As the COVID-19 pandemic plays out with surges all over the country, many states and regions are looking to put their second lockdowns in place. While this lockdown is not as life changing as the first lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic in March, it does put a damper on getting back to a semblance of normalcy. Regardless of how organizations have dealt with the pandemic, for most people, they are ready for this to be over.
There are have been several discoveries by organizations and higher education institutions during the last nine months since the pandemic started, including:
Telecommuting is not necessarily a bad thing
Many organizations including higher education institutions have discovered that their employee productivity has increased as they work remote. Employees are more responsive and act more promptly when customers make requests than if they were working on site. This might be due to the fact that employees don’t have to brave the traffic to commute to work and when they start work, they have a fresh perspective and mindset; they also have more opportunity to take short breaks to relax their mind than if they were in their work areas and cubicles. Whatever might be the reason, the improved productivity of employees working remote has promoted major technology organizations to consider allowing employees to work remote on a longer term or even permanent basis: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/354872
Work–life balance is more achievable
For employees who have families and children to take care of, the work from home environment has created more opportunities to spend time with loved ones, cook healthy meals and engage in fun and relaxing activities than they had when they were tied to the workplace 8-5. While the clear demarcation between work hours and home hours has blurred a bit, it has allowed employees to work in pockets of time when they are more productive and spend quality time with their families even during the day.
Higher education costs can be controlled
College tuition has more than doubled since the 1980s (https://www.businessinsider.com/why-is-college-so-expensive-2018-4). Several factors have contributed to the increase, including declining support from state and federal governments and increased operating costs. Operational inefficiencies play a significant role in the increase in operating costs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped institutions discover and start closing the gap in addressing operational inefficiencies. From going totally paperless to reducing the steps involved in performing administrative tasks, institutions such as California State University San Bernardino have found better and more efficient ways to serve their students, faculty, and staff.
As we look forward to putting the pandemic behind us and going back to normalcy next fall, there are some things that should never go back to the way they were. Safeguards need to be put in place so that we do not revert to inefficiencies at scale. Instead, higher education institutions should leverage their in-person time back on campus to pursue activities that create value to the academic experience of the campus community.