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Out of the Office: Teleworking in Research Administration is Here to Stay

By SRAI News posted 05-14-2020 09:09 AM


Out of the Office: Teleworking in Research Administration is Here to Stay

How will teleworking impact research administration at American colleges, universities and research organizations even as stay at home orders are lifted? By many indications, teleworking is here, and it is here to stay. Let’s embrace it as an established practice in the research administration space.

Need an application submitted? No problem. Electronic research administration systems, both at the institutional level and at the sponsor level, can be remotely accessed and applications submitted from the comfort of the administrator’s home office. Sponsors large and small have implemented electronic portals for proposal submissions. Is there a need to be at the office on campus? That is so pre-COVID.

Need a signature on a document? No problem. Send the document electronically to be signed by multiple people even as they each sit on their couch, make lunch in the kitchen, or check the laundry downstairs.

Need to schedule a meeting with the faculty colleague, the research coordinator and the institutional review board? No problem. Set up a video conference and remember to mute the audio and turn off the video feed as you get up momentarily to check the pasta sauce heating on the stove.

Have to schedule back to back meetings with people from across campus? No problem. With video conferencing, schedule the meetings back to back knowing you can make both meetings because you are not walking across campus but rather from your living room to the dining room. 

The COVID-19 world pandemic has made working at home a necessity. Social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders have the bulk of the American workforce video conferencing and embracing the digital work life, for better or worse. Even as States around the country begin to relax stay at home orders, the practice of teleworking is now part of the American experience more than ever before. Teleworking and flexible schedules are not new, but the practice has increased by necessity and it is here to stay. 

A recent Gallup Panel supports the notion that even as stay at home orders begin to relax, the practice of working at home may remain. Three in five workers (60%) reported they would prefer to continue to work at home even as public health restrictions are lifted whereas only 41% said they would prefer to return to their office environment (Brenan, 2020).

How will teleworking impact research administration? To the extent that technology has made research administration work since mid-March, the practice is here to stay. Implications for work-life balance and expectations for availability at all hours of the day remain to be explored. Cyber-security and information access may also be an issue for institutional stakeholders. As the remote work continues, these concerns will need to be addressed and embraced because people will be out of the office and checking the souffle while submitting the multimillion-dollar center grant. 

Brenan, M. (2020, April 3). U.S. Workers Discovering Affinity for Remote Work. Gallup.

Jose Alcaine
Authored by Dr. Jose G. Alcaine, PhD, MBA, CRA, Director of Research Services/Affiliate Faculty Foundations of Education
Virginia Commonwealth University