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Examining Staff Perspectives on WFH vs. WFO

March 22, 2022

Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down offices, industries around the world are exploring the future of the workplace[1], adapting their expectations about where and how we work. The Drexel Libraries has also polled its staff to better understand their hybrid work experiences, their expectations for flexible work options, and the extent to which the Libraries’ utilization of the University’s flexible work policy is working so far.  

In September 2021, Drexel University expanded its flexible work arrangement policy after recognizing that many office-based employees can work successfully from home at least some of the time. The University’s new flexible work policy includes a hybrid work option where professional staff have the option to spend part of their week working remotely (WFH - work from home) and part on campus (WFO - work from the office).

Since the University encouraged greater use of the flexible work arrangements policy, every Libraries staff member has opted to work remotely at least one day per week.

Last month, in response to questions posed by academic leadership about “best practices,” the Libraries’ strategic leadership engaged staff to better understand different work experiences. This article highlights findings and insights.

Key Findings

Drexel Libraries staff first started considering the pros and cons of hybrid work during an All Staff meeting held on January 31, 2022. Following these short, small group discussions, staff were invited to share their personal insights, anonymously, through a Qualtrics survey that posed four open-ended questions. The study was not a formal research project but an activity to gather opinions and feedback from staff. Twenty-four staff members responded.

Key findings included:

  • Ninety-one percent (91%) of survey respondents agreed that the current flexible work arrangement policy works well, and they are satisfied with their current arrangement.
  • All staff listed choice and flexibility as the main benefits to hybrid work: The flexibility of hybrid work contributes to a better life-work balance and enhances productivity. One Libraries staff member noted: “My current arrangement works very well for me, and I appreciate the flexibility. I found the flexible work arrangement tends to be better work-life balance compared to 5-day work in office."
  • Commuting, productivity, and better work-life balance were the most cited benefits to remote work: 60% of respondents listed “no commuting” and “ability to focus” as key benefits to working remotely. One staff member explained: “Working remotely allows me to avoid the distractions inherent in working on site, permitting me to focus on project work that often requires intense concentration, such as the manipulation of large metadata sets. Additionally, there are other quality of life advantages, e.g., avoiding frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming commutes.”
  • Libraries staff listed socialization, collaboration, engagement, and team belonging as the main benefits of working on campus: As one staff member expressed in their survey response: “I can interact with people in the office easily and have short interchanges with quick actions to follow rather than scheduling time and not seeing their body language reactions to better understand them and communicate.” And, “I like communicating with my colleagues in person and sharing fun moments like recipe chats with K. Working with the student employees and learning new things from them, assisting clients with printing and locating materials needed for their studies."

Libraries staff also cited commuting, the ability to focus and safety as drawbacks to working on campus, while health and fitness and collaboration were the most cited disadvantages of working remotely.

Planning for the Future

While initial feedback has been largely positive, it is still too early to tell how successful the Drexel Libraries’ hybrid work model has been for staff, as well as for clients. Many responses from the small sample of library employees at Drexel paralleled reactions from employees around the world—understanding the nature of hybrid work and ‘best practices’ will continue to evolve for several years yet.

The Libraries’ resources and services have long been hybrid. Even before the pandemic, the Libraries provided online access to authoritative information resources, and expert librarians offered in-person and virtual consultations. However, until March 2020, there were no mandates prohibiting clients from visiting the Libraries’ physical locations.

It is difficult to assess what works and not in the Libraries’ hybrid service environment due to numerous factors potentially affecting changes. Over the coming months, with more staff taking advantage of hybrid work and more clients taking advantage of hybrid services and resources, the Libraries has the opportunity to examine the pros and cons of its evolved remote services, as well as the impact of providing hybrid environments for both staff and clients.

Gauging what works well and what does not will continue to evolve, with changes focusing on new ways to improve services to Libraries clients.

[1] A Steelcase global study of over 32,000 participants from ten countries, in particular, was useful to categorize responses from Drexel Libraries staff. See: