• Joel Brown

    Staff Writer

    Portrait of Joel Brown. An older white man with greying brown hair, beard, and mustache and wearing glasses, white collared shirt, and navy blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

    Joel Brown is a staff writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. He’s written more than 700 stories for the Boston Globe and has also written for the Boston Herald and the Greenfield Recorder. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 16 comments on Survey on the Post-Pandemic Future of Staff Work at BU Opens Tuesday

  1. It has been a good decision to have those who can work remotely stay home and operate from there. I am what is considered an essential employee, meaning I have to be here in person to do my job. It has been a challenging year to say the least but we have been here since the pandemic started early in 2020 and we have been submitting the daily attestation and getting tested once a week since last year, it has helped to give us a partial peace of mind. Anyways, one day last month I completely forgot to have my test the day I was scheduled but I went early the next morning to comply with the requirement. guess what? I got a written warning. I accepted my responsibility but wondered: Can I get one break after working in person for a whole year under pandemic conditions? I guess not!

  2. I do hope that the President takes the committee’s findings and recommendations seriously and realizes that work from home is a thing. But, with recent developments of recalling non-essential workers back 2m earlier than originally told (surprise!) this only makes the committee’s job coming up with a solution even harder as, for me, this now feels hollow…though I’m sure I am not the only one that feels that way. Right now my feeling is pretty standard: employees will participate in the survey and voice their opinions, observations and concerns, a lot of work/effort from the committee will go into plowing through results and coming up with recommendations and I’m not confident that’ll lead to anything new once it gets to “decision makers.” And for a University that claims to be advanced/cutting edge, its a sad thought to have.

    I don’t understand the President/University’s non-understanding that not every staff member needs to be on campus to do their work every single day of their workweek. I myself work in HR Systems, the vast majority of my job can be done from anywhere and has been done so over the past year. The University has probably received from me and my collogues 100’s of extra hours of work (per person) due to not having to trudge into Comm Ave…and guess what, I didn’t mind providing those extra hours of work while avoiding a commute. Are there positions that need to be on campus all the time YES, think about our colleagues in operational type groups like B&G, Security/the Police, IS&T Desktop. And then we have student facing, most would probably need to be on campus a majority of their schedule but I’m willing to bet that even student facing employees can cycle home to do admin work on certain days. There’s an entire rainbow of positions that can work from home or cant, hopefully the President realizes this post survey.

    Wouldn’t it be great if a result of this were more flex schedules and happier employees? Imagine too that with flex schedules we could could have flex office spaces and we could convert office space to student spaces. The University is at a turning point, work from home is out of the bottle and it could be transformative for this institution. The University also has to realize that if we don’t adapt we are going to bleed talent, and its going to bleed quickly.

    1. I think we have all seen what happens when both faculty and staff are working remotely, students also join remotely behind the black zoom boxes. we already have the results from that experiment.

      we need to consider the long term effect of being disengaged from our workplace community. Having a good relationship between colleagues and managers promotes a healthy workplace environment and happier employees. the longer we don’t see our co-workers the more distant that relationship becomes, we are less likely to ask for help or opinion.

      Imagine a new employee starting in an office where they never have a face to face meeting, and never go to lunch with their colleagues or their manager. what kind of connection would this employee have with their workplace?

      1. Many folks aren’t asking for or expecting 100% remote work. We are simply looking for a healthy balance between flex/remote work and the office. Even working from home just twice a week has the potential to eliminate a significant amount of long-term stress that results from commuting into Boston on a regular basis.

      2. Imagine the effects of being disengaged from our families due to spending 15-20 or more hours commuting per week. Imagine a kid who doesn’t get to see his dad at his t-ball game – what kind of connection would this father/son have? Yeah but no keep glorifying work as the reason we’re all alive.

      3. This sounds like what a middle manager would say after a year of staff successfully working autonomously without meetings to count bodies in seats. Perhaps the university could save money by flattening the organization a bit. Less Assistant Directors, Associate Directors, Directors, Executive Directors, and more people doing work will boost productivity.

