Title

Benefits and Challenges of Hybrid and Remote Alt-Ac Work

The new alternative-academic way of working.

June 14, 2022
 
 

 

Benefits

Challenges

Talent Recruiting

  • Significant advantages in recruiting talent for fully remote, as alt-acs often have significant geographic/partner challenges.
  • Options for hybrid work may also entice alt-acs to join a university or team within an institution.
  • Onboarding of fully remote nonfaculty academics remains a challenge, with little in the way of established institutional policies.
  • Hybrid work expectations remain in flux at most institutions, with little understanding of what the new normal of campus work will be. This uncertainty may add to the challenge of recruiting.

Talent Retention

  • Hybrid work options may be the sweet spot for alt-ac talent retention, as work flexibility allows for a more sustainable balancing of professional and family demands.
  • Talented fully remote alt-acs may be easier to recruit but harder to hold on to.
  • Unless a remote work culture is built and maintained, nonresidential alt-acs may feel less connected to the institution and may have less hesitation in moving to another job.

Diversity

  • The deeper recruiting pools that occur with remote and work options enhance the diversity profile of qualified candidates.
  • Institutions may run risks of a diverse remote/hybrid nonfaculty educator workforce being less woven into the fabric of the campus.

Productivity

  • The pandemic seems to have demonstrated that there is no loss of productivity when alt-acs work remotely or hybrid.
  • Productivity may increase as the alt-ac workforce is able to work with more flexibility, and as a more talented team can be recruited independent of geography.
  • It could be that the high productivity of remote/hybrid alt-acs was a function of most everyone being remote/hybrid during the pandemic.
  • It is unknown what the productivity implications will be for remote/hybrid nonfaculty educators once more faculty and staff are working in person.

Faculty Collaboration

  • Faculty are now near universally comfortable with virtual meetings.
  • Benefits of using the same tools for faculty collaboration as are utilized in synchronous teaching/learning (Zoom, etc.).
  • Remote and hybrid work cuts down on opportunities for unscheduled and random conversations with faculty around campus.
  • Faculty and nonfaculty educators spend less time in each other’s physical spaces and perhaps miss out on building some mutual connections and understanding.

Staff Collaboration

  • The shift to virtual (Zoom) meetings necessitated by remote and hybrid work has enabled alt-acs to increase the density of meetings with colleagues (no travel time).
  • The diffusion of asynchronous collaboration tools such as Slack has helped to move colleagues off email.
  • Norms around mixed in-person and virtual meetings (xMeetings) have yet to be established, and these meetings may be frustrating for all involved.
  • It is now common for alt-acs to spend their days on Zoom, with back-to-back scheduled meetings.

Student Collaboration

  • Remote alternative academics are ideally situated to teach in online programs at their institution (or at other institutions).
  • HyFlex (in-person and virtual) programming can be designed to be inclusive of student participants and accessible to a wider variety of students.
  • Fully remote alt-acs are challenged to teach in-person courses at their institution.
  • Fully remote and hybrid alternative academics spend less time on campus and therefore have fewer unstructured interactions with campus-based students.

Campus Community

  • The campus community benefits from the integration of talented alternative academics who can work at the institution due to newly remote and flexible work options.
  • Campus cultures that rely on a density of interactions between students, faculty and staff may be challenged to replicate the dynamic energy of residential higher education.

Institutional Leadership

  • Alternative academics with existing strong campus networks and relationships may be unaffected in their ability to exert institutional leadership while working hybrid/remotely.
  • At institutions where influence depends on relationships and tacit knowledge, fully remote and hybrid nonfaculty educators may find it challenging to build coalitions and generate influence.

Disciplinary/Professional Contributions

  • With less emphasis on “seat time” in a new more flexible work culture, alternative academics may be able to free up time to contribute to the discipline/profession.
  • The disciplinary/professional contributions of remote/hybrid alt-acs may be less visible and valued by the institution.

Long-Term Career Growth

  • Opportunities for remote/hybrid careers may enable greater long-term flexibility and growth opportunities for alternative academics.
  • Alternative academics who are fully remote or hybrid may have few opportunities to take on campus leadership roles if academic leaders shift back to a predominantly in-person posture.

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