• Sara Rimer

    Senior Contributing Editor

    Sara Rimer

    Sara Rimer A journalist for more than three decades, Sara Rimer worked at the Miami Herald, Washington Post and, for 26 years, the New York Times, where she was the New England bureau chief, and a national reporter covering education, aging, immigration, and other social justice issues. Her stories on the death penalty’s inequities were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. Her journalism honors include Columbia University’s Meyer Berger award for in-depth human interest reporting. She holds a BA degree in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Profile

    She can be reached at srimer@bu.edu.

  • Cydney Scott


    cydney scott

    Cydney Scott has been a professional photographer since graduating from the Ohio University VisCom program in 1998. She spent 10 years shooting for newspapers, first in upstate New York, then Palm Beach County, Fla., before moving back to her home city of Boston and joining BU Photography. Profile

  • Jackie Ricciardi

    Staff photojournalist

    Portrait of Jackie Ricciardi

    Jackie Ricciardi is a staff photojournalist at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. She has worked as a staff photographer at newspapers that include the Augusta Chronicle in Augusta, Ga., and at Seacoast Media Group in Portsmouth, N.H., where she was twice named New Hampshire Press Photographer of the Year. Profile

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There are 23 comments on How BU’s Remote Work Policy Is Changing Lives

  1. Only 2297 of employees were benefited WFH, so 38% of the total employee pool? Confirm this to have been a test semester with plans to include more employees in the spring semester. Included in this must be how to benefit employees who can’t WFH given their positions, i.e. the people who keep the residential experience not only safe but thriving despite all the uncertainty still around.

  2. I, too, am a student-facing employee required to work on campus 5 days/week. I know some of the individuals featured in this article and am happy for them personally but frustrated with the tone of the article. It felt like a slap in the face to those unable to tap into this benefit.

    I, too, check my emails and begin working at 7 am before getting in the car for a 45 minute commute, only to work all day, drive home, try to have a personal life before working some more before bed.

    Increased productivity isn’t exclusive to employees who WFH.

    1. 100% agree. I work with some of the people in this article too and I’m so happy that people who get paid way more than me get to save their money and time while I get to report to work 5 days a week and deal with students who don’t follow the health guidelines.

  3. This article just feels tone-deaf and out of touch. So, basically the majority of BU staff are not able to WFH 2 days a week, based on the numbers provided in the article, and something like this just breeds resentment for the majority of staff who technically could after nearly a year and a half of successfully WFH 5 days a week aren’t allowed this opportunity because of a manager’s vague opposition to WFH, because this is just how we do things. I think we’d all like that time to get a walk or run in, or cook healthier meals, or see our families more, or not burn 4 hours a day commuting. Where’s the equity in this?

  4. For years I’ve been asking why we accept “commuting” as normal. It seems crazy to me to have massive morning and evening flows of traffic. Now the silver lining of the pandemic is that it has shown us the way out. A good mix of in-person and remote work is great for mental health, eliminates wasted commuting time, and, very importantly, gets cars off the road. The #1 challenge in the world today is rapidly cutting greenhouse emissions. Nothing does this as quickly and easily as WFH.

  5. “’I feel very lucky.’” The pull quote says it all, and this is precisely the attitude that the University wants its staff to uphold – and the one that I’m railing against. The message is clear: eligible staff should feel lucky for the concession; stay in your lane, and don’t ask for more. Two days of remote work for a portion of staff is point-blank insufficient, as evidenced by the number of staff (and faculty) who have left since the transition, and those attrition rates will continue to rise.

    Please also note the honestly heartbreaking simplicity in the gratitude quoted above: staff are grateful for windows, pets, two brief mornings a week with their children. These shreds of humanity in the work week should be the norm – for everyone – not the exception born from a global pandemic that have killed over 5 million worldwide.

    Finally, as a previous commenter noted, do not sleep on the numbers. The meager concession of two days’ of remote work apply to a mere 38% of staff. The notion that remote work is a privilege to be earned is little short of an insult, and completely ignores the needs and wants of staff to whom it doesn’t apply (not to mention the obtuse obsession with maintaining a “residential campus” feel, even for the hundreds of staff to whom this simply doesn’t apply: systems, finance, so much more). To quote the University’s most touted alum: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” I don’t know what’s to be done for our colleagues pigeonholed into an essential worker category, but the bare minimum is to acknowledge the inequality.

