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From: Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez

Subject: Weekly Briefing: Would You Quit to Keep Remote Work?

If colleges insist on in-person work, they could see a ‘turnover tsunami.’

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Many of us have been working from home for over a year now. How comfortable are you with this new rhythm? Are you itching to go back to your workspace? Or do you agree with the 35 percent of full-time-worker respondents to this Gallup survey, who said they wanted to keep working remotely as much as possible after coronavirus restrictions are lifted?

Now that many campus workers have settled into their home offices, some don’t want to go back. Teleworking and having a flexible schedule have become so important that some workers are willing to leave their campus jobs for more flexibility.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, until February 2021, one in nine workers in higher education has lost or left their job. Now the switch has flipped. The labor market is more strained, and many employees are prioritizing flexible work.

If colleges insist that staff work from the office every weekday, it could cause a “turnover tsunami,” Rob Shomaker, senior vice president of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, said at a recent event.

At the CUPA-HR event, Lisa Rutherford, chief policy officer and general counsel at Amherst College, said her office is keeping track of the outside offers that staff bring to the college. More and more offers include remote-work perks. The poaching even reached an Amherst HR recruiter. The campus was able to keep her, Rutherford said.

Some colleges, like the University of Illinois at Chicago, Drexel University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, have crafted policies that include flexible work. The institutions say that the changes may improve retention, attract job applicants, and boost employee morale.

As more companies allow their employees to work remotely, colleges will have to compete for applicants. And if their institution isn’t flexible, some college employees will take their talents elsewhere.

Our Lindsay Ellis spoke with a former digital-media specialist at the University of Central Arkansas who quit his job after he was asked to return to the office in the fall of 2020. He told Lindsay that he really believed in higher education’s mission to educate people. But the lack of flexibility was too grating. Now, he’s a freelancer, and one of his employers is Amazon Prime Video.

Read Lindsay’s full story here.

More on parking.

Last week, I asked readers what they were concerned about as colleges crafted their return-to-office plans. One reader, Ken Collier, noted that transit could help alleviate parking concerns.

“For those who must work on campus, or who must attend on campus on an irregular basis, parking needs can be reduced by efficient, safe, and pleasant public transit,” Collier wrote. “Even minimal transit provides employment in skilled work, as well as maintenance, cleaning, and so forth.”

Send more food for thought or suggestions my way, and you may see them in a future newsletter: fernanda@chronicle.com.

Lagniappe.

  • Learn. Did you know that Idaho is home to the world’s largest potato? Did you you know that for only $250 you can spend the night inside the spud? (Dirt)
  • Read. This 2010 book is for fans of classic Russian writers. If you still haven’t read Anna Karenina, don’t worry. It’s also about why we become so attached to our favorite books. (Publishers Weekly)
  • Listen. This podcast episode isn’t for the faint of heart. Two tech reporters research our search histories. (Reply All)
  • Watch. For Anthony Bourdain fans, a new documentary is on its way. (YouTube)

—Fernanda

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Fernanda is newsletter product manager at The Chronicle. She is the voice behind Chronicle newsletters like the Weekly Briefing, Five Weeks to a Better Semester, and more. She also writes about what Chronicle readers are thinking. Send her an email at fernanda@chronicle.com.