Five new employee
expectations for
the post- COVID
campus workplace

A surge in remote working over the past year has transformed what administrative personnel want from their workplace experience

April 30, 2021

Today’s campus is no longer a place to sit at a desk trying to block out background noise while fulfilling commitments to students, faculty and alumni.

The pandemic has shown higher education administrative workers there’s an alternative – one that gives people the freedom to work in different spaces according to their needs and preferences. And now many don’t want to go back to the one-size-fits-all approach that was so common before.

The pandemic has hastened the realization that work is not somewhere you go, but something you do,” says David Houck, Executive Managing Director, Integrated Portfolio Services, JLL. “The workforce is empowered by technology and looking for institutions to support their wellbeing even more. As the workforce asks for accelerated change, colleges and universities need to reinvent themselves with the workforce front of mind.”

Many industries, from higher education and government to tech, are now moving towards more hybrid work models incorporating homes, offices and other remote locations and redesigning their spaces and strategies to put people first and provide a better workplace experience.

“We’re entering into the golden age of the worker,” says Lee Daniels, Head of Workforce and Workplace Consulting at JLL. “We’re starting to see traditional work and workstyles move away from the office and the evolution of the workplace into a people-centric environment.”

So what do today’s college and university administrative employees now expect?

1. There’s no need to be in the office five days a week from 9am – 6pm

With video conferencing and digital collaboration tools, many people can work anywhere. JLL research shows employees want to work remotely 2.4 days a week once the pandemic ends – double the previous norm. Having a better work/life balance is now seen as being more important than a comfortable salary for many workers – especially meaningful in higher education given current financial pressures.

What’s more, 71 percent say they’re expecting more flexible work schedules. For higher education leaders, it requires a mind shift in traditional people management, looking beyond presenteeism to new ways of keeping employees engaged and productive in their mission-driven work.

2. Workspaces should enable flexible workstyles

Flexible working requires more flexible space, so space is becoming more versatile inside administrative offices. As typical workdays involve various tasks from group meetings to private conversations to answering urgent emails, not all are easy to do in crowded offices where meeting rooms are in short supply.

Workplaces are instead being transformed into different areas for collaboration, private work or relaxation and furnished accordingly. For example, shared conference rooms, focus areas and employee lounges can give campus administrators a chance to change location depending on the task at hand.

3. Spending time in the office is also a social experience to connect with colleagues face-to-face

Many people like coming into the office to see their colleagues. In hybrid models, campus offices will be the spaces where people interact, whether in group meetings or informal chats, with more focused work done at home. Organizations are increasingly introducing spaces and amenities to encourage interaction, such as breakout coffee areas. Indeed, some 49 percent of employees are expecting social spaces to boost their experience in the office, JLL found.

4. Inadequate equipment or poor Wi-Fi connections just don’t cut it

As workplaces (and even classrooms) become more digital, shared documents are stored on the cloud and more communication takes place on team collaboration software, weak internet signals and geriatric hardware are going to hit productivity and frustrate time-poor employees. And with hybrid models coming into play, that applies to equipment used at home as well as in the campus office. Indeed, 75 percent of employees are expecting their employer to support their work at home, JLL research shows.

“Investing in technology is a non-negotiable,” says Daniels. “Organizations need to have a digital first mindset as technology will be the dominant enabler of solutions that enhance the performance and productivity of both workers and the workplace.”

5. Health and wellbeing matters – and higher education leaders need to support them

Healthy workplaces are a priority – and employees expect their campus administrative space to be safe both in terms of air quality and cleanliness but also social distancing. Around one in three employees expect less density and some physical separation in the workplace, according to JLL.

Equally, institutions must show how they’re supporting employees in the workplace through the amenities and services they offer, whether it’s free health check-ups, flexible work hours or relaxation rooms.

“Now more than ever, the health and wellbeing of the workforce are paramount to fulfilling shared objectives,” says Houck.