On October 29, hear Susan speak at a lunch and learn event, Flex Work at UK, on a panel of supportive supervisors.
A team of more than 20 staff in the College of Medicine have one work from home day each week using their university-provided laptop.
Working from home helps with managing the stress associated with our deadline-driven work.
Susan Stark, the director for sponsored research administrative services in the College of Medicine who oversees this team, worked with their two managers and leadership to implement remote work in 2018.
“Working from home helps with managing the stress associated with our deadline-driven work,” Susan said. She gained the dean’s support for launching a policy to promote remote work, which included exchanging her entire team’s desktop computers for laptops, by building the business case for retaining her talented team.
With my management team, we identified remote work as a need to keep people with qualified experience here longer and, initially, I had to persuade leadership to try this solution,” Susan said. “Faculty remain pleased with the service they get from us, and our dean has made it clear he wants this to continue.”
Faculty rely on Susan’s team for support on the administrative requirements for sponsored projects, often from the National Institutes of Health, which has highly detailed formatting criteria for applications and post-award reporting regulations. Most of their work occurs online.
“Our clients can’t tell if their support staff is working at their desk in the basement of Kentucky Clinic or somewhere else,” Susan said. “Everyone keeps their same work hours and stays green on Skype.”
Her team provides the same level of service, and some roles with quantifiable measures show increased productivity. Using laptops instead of desktops has shown benefits in the office too. The mobility allows staff to bring them to their clients’ offices for easier collaboration, and even rotate workstations among the team.
“We’re outgrowing our primary office space in the basement and will soon have five workstations in another building with windows,” Susan said. “When those five employees have a work from home day, they know someone else will use their workstation that day for a change of scenery.”
By comparing other groups’ guidelines, we knew we didn’t want to be too rigid or too relaxed with ours. Both our preparation and listening to staff along the way has helped us find the right balance for our guidelines.
Susan emphasized the importance of setting expectations in order to offer as much flexibility as possible in ways that are meaningful and fair to staff while also bringing positive impact to leaders and clients. Susan and her management team developed a comprehensive implementation plan with a signed agreement for staff to follow documented guidelines.
These guidelines are unique to her team, but they were inspired by other teams they collaborate with who had previously established remote work guidelines.
“By comparing other groups’ guidelines, we knew we didn’t want to be too rigid or too relaxed with ours,” Susan said. “Both our preparation and listening to staff along the way has helped us find the right balance for our guidelines.”
The guidelines have evolved based on staff feedback. For example, Susan initially set a six-month requirement before new staff could participate. When new staff were onboarded, they proposed eligibility based on training and skills instead, and she and her management team agreed.
Overall, Susan attributes the success of the policy to teamwork grounded in trust and fairness. “I want to be fair to everyone and offer flexibility to everyone, not just a few,” Susan said. “We've done everything we can do to offer remote work in a way that everyone is set up for success.”