The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Maintaining Culture and Connection For Remote Employees

Higher ed leaders worked tirelessly last year to facilitate employee transitions to remote work. Now that many employees are firmly rooted in their remote work routine (and in some cases hesitant or unable to return to campus), what was previously a short-term solution is becoming a permanent option at many institutions, and the next challenge for higher ed leaders will be maintaining institutional culture and fostering connection in that new hybrid environment.

Here’s what some of your higher ed HR peers are saying about how to maintain — and even improve — workplace culture.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate — “Don’t see your remote staff as “out of sight-out of mind,”” says David Blake, vice president and chief operating officer at California Western School of Law. Challenge activity organizers to include remote workers in office activities. Also, be aware that side conversations often take place in the office that can lead to remote workers feeling out of the loop. What are some ways to ensure remote workers won’t miss out on office activities and conversations?
  • Help newcomers feel connected — Efforts to maintain culture shouldn’t focus only on current employees. Consider how to help new hires feel a sense of camaraderie and connection to the team (many of whom had established relationships with one another pre-pandemic). The article “A Remote Work Future at Duke” shares how Duke University’s Work-From-Home Committee is helping new hires and remote employees maintain connection to the campus through monthly or bimonthly on-site staff meetings and teleconferences to discuss topics other than work. Feeling stumped in this area? Here are some timeless ideas to incorporate more fun into the workplace  a simple way to help new hires see more of their colleagues’ personalities and learn about their personal interests.
  • Consider how remote work can improve culture — Establishing remote-eligible positions is one way for higher ed to diversify and expand the recruiting pool. Aaron Copley-Spivey, director of human resources at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, says that his institution has been engaging in many conversations regarding how a hybrid work model might actually be better for his campus culture than the traditional model from which they used to operate. Says Copley-Spivey, “Building a remote work culture allows us to hit the reset button to create a culture that accommodates today’s and tomorrow’s workforce inclusive of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ individuals.”

Do you have tips to share with your higher ed HR peers about how to maintain culture in a remote or hybrid work environment? Or are you looking for ideas to try at your institution? Be sure to join the Future of Work online discussion group in CUPA-HR Connect.

Related resources:

The Future of Work in Higher Education – Tools and Resources

Flexible Work Toolkit

Soundbites: Determining Remote Work Eligibility and Talking to Leadership About Flexible Work