During last month’s virtual forum, “Higher Ed’s Remote-Work Experiment,” we ran out of time before we could answer many questions. Allison Vaillancourt, a vice president and senior consultant in organizational effectiveness practice at Segal, graciously responded to several of them afterward. Her answers are in italics below. The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity. Thanks again to everyone who participated in the discussion. Please check out our upcoming virtual panels and join us again.
What are your thoughts on remote workers who live out of state and tax implications for the school?
There are both tax and employment law implications to consider. For example, leave and employee separation laws vary greatly from state to state. Before recruiting employees from out of state or allowing employees to move to new locations, establish an institutional philosophy about employee-work locations and make sure your payroll office is equipped to manage tax issues and your human-resources department is prepared to create policies aligned with state requirements. Recognize that tax and employment-law implications can be even more complex for employees who reside outside of the United States.
How do you better define or communicate what positions are well suited for remote work and those that really require or are expected to be on campus?
Creating a role-analysis rubric can be helpful to ensure consistency and fairness. Institutions will differ in the criteria that are most important to them, but should consider issues related to the degree to which remote work improves or inhibits work quality, whether the role requires specialized equipment, the amount of daily collaboration required, and how remote work affects the student and visitor experience.
How can a telework policy fit/be suitable for all employees from students to staff to faculty?
Rather than creating different policies, consider developing a decision rubric to guide decisions about which roles are suitable for remote work.
What have you learned that may actually work better (i.e. be more effective) with remote vs. face-to-face work? One thing I'm thinking about is student mental health counseling.
In addition to mental-health counseling, several institutions are finding that student advising is more effective when an onsite presence for students is not required.
When recruiting for remote hires, I am curious how salary is addressed. Do you offer the prevailing wage at the main campus or, do you adjust to the market rate of the geographic location that the candidate resides in and offer the market rate for that location?
Either approach is defensible as long as it is documented and applied consistently. It will likely be difficult to recruit employees in high-cost cities without aligning salaries to market wages.
We hear from some employees that they feel closer to each other now — and it’s not clear if it’s because of a pandemic or Zoom — or both. How do we sustain that closeness?
Continue to be intentional about building connections and community. Bring colleagues together on a regular basis. Allow for “small talk” at the beginning of meetings. Have regular check-ins.
With a lack of financial incentives from our college specifically for staff members, we would like to take advantage of non-financial incentives. Offering a hybrid WFH [work-from-home] model, seems like an obvious no brainer. Can you offer any advice or tactics to help employees to convince resistant administrations to step into the 21st century? Also it is worth noting that when you treat adults like adults you tend to get better work. When you force employees to work in an office unnecessarily, for what essentially amounts to fear of missing out, you may get a less engaged and incentivized staff.
As WFH practices take hold after the pandemic, employers without flexible policies will find themselves unable to attract quality talent.