• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

What HSE Staff Members Think about Hybrid and Remote Forms of Work

Results of a study by the HSE Centre for Institutional Research

© Daniil Prokofyev/ HSE University

Following the pandemic, many employers and employees have come round to a new format of work, which combines in-office and remote work.

According to some studies by big international companies (Owl Labs, Microsoft Work Trend Index), employees who work from home are more satisfied with their work, with the key reasons being the lack of additional and commuting costs, a comfortable work/life balance, the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world, and decreased stress. The real situation on the job market is also part of the general trend: the number of listings on vacancy aggregator sites with remote job offers has grown fivefold.

‘During the pandemic, the problem of changes in the regular office work timetable has become a massive and pressing issue for everyone. Our university also experienced these changes: classes went online, while the administrative staff mostly started working from home. It was easy for some, while others faced difficulties of various types’, said HSE Vice Rector Irina Martusevich, ‘I have to say that after the restrictions were eased, many lectures continued online at the request of students and teachers, while administrative staff emerged from lockdown gradually. All these things made us think again and redefine the further university infrastructure development areas’.

In May-July, 2021, the HSE Centre for Institutional Research carried out a survey into the opinions of teachers, researchers and administrative employees about remote work, their readiness to work in co-working areas and new forms of office areas without fixed workplaces; evaluation of the existing workplace quality, and recommendations on their improvement. Below, we share the key outcomes of the survey.

Teachers and researchers have more experience of remote work than administrative staff

The first question that interested the researchers was whether the employee had had any experience of regular work outside the university before the pandemic. It turned out that remote working was more characteristic of teachers and researchers than among administrative staff: almost one-third of academic staff had worked from home more often than from HSE, while among administrative employees, only 10% had worked from home more often than one day a month.

The key advantages of remote work are the opportunities to save time and money, as well as being able to work from anywhere

Similarly to the studies mentioned above, the key advantage of remote work was named as the opportunity to save time commuting (80% of research and teaching staff (RTS) and 85% of administrative staff (AS) chose this point). The opportunity to save money is relevant for over one-third of RTS and over half of AS. Only 14% of RTS and 9% of AS said they did not see any distinct advantages in remote working.

Key disadvantages: the lack of in-person communication with colleagues

29% of administrative employees said they saw no disadvantages in remote working, while among RTS, only 15% responded in the same way. Researchers and teachers face such problems as the lack of in-person communication on work matters, informal communication with peers and students, and work/life imbalance more often than administrative staff.

One-third of administrative staff are ready to work in office areas without a fixed workplace

The number of administrative staff who are often away on business trips, at meetings with colleagues from other cities and countries, and who prefer to work on laptops is constantly growing. This indicates  that in the future, it will be essential to consider the transformation of office areas among possible changes to the working format.

The survey asked the employees to express their opinions on several potential concepts of working areas and hours: the idea of creating teachers’ co-working areas, modern comfortable venues for teamwork (without fixed workplaces), and a hybrid format of work (independent choice of office hours).

Most of administrative employees (89%) feel positive about the idea of a hybrid format of work. At the same time, they are much more dubious about the idea of new functional office spaces without fixed workplaces. 29% of employees said they were definitely not ready to work in such an office, while another third would rather not work in such a venue.

The main reasons that make administrative employees reluctant to work in offices without fixed workspaces are the need for a personal workspace equipped with a desktop computer (67%); the need for a landline phone (45%); the need to receive employees and students in a specific place (44%). 43% of the respondents said they felt more comfortable when they had their own personal desk.

A third of surveyed teachers are ready to work in co-working areas

Teachers and researchers were asked to assess the idea of creating teachers’ co-working areas at the university and their readiness to work in such areas. One-third of teaching and research staff said they were ready to work in these, with this proportion being much higher among researchers — 44%.

Administrative employees assessed the equipment of workplaces as better than teachers

46% of the surveyed administrative staff said that they had all the necessary equipment for remote work, while 36% said they had most of the necessary devices. 15%, however, experience serious difficulties: they either have no equipment for remote work at all, or have only some of the necessary equipment. The situation with software is better: 65% of the surveyed administrative employees said they had no problems with the software for remote work. 7% of the respondents said they were lacking the necessary software or had some of it.

On the other hand, teachers and researchers said that the quality of equipment they used was not suitable for their work. 37% of the respondents mentioned the low quality of equipment they used to provide consultations to students. The most serious equipment-related problems for teachers and researchers was that the low quality of equipment made it difficult to check student assignments (64%) and to prepare for lectures and workshops (70%).

Difficulties that are not related to technical equipment included noise (78%), and a lack of desks together with the number of those wishing to have a more comfortable workplace (54%).

Leisure zones and lunch zones are the most popular initiatives on the improvement of work areas

The survey also included the topic of improving existing working areas. The most desirable areas for HSE employees turned out to be lunch zones, leisure areas, and alternative workplaces. Areas for informal communication and meeting rooms are more requested by research and teaching staff than by administrative employees.

Author: Yulia Giatsintova, October 19, 2021