        I work to produce a benefit to an organization, not to “build relationships”, which usually just means nepotism and favoritism. Some of the most productive organizations on earth have had remote work for years. Standard non-student-facing administrative/IT/finance jobs simply do not need to be in person with today’s technology.

        I agree with Rob, I’d rather have relationships with my family, and not spend 20+ hours a week on Route 2, I-90, I-93, etc.

    2. Eddie there is little to know doubt this committee/survey is 99% for optics. The 1% I left out is for them to hunt for opinions contrary to the majority to highlight that not EVERYONE agrees that remote work options are beneficial. I mean do we really think staff is going to collectively “vote” for a non-flexible work environment? Of course not. So they’ll take the 1% (who are also probably plants) and use that to keep the status quo under the guise that “well not everyone agrees”. “Fairness” will be the next obstacle as if somehow we were all treated the same before the pandemic. Did your office have half-day Fridays in the summer like the Athletics department? Yeah mine didn’t either.

      I hope I look back on this post in a year and am dead wrong, but we all know the BU administration will give just enough to attempt to claim the high ground – and not an ounce more.

  3. McKnight says it’s important to note that this is not the back-to-work plan of BU recovering from the pandemic, which is already gearing up. “

    What is the back-to-work plan? With a push for staff to be back in person this fall or sooner, can we expect there to be at least an interim policy for that time period if a formal one hasn’t been approved? Also if a unit/department had a working from home policy pre-pandemic, can they revert back to that policy until a formal university policy has been approved/announced?

  4. Still troubled by composition of committee; the lowest ranking person is associate dean. Fine to gather input from others via survey, but still no substitute for a seat at the table and a voice not filtered by high ranking administrators. Also, no student voices represented in the process; presumably the people we are repopulating the campus for. Are we to simply presume students feel the need for a particular level of in person staff on campus without hearing them say so? So many middle managers and entry-level staff (not to mention ‘essential workers’ have been working so far above and beyond to ensure BU’s success. I realize the issues are complex, but it just feels lousy to be denied a seat at the table.

    1. Right? Like what a pleasant surprise it would be if the third name on the committee was “Denise – entry level data input at Parking Services” or the 5th name was “Kim – random assistant to the assistant at Accounts Payable”.

      Alas however, they can’t risk dissent from the pre-determined recommendations which are: “While nearly every respondent agreed that more flexible work-from-home options would be beneficial, 3 people wrote what Bob Brown asked them to and said that although this would enhance quality of life by 80%, it may detract .06% from the mission of our residential campus experience.”

    2. This! If you don’t include staff as part of the decision-making process, you’re just reinforcing power dynamics that perpetuate the problems that staff members face. Also let’s note how uncomfortable staff feel even attaching their name to a comment on an article about them.

      1. Endorse this 100%. Especially after the outcry to the previous article on this committee, it’s pretty disappointing that no staff who are not in senior management roles have been added.

  5. I’m grateful to be working at BU alongside such wonderful people. During the pandemic, I’ve felt supported and been impressed with all that the University has done. From my perspective, Faculty, Staff and Students have all adapted very well and their collective cooperation is what made it work. Now there’s a real cultural shift happening and I believe there’s enough talented minds here to create meaningful flexibility while still maintaining a strong residential campus experience. It may take a lot of work but it’s going to be so critical in the long run. If it’s rushed or done with a lack of creativity, talent will be lost. I hope that’s realized. So far, I’m sensing rushed already…

    Another problem is that the future of remote work falls into the hands of President Brown, Provost Morrison and Gary Nicksa. I don’t think that staff feels particularly valued from the top right now and there’s a real trust gap. The decisions (or lack thereof) that come out of the committee are going to either further this gap or lead to some sort of redemption. Let’s hope the President values his Staff and takes a more authentic approach.

  6. Just thought I’d point out that commuting from/to Quincy 5days/wk works out to ~$70 in gas every month for my hatchback, or something like 25 gallons of fossil fuel.

    The agony that is sitting on 93 for 10hrs/wk aside, I’d like to think they’re taking into consideration the environmental impact of forcing people to drive in if they really don’t need to for the simple sake of a “vibrant community.”

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