Remote management of library staff: Challenges and practical solutions

Source: Sarah Edwards, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 47, Issue 5, September 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
COVID-19 has forced staff in academic libraries across the world to pivot from face-to-face workdays and services to fully remote (and, in some cases, back again) with very little time or notice. This new reality has presented new challenges in the remote management of staff that may also be working remotely, or in the building. This column explores some of those challenges and presents possible solutions for those at all levels of library management.

Why Working From Home Will Stick

Source: Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, Becker Friedman Institute, April 2021

COVID-19 drove a mass social experiment in working from home (WFH). We survey more than 30,000 Americans over multiple waves to investigate whether WFH will stick, and why. Our data say that 20 percent of full workdays will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends, compared with just 5 percent before. We develop evidence on five reasons for this large shift: better-than-expected WFH experiences, new investments in physical and human capital that enable WFH, greatly diminished stigma associated with WFH, lingering concerns about crowds and contagion risks, and a pandemic-driven surge in technological innovations that support WFH. We also use our survey data to project three consequences: First, employees will enjoy large benefits from greater remote work, especially those with higher earnings. Second, the shift to WFH will directly reduce spending in major city centers by at least 5-10 percent relative to the pre-pandemic situation. Third, our data on employer plans and the relative productivity of WFH imply a 5 percent productivity boost in the post-pandemic economy due to re-optimized working arrangements. Only one-fifth of this productivity gain will show up in conventional productivity measures, because they do not capture the time savings from less commuting.

Police and Fire Pensions in Florida: A Comparison of Conditions After 10 Years

Source: Joseph Vonasek, Robert Lee, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, April 5, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article is an analysis of 31 defined benefit police and fire pension plans of 20 municipalities in Florida. The authors conducted a similar assessment of these same plans ten years earlier to determine the fiscal impact of these plans due to state mandates that accompany state funding for each of these plans. The current study analyzes key measures of fiscal health over the last ten years for these same plans to ascertain whether the fiscal condition of these plans remained constant, that is, whether underfunded plans continued to be questionably managed and whether well-funded plans continued to be fiscally stable considering economic trends and the lessening of state mandates on the use of state funding for these plans. The findings show that the overwhelming majority of the plans neither significantly changed their financial condition nor their general ranking among the plans evaluated.

Just because you can work from home doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to

Source: Rani Molla, Vox, Recode, April 21, 2021

Which jobs are heading back to the office and which can stay home varies widely.

…And as the return to the office picks up, the extent to which American office workers are allowed to continue working from home — which the vast majority of them have done during the pandemic — stands to affect everything from their satisfaction at work to where they are able to live.

This summer, offices are generally opening on an optional basis and will open with more expectations for workers to be present this fall. The most flexibility will go to knowledge workers. These high-skilled workers, whose jobs are mediated by computers, will be much more likely than before the pandemic to be allowed to work from home at least some of the time in what’s called the hybrid work model. …

…Amazon, known for its brutal corporate culture, plans to have most of its white-collar workers back in the office by early fall, saying it wants to return to an “office-centric culture as our baseline.”

Meanwhile, companies that choose not to allow workers flexibility in where they work will be met with resistance. The vast majority of employees — 89 percent — say they want to be allowed to work remotely some or all of the time. So companies with stricter office rules could have trouble attracting and keeping talent, with one in four employees saying they might quit their jobs after the pandemic, mostly because they want to look for work with greater flexibility. …

What Do We Like About WFH?

Source: Vasundhara Sawhney, Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2021
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Evaluating the pros and cons.

…For some, this has led to greater productivity. I certainly feel that I’m getting more done: for work, with my family, and around the house. What’s more, I have greater flexibility to decide what to do when, whether that means answering emails in the evening or spending time with loved ones during the day. There’s a reason that WFH was on the rise even before the pandemic, and now both organizations and individuals seem more comfortable with it than ever before. In September 2020 the Conference Board surveyed more than 330 HR executives at large U.S. companies and reported that one-third expect 40% or more of their employees to work virtually past the spring of 2021, while 36% say they are now willing to hire workers who are 100% remote. But are we ready for that?…

How to Do Hybrid Right

Source: Lynda Gratton, Harvard Business Review, May-June, 2021
(subscription required)

When designing flexible work arrangements, focus on individual human concerns, not just institutional ones.

