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Summary of the MUNASA Remote Work Presentation of July 8, 2021

August 4, 2021

Dear MUNASA members:

We are delighted to provide you with a summary of our July 8, 2021 presentation. The presentation was three-fold: The MUNASA Work from Home survey results (presented by Judy Dear, President; Maggie Do Couto, Vice-president; Nikoo Taghavi, Treasurer), The New Model of Work Pilot Project (presented by Lorraine Mercier, Director; Lisa Boyle, Associate Director), and the Organization Development segment on Remote Work (presented by Johanne Houle, Director).

A summary of each presentation follows.

The MUNASA Work from Home survey results:

Presented by Judy Dear, President; Maggie Do Couto, Vice-president; Nikoo Taghavi, Treasurer (MUNASA)

MUNASA launched a Work from Home Survey in late April 2021 and shared an overview of the results in early June. These were some of our findings:

Over 85% of participants reported that they were able to accomplish all their tasks from home. More than 83% reported that they worked more than their regular hours when working remotely and found their workday to be more productive.

Almost half of the survey participants (47%) supervise staff and an overwhelming majority (91%) said they could supervise efficiently, hold virtual meetings, and communicate effectively. Ninety percent (90%) of those who do not supervise staff have also been able to work from home efficiently.

Most participants (87%) would be interested in a hybrid model of work, working remotely 3-4 days/week and in-person 1-2 days/week.

Less commute time and stress, happier and healthier work-life balance, and reduced risk of contracting COVID-19 were the top three incentives to work remotely. Over half of the respondents (62%) feel that working remotely has had a positive impact on their mental health. Meanwhile, (13%) feel it has had a negative impact citing social isolation, internet connectivity issues, and physical workspace, as the three top challenges.

The New Model of Work Pilot:

Presented by Lorraine Mercier, Director; Lisa Boyle, Associate Director (New Model of Work Office)

The New Model of Work Project (NMW) Office was launched in March 2021. This presentation provides an overview of NMW so that you can become familiar with our office, our work in the pilot project, and to see what “life” at NMW will be for participating employees.

As was evident in MUNASA’s survey results, there is great interest in hybrid work arrangements. We use the terms remote work and telework for work from home. A hybrid work arrangement is a mix of on-site and remote work and we talk about that mixture in terms of percentages because they offer the most flexibility.

The NMW office is working closely with Human Resources and Organizational Development to develop aligned tools, approaches, and training as both the pilot project as well as the larger University will be experiencing hybrid work arrangements. The difference is that the new Interim Flexible Work Arrangements will allow up to 40% remote work, whereas the pilot is using guidelines of 50%. Along with increased remote work comes different use of workspaces for pilot project participants. We will be looking at many elements pertaining to the hybrid work experience, including:

  • Assessing the impact of hybrid work arrangements on teams and individuals

  • Evaluating team needs and functions on-site or remote

  • Looking for the optimal balance of remote vs. on-site work

  • Benefits and challenges of hybrid work arrangements

  • Impacts on employee wellness, engagement, and effectiveness

  • Use of space

  • Integration of interior design elements (i.e., biophilia or the integration of nature into the workspace)

  • Sharing of a range of workspace types based on different work needs (i.e., collaborative vs. individual workspaces)

  • Reserving workspaces

  • Diverse furniture types and uses

  • Technology needs and new uses of technology

  • Integrating on-site and remote employees in meetings

  • Identifying skills and practices that best support hybrid and providing training

  • Creating mechanisms and tools

  • Ergonomics

The NMW project will incorporate 120 employees and be located on the 6th floor of 550 Sherbrooke Street. It will last approximately 18 months and launch late August or early September. We are a new team made up of Lorraine Mercier, Director, Lisa Boyle Associate Director, Jessica Scittarelli, Organizational Development Advisor, Virginie St-Pierre, Manager Space Strategy, and we will also have administrative support. Through consultation and exchange with the University community and external partners, and with our project experience, the pilot will develop and share knowledge about hybrid work. Our office will be communicating in an on-going manner in the following ways:

  • NMW will give frequent updates to unions and associations by email and presentations

  • Presentations and email updates to various other committees and groups

  • Hold working meetings and update sessions with implicated internal partners (i.e., legal, HR, etc.)

