.

Flexible work policies and practices are defined at the institutional level. When evaluating the implementation of potential flexible work practices, colleges and units must establish that proposed arrangements meet these guidelines:

  • Are supported by business rationales that show how flexible work serves the university’s core missions and residential campus experience
  • Do not negatively impact student, visitor, or employee services
  • Can be completed effectively from available work locations (e.g., remote sites, shared facilities for hybrid employees)
  • Support ongoing job performance at the expected level
  • Are not substitutes for family or child-care arrangements
  • Ensure guidelines are consistently applied
  • Advance any additional organizational goals

Over the course of the Future of Work pilot, colleges and units have considered which job functions are compatible with flexible work. Using the guidelines outlined above, University Human Resources and the multidisciplinary team advising on flexible work will develop a standard set of questions to guide ongoing decisions.

See the full report (PDF) for additional implementation recommendations.