Each month, our Advocacy Committee answers your questions about the AD 10 policies (aka, your terms and conditions of employment.)
Hello, I'm Andrew Boden, APSA's Executive Director and an advocate on our Advocacy Committee. I'm answering your questions related to our AD 10 policies. Questions? Submit them anonymously here. These questions will be answered in a future monthly advocacy corner issue. For an immediate answer, please contact us.
I've managed a team of ten APSA staff for twelve years. Everyone on my team worked from home really well over the pandemic. Productivity was up, and so was their engagement. Most of my team asked me to keep working from home two or three days a week, starting in September. It works operationally, so I'm okay with it, as long as the metrics stay solid. The trouble is my director is against the idea. She wants everyone back in the office full time. When I told my team, the mood was pretty low. A couple of my team said that they would find work somewhere else that was more flexible. I could see that others on my team were thinking the same thing. What do I do?
Thank you for your great question. I assure you, based on calls to my office, that you're not alone: many managers are caught in the same difficult situation you are. While the University's senior administration has said essentially that these decisions about hybrid work arrangements can be made at the local level where operationally feasible, some senior leaders on campus haven't been nearly so obliging. The result, at least based on reports to me, is unhappy employees strongly considering other options and a lot of managers, like you, facing a retention problem as some staff "vote with their feet."
I don't know your exact situation or your relationship with your director—you may have to modify my guidance based on your unique circumstances. My suggestion is that if you haven't already, and you have a good working relationship with your director, to show her that your team has successfully performed from home during the pandemic. If you have KPIs on your team's performance prior to the pandemic and during, and the numbers continue to look good, I'd go over that data with her. If you have stories from your team describing how well this is worked and how engaged they've been, I'll offer a few of those to illustrate the point you're trying to make with the data. It might be easier to ask to do this for your team as a trial run, say, through October, November and December, and then re-visit the results early in the New Year. The key, of course, is to continue to report to your director on the results of the trial run and manage any issues that may come up.
My hope is that your director at least approves the trial run for your team. She may not. Some leaders are just philosophically opposed to the idea of hybrid work arrangements; some may be under pressures that you're not aware of. You may have to think of making such arrangements for your team over a longer time period. If you start losing team members and those members are telling you that this is due to the lack of flexibility around work-from-home arrangements, I'd ensure that you identify these issues with your director. Declining staff retention is costly to any organization's bottom line, and it's best to find ways to minimize it in a work world where employees are insisting on more flexible arrangements. As the University adapts more broadly to hybrid working arrangements, there may be other opportunities to re-state your case.
It's also important to take stock of these stresses on yourself too. Watching team members leave when you think that a small shift in organizational thinking could've prevented it, is a difficult place to be for any manager. If you have PD funds still available, using them for professional coaching will help support you through a difficult transition. If you'd like suggestions on who you might use for such coaching and support, please contact me again.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact APSA. Your call or email is always confidential.