  • NMW is currently setting up our website and will post information on both our own website (including references and resources), as well as on other relevant McGill websites

  • Newsletters and articles

  • Summaries and updates available to larger community

The “long game” is the development of a hybrid work policy that makes sense for our culture and our community and for each of us as employees, based on real experience. This is why we have a pilot project and Interim FWA as transitional measures and why the NMW will be monitoring, consulting and sharing our learnings with the community on an ongoing basis over the next 18 months.

Organization Development on Remote Work from Home:

Presented by Johanne Houle, Director (Organizational Development)

Our Context

According to our leaders, McGill will remain a “face-to-face” institution. We are at the heart of a learning and research environment that has long been valued for the “total experience” it provides students (and others) from all over the world. In addition, our employee engagement surveys affirm the great pride staff experience as contributors to this stimulating learning community. As we co-create our “new normal” in a hybrid workplace, we will need to ensure we fully retain what matters most. We know that our presence on campus does make a difference.

Case in point, the federal government’s allocation of up to 60% remote work does not apply to hospitals, nor to academic institutions. The needs and wants of stakeholders in these unique environments are complex - impacted significantly by the quality of services, planned and unplanned interactions, care, relationships…

Be careful what we wish for

Colleagues who manage in environments that have allowed for up to 80 or 100% remote work are expressing serious concern about how they will function. They wonder:

  • On what basis will we make such decisions?

  • How will we begin to manage expectations if employees think that they should be allowed to work from home virtually all the time?

  • How will we arrive at a semblance of fairness, equity within and across units?

  • How will we measure individual and team performance?

  • What should our teams look like in a hybrid world (online meetings, face-to-face meetings, a mix)?

  • What should client service look like in the new reality, and how do we know what is best?

  • How can we ever pull back on the remote work allocation once people feel entitled?

  • Are we losing touch with the human side of work (trust, relationship, belonging, support)?

  • How does this remote work impact long-term engagement, loyalty/retention, creativity/innovation…?

Many more questions than answers.

Unwrapping Our New Normal

The hybrid workplace is new to us and we have much to learn. At this time, our energy would be best invested in learning to manage our transition back to the workplace and in determining how to effectively manage a hybrid workplace in a “face-to-face institution of higher learning”: optimal client service, equitable decision-making, skills development, technology, resources, performance measurements…

Interim Flexible Work Arrangements (IFWA)

The interim FWA will be posted in early August. Comparing it with the January 2020 FWA, the maximum time allotted for remote work has been DOUBLED and is now articulated in terms of a % (40%), allowing for greater flexibility. Otherwise, much of the terms and considerations will remain the same during this interim period.

The FWA guidelines are not needed until we return fulltime to campus (e.g. if we are only to be on campus at 30% initially, there is no point). However, it is best to familiarize ourselves with FWA to prepare for discussions with supervisors and/or team members. Exploring what IS possible should facilitate planning and the eventual transition back.

A few considerations:

  • While 40% is the equivalent of 2 days per week, the 40% of remote work could be spread over a greater number of days per week. As such, the employee would be on campus more than 3 days per week, but for less hours.

  • A compressed work week (e.g. 60% of work in two days) is not part of the initial FWAs that are being reactivated at this time (from Jan 2020).

  • Working hours may be modified to accommodate commute needs (e.g. avoid rush hour)

  • The most straightforward way to manage schedules is to calculate the (up to) 40% remote work on a weekly basis with a set plan for how and when work will take place. However, local priorities (e.g. peak periods requiring more face-to-face) could dictate needing to calculate the 40% over a slightly longer period.

  • Employees on (long-term) contracts can also make Flexible Work Arrangement requests, using the same process.

In conclusion, MUNASA will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

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