Since the pandemic, companies have adopted the technologies of virtual work remarkably quickly—and employees are seeing the advantages of more flexibility in where and when they work. As leaders recognize what is possible, they are embracing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset work using a hybrid model.

To make this transition successfully, they’ll need to design hybrid work arrangements with individual human concerns in mind, not just institutional ones. That requires companies to approach the problem from four different perspectives: (1) jobs and tasks; (2) employee preferences; (3) projects and workflows; and (4) inclusion and fairness.

Leaders also need to conceptualize new work arrangements along two axes: place and time. Millions of workers around the world this year have made a sudden shift from being place-constrained (working in the office) to being place-unconstrained (working anywhere). Employees have also experienced a shift along the time axis, from working synchronously with others 9 to 5 to working asynchronously whenever they choose.

If leaders and managers can successfully make the transition to an anywhere, anytime model, the result will be work lives that are more purposeful and productive….

With the majority of corrections officers declining the COVID-19 vaccine, incarcerated people are still at serious risk

Source: Wanda Bertram and Wendy Sawyer, Prison Policy Initiative, April 22, 2021

Correctional staff in most states have been eligible for COVID-19 vaccination for months, prioritized ahead of many other groups because of the key role staff play in introducing the virus into prisons and jails and then bringing it back out to surrounding communities. Against the recommendations of medical experts, many states chose to vaccinate correctional staff before incarcerated people, often claiming that staff would serve as a barrier against the virus entering prisons and infecting people who are locked up. Now it’s becoming clearer than ever that this policy choice was a gigantic mistake: New data suggests that most prison staff have refused to be vaccinated, leaving vast numbers of incarcerated people- who have been denied the choice to protect themselves – at unnecessary risk.

We compiled data from the UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, The Marshall Project/AP, and other sources, and calculated the current rate of staff immunizations in 36 states and the Bureau of Prisons. We found that across these jurisdictions, the median vaccination rate — i.e. the percentage of staff who had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose — was only 48%. The numbers are even more disturbing in states like Michigan and Alabama, where just over 10% of staff have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

A Post-Pandemic Antidiscrimination Approach to Workplace Flexibility

Source: Michelle A. Travis, Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 64, 2021

The dramatic workplace changes in the wake of the global pandemic offer courts both an opportunity and an obligation to reexamine prior antidiscrimination case law on workplace flexibility. Before COVID-19, courts embraced an essentialized view of workplaces built upon a “full-time face-time norm,” which refers to the judicial presumption that work is defined by long hours, rigid schedules, and uninterrupted, in-person performance at a centralized workspace. By applying this presumption to both accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and to disparate impact claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pre-pandemic courts systematically undermined antidiscrimination law’s potential for workplace restructuring to expand equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities and for women with disproportionate caregiving responsibilities. This Article demonstrates how employers’ widespread adoption of flexible work arrangements in the wake of COVID-19—including telecommuting, modified schedules, temporary leaves, and other flextime options—undermine these prior decisions and demand a new analysis of antidiscrimination law’s potential to advance workplace flexibility.

Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Is This Working? A Year In, Workers Adapting to Tomorrow’s Workplace

Source: Prudential, April 2021

From the press release:
From remote work to company culture and benefits, the pandemic has highlighted the things workers value most in employment. And if they do not have them, they’re preparing to seek them out when the time is right, according to a newly released Prudential survey.

The Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Is This Working? A Year In, Workers Adapting to Tomorrow’s Workplace was fielded in March 2021—one year since many workplaces shut down on-site operations and employees began working remotely. The survey, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Prudential, polled 2,000 adults working full-time and found that 87% of American workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue working remotely at least one day a week, post-pandemic. Among all workers, 68% say a hybrid workplace model is ideal.

…According to the survey, 42% of current remote workers say if their current company does not continue to offer remote work options long term, they will look for a job at a company that does. This signals that a “war for talent” may be looming if companies don’t address workers’ needs….

Where Will Remote Workers Go?

Source: Dante DeAntonio, Evan Carson, and Matt Colyar, Regional Financial Review, March 2021
(subscription required)

Remote work increased dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article considers the effect of remote work on migration decisions. To this end, we develop an empirical model of domestic migration to better understand how increased acceptance of remote work may impact the U.S.