    The University must do better, or continue to suffer the loss of talent it not-so-quietly fears.

  6. Oh, the irony here! BU refuses to allow any type of online learning option for their students, resulting in students underreporting illness and contracting one cold or virus after another (not to mention Covid). Yet here they applaud the success of their employee work-from-home program. Would not a similar arrangement–allowing students to attend remotely when necessary due to illness or simply stress–benefit students as well? Or does the mental and physical health of students not matter, since they’re BU’s source of income? Have to wonder.

    1. You make a great point, the technology is there, and we did it for nearly a year and a half. The students are the customer, so their wants and needs should absolutely be a top priority.

    2. Nicely said! Agree things went backwards for students. This option would have helped us immensely as my daughter has been commuting into Boston for the last three semesters now (hour and fifteen minute drive) as she was shut out of grad housing due to pandemic, options available to grad students, poor communication….This is her last semester of classes. We can’t wait for her commuting to be done!

  7. This article feels like BU is trying to get some good publicity for their “flexibility.” Two days working from home is great, but 3 would be better. Even those working in student facing roles can set office hours and meet students during those hours. There is no need to have the majority of BU employees commuting to a difficult to reach part of Boston (by car and train) during rush hour. If I could set my in-person office hours 2 or 3 days a week in the middle of the day, students would not suffer. I’ve suggested this to the powers that be, but I’m always shot down because this is a “residential” environment. If professors can have office hours, why can’t staff? I have had better engagement at events and individual meeting with students over Zoom than in person. Students almost always choose Zoom meetings over in-person when given the option. It seems like Zoom is easier for everyone. There are just too many options for remote engagement for BU to continue to pay staff some of the lowest salaries in higher ed in Boston and expect to keep those employees.

  8. As a staff member who is part of the 62% not allowed to WFH 2 days a week, it’s frustrating to read about these employees’ experiences. I also know some of these people in the article, and my job is similar to theirs (student-facing, advising). The argument that student-facing jobs aren’t good options for WFH is false. If these people can do it, then everyone can do it. It’s more a matter of managers/senior-level staff not wanting to deal with it because that would require some additional effort on their parts.

    As for essential employees, I feel badly for those people, but again, there are creative solutions here. But that would mean it’s “big brain time” for senior-level staff, and they’re just not here for it, unfortunately. Why couldn’t an essential employee instead have the option to work three 13-hour days, or four 10s? At least provide an option to limit their commuting time to campus, as well. These aren’t revolutionary ideas by any stretch of the imagination, and yet the university is reacting like they are, and that it just isn’t feasible. Except that it is, completely. This whole thing is just so silly. I don’t know that BU can really claim to be progressive when it fails so spectacularly with things like this. Yikes…

  9. I really appreciate all the happy coworkers throwing in my face how happy they are, how much time and money they are saving. Very helpful for me to know that.
    The person that had the idea to write this piece has a good sense how to make the coworkers that don’t have the same LUCK feel very good about their life.

  10. I find this article to be very insensitive. I am glad that BU had introduced a remote work option, but I think it is in poor taste to write a lengthy article celebrating it when so many BU employees do not have this privilege. I think BU needs to make an effort to offer some alternative perks to employees who do not have the option to work from home.

  11. Hi all,

    I work from home two days a week and go into the office three. For me, collaborative relationships and productivity thrive while working in a remote environment. Fatigue and unhappiness thrive under unnecessary physical mandates.

    A small percentage of my job responsibilities require my physical presence. I love going to the office when there is an actual need, but why go when there is no need?

    Boston University has a restrained position on WFH and should expand flexibility in this area. There are mutual benefits in supporting employee needs.

  12. I agree with all the comments above. I would only add that (1) Bob Brown really, really hates WFH and is only doing it very grudgingly; (2) I’ve been trying to get an actual ADA accommodation and have been slow-walked, so apparently BU wants bodies in the office no matter what the cost to the employees; (3) they have to justify all the money they are shoveling into their many ongoing and future construction projects; (4) If I have to hear the words “we are a residential campus” and “bustling” again I’m going to go bonkers. BU has made it clear that WFH is not and will never be an actual benefit as long as Brown is prez.

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