Research Administration Family Style: How is the Home Office Going?
Research and research administration at universities, colleges, and research institutions continues despite the pandemic. Many people are still working from home. How long will working from home continue? Many companies and institutions are allowing telework indefinitely. How is your home office going?
Well, it has now been more than six months since universities, colleges, and research institutions shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Time marches on and institutions across the country are now trying to figure out how to continue their mission in the safest way possible for students, faculty and staff alike. How is your home office going by the way? Did your pet make it to the last Zoom meeting as well?
Return to Campus. As the fall academic semester started at many institutions, some remain physically shut down and are relying on distance learning and telework. Others have physically opened with social distance and safety procedures in place. Some prominent universities have tried to physically open only to quickly shut the doors again and send everyone home (Diep & Thomason, 2020).
In the case of research institutions, many have continued their research agendas and activities with modifications throughout the pandemic, especially when dealing with in-person data collection and field work (Parry, 2020). Some are returning to research on-campus, but with modifications to lab schedules and physical access to space.
Telework and Research Administration. While research activities on campus and in the field have been modified, altered, or even put on hold, the administration of that research has continued throughout the pandemic. Agency deadlines have come and gone and continue well into the fall semester. In addition to proposal deadlines, communication with program officers, progress reports, financial reports, university meetings, meetings with research development teams, project close outs, and a myriad of other tasks have continued in the telework and the distance learning space. Some would argue that productivity has increased. The fact that telework is here to stay has been discussed in the Catalyst and also the need to establish boundaries now that many are working from home.
The boundaries of where work ends and home life begins will continue to be blurred, however. Major companies and technology giants have already announced that they do not expect their workers to return to the office any time soon, if at all (Kelly, 2020). Some of these companies have campus like facilities and amenities that rival the best universities. Will universities do the same and let employees who can remotely do their jobs effectively remain away from the office indefinitely?
How is the home office going? As the remote work looks to extend in to 2021, research administrators should make sure their home office is equipped to handle the job as if they were back on campus. Is your internet connection up to par to handle fast and furious Zoom or Webex meetings? Do you have access to a scanner or an all in one printer? Do you have the capacity to electronically process or sign documents? Did you forward your office phone so that it rings on your cell phone, or better yet, has your cell phone replaced your office phone, and if so, what are the implications? Have you reconciled the fact that your family and pets are now also part of your home office?
For many around the country, the past few months have certainly been challenging and stressful both personally and professionally. Despite the challenges and stress, Zoom meetings with children and pets in the background, unstable internet connections, and crashing portals, grants still have to be written, prepared, submitted, and managed. Institutions depend on grant funding to help accomplish their missions, now more than ever. Hang in there!
Diep, F., & Thomason, A. (2020, August 17). UNC Pulls the Plug on In-Person Fall. Will Other Campuses Follow? The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/unc-pulls-the-plug-on-in-person-fall-will-other-campuses-follow
Kelly, H. (2020, May 12). Twitter employees don’t ever have to go back to the office (unless they want to). The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/12/twitter-work-home/
Parry, M. (2020, March 18). As Coronavirus Spreads, Universities Stall Their Research to Keep Human Subjects Safe. The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/as-coronavirus-spreads-the-decision-to-move-classes-online-is-the-first-step-what-comes-next/
Authored by Jose Alcaine, PhD, Director of Research Services/Affiliate Faculty Foundations of Education, School of Education
Virginia Commonwealth University