Five steps to campus
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It’s time to change the conversation about administrative space in higher education

If your higher education institution is like most, chances are your administrative teams have proven effective at working from home over the past year—catalyzing a rare opportunity to rethink how you use your workspace. And now with increasing vaccination rates enabling more campuses to fully reopen, you’re probably considering what changes to make to your workplace strategy.

Many campus leaders are in the same boat, wrestling with how to bring more or all employees back while still supporting their newly heightened appetite for flexibility. Despite the relative comfort of working from home, many employees are eager to get back to the social arena of in-person work, at least some of the time.

The social and financial case for a more flexible workplace

Like other office workers, many university administrative employees have emerged from the pandemic with a yearning for the best of both the in-person and remote work worlds. According to JLL research, most people would like to work from the office at least three days a week in order to connect with colleagues, provide management or support to teammates, and tap into skill-building or training opportunities. They also crave a workplace that clearly values employee health and wellbeing, from close adherence to COVID safety protocols to updated wellness amenities.

Providing a flexible workplace that delivers on these evolving employee preferences can help your college or university attract and retain talent as well as potentially right-size campus administrative space. Purdue University, for instance, reduced its leased office space to unlock significant savings while giving employees more flexibility. By doing this you can reinvest funds for other campus and office improvements appeal to administrative employees as well as students, faculty and visitors. These investments can also help you in attracting and retraining talent and new students.

Five steps to a more flexible, employee-friendly workplace

While every campus is unique, the following best practices can help shape more flexible, human experiences for your administrative employees.

1) Determine how much space you need in a flexible, post-COVID world. The key to right-sizing administrative space is understanding who needs access to what space, and when. Take a head count to ensure you can comfortably accommodate both employees who come in daily, as well as employees who work remotely some of the time. Develop a workplace plan that incorporates the right mix of spaces, including both owned spaces and ones that personnel can reserve by app.

 2.) Leverage data and analytics. Use space utilization and occupancy data tools to uncover any simple paths forward, such as shedding leased administrative space you no longer need. Deeper-dive facility health checks can also expose more strategic opportunities to improve on-campus experiences while generating return on investment.

3.) Plan for – and win – workplace adoption. Like any major change, it’s important to navigate the move to a more flexible workplace with care. Survey employees from different departments to understand any desires or concerns they may have. Engage leadership champions to build support from diverse stakeholders, and plan accordingly for any union-related needs.

4.) Incorporate connective technology throughout the workplace experience. With the great work-from-home experiment under our collective belts, it’s time to turn the tools we scrambled to master (think Zoom meetings) into structured collaboration programs that bridge the gap between remote and on-site work. For example, investing in an effective mobile app will enable employees to reserve workspaces, order lunch from the cafe, adjust a conference room’s thermostat, or request maintenance service from the facilities team.

5.) Team up with other campus leadership. To ensure campus real estate plans fully support financial goals as well as recruitment and retention, you need to work in cooperation with other departments. Partnering with finance, real estate, IT and human resources leaders can help you get a comprehensive picture of the opportunity—and how to seize it.

Reimagining the workplace can pay off in more ways than one for your institution. By giving administrative employees flexibility — in the modern, healthy and tech-enabled spaces they deserve—you’ll help inspire them to bring their best as they serve the entire campus community, from wherever they may be.