The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

The Future of Work in Higher Ed

If 2020 has given us anything — aside from a new appreciation for the word “pivot” — it’s proof that higher ed is just as capable of adaptation as the corporate world. Before these unprecedented times, big names like Google, Facebook and Netflix were more often at the forefront of workforce innovation conversations than were institutions of higher education. But after being thrust headlong into the unknown nearly a year ago, colleges and universities across the nation are now poised to emerge from this crisis with hard-won change firmly in hand. And with vaccine-fueled hope on the horizon, institutions are faced with a critical question — what now?

While research and data are still relatively new, and sourced almost exclusively from the corporate world, they can still help us in forecasting what might lie ahead. Here are just a few of the trends that are starting to take shape.

A Surprising Success

According to PwC’s US Remote Work Survey, the move to working from home has been a resounding success for both employers and employees. In fact, 52% of employers reported an increase in productivity after shifting to remote work. What’s more, employees really like working from home. The majority of employees surveyed said that they would prefer — and perhaps even expect — to retain this newfound flexibility even after a full return to the office.

The Purpose of an Office

The office as we know it may now be a thing of the past. Strategy + Business reports that the shift to remote or hybrid work models has uncovered a slew of unexpected benefits, prompting employers to reconsider how their physical office spaces are serving business endeavors. Over at Inside Higher Ed, Joshua Kim asks institutions to consider how reimagining the purpose of some on-campus offices can be used to strategically support key stakeholder groups.

Competition for Talent

Prior to the pandemic, flexibility in work schedule and location was largely thought of as simply a nice-to-have benefit. Now however, there’s a good chance that potential employees have upgraded that flexibility from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have. And, with physical location being less of a limiting factor, top talent will necessarily have a wider range of opportunities.

The last year has been hard, and the future is still murky, but right now presents a unique opportunity for strategic innovation in higher ed. Seizing this chance to re-evaluate, redefine and perhaps even redesign the basic aspects of our everyday work could be … pivotal.