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Harvard To Experiment With Permanent Remote Work Flexibility for Some Employees, Bacow Tells Faculty

The University's shift to remote operations due to the coronavirus pandemic has motivated Harvard to experiment with incorporating remote work into employees' schedules.
The University's shift to remote operations due to the coronavirus pandemic has motivated Harvard to experiment with incorporating remote work into employees' schedules. By Aiyana G. White
By Meera S. Nair and Andy Z. Wang, Crimson Staff Writers

University President Lawrence S. Bacow said during a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tuesday that Harvard plans to experiment for the remainder of 2021 with incorporating more opportunities for remote work into employees' schedules.

Bacow announced in late March that the University is aiming to welcome back faculty, staff, and researchers to their on-campus offices on Aug. 2. He clarified during Tuesday’s meeting that while all faculty and staff will be “free to return to their offices” on that date, some individuals may choose to continue working remotely.

Though he recognizes many Harvard affiliates are eager to return to on-campus operations, