Learning to innovate

2022 is going to be a changed year.

We live through Pivot Point where office culture has been left behind, but what comes next is still unclear.

A recent article in Curbed, The 3-Day Return to Office Is, So Far, a Dud, highlights the challenges employers and employees face in settling into a new workplace.

What does the future of work look like when examined through high-eyed eyes?

College and university are many things. One of those things has historically been a work locale. Our campuses have a lot more – if not more – higher education work

In residential institutions, students, faculty and staff gather in a physical locale every day. (Many students and a few staff for overnight stays).

For staff, most of our work happened during pre-epidemic meetings. Meetings were scheduled or ad hoc, planned or spontaneous.

The general indication is that almost all of these conversations took place in person.

Nowadays, only private meetings seem to have been thrown into the dustbin of history.

We meet more than ever. Still, we do it with virtually everyone or a combination of some people in a physical room and others zoom in.

Without making the right decision about the future we want, academic work has returned to a new set of rules regarding meetings. These new rules include:

Default options for virtual presence:

There seems to be very little desire to apply the requirement of face-to-face meeting throughout higher education. Instead, there seems to be an acknowledgment that in almost any scheduled meeting, some invited participants may not be present if the meeting is only in person.

Even in groups on campus who have returned to the meeting in person, one or more members of the group will probably participate.

This new reality may be driven by a shift toward hiring more full-time remote professionals during the epidemic. Similarly, team members can attend meetings from a distance because they are working at home that day.

Whatever the reason, higher ad meetings (at least those involving staff) today are more likely to be completely virtual than fully private.

Participation regardless of activity or location:

One change to the high ad meeting rules is that fewer people miss meetings. In earlier days, it was not possible to attend a campus meeting if you were traveling to work or home with a sick child.

Nowadays, colleagues zoom into meetings from the sidelines of soccer games and the parking lot of the dental office.

We can go to more meetings from more places. This new presence has begun to change the rules around how we think about the reasons for missing resilience meetings.

What effect these new meeting-related behaviors will have on organizational and overall campus culture remains unknown.

Scheduled meeting replacing informal conversation:

Flexible work has been great for many in the high version. Professional academic staff adopt many work rules that are traditionally reserved for term track faculty.

These rules include a broader autonomy about where and when the work is done. For many higher ed staff, a more flexible academic way of working is a welcome development.

What we don’t know is what changes in the rules of academic work (especially among academic staff) mean in academic culture.

One thing that seems clear is that the physical space where some (professional) workers have traditionally worked on campus now feels different. There are reliably fewer colleagues around to chat. The people you work with tend to bump into lesser people while walking around.

The need for information exchange to accomplish our higher education tasks has not diminished. What is different today is that most of the information exchange takes place in scheduled meetings instead of informal conversations. And many, if not most, of those scheduled meetings are happening through zoom.

Who cares about the future of workplace culture on your campus?

If zoom meetings are the default meeting, what does it mean for academic work?

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Release date of consultation newsletter:
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Diversity Newsletter Release Date:
Sunday, June 19, 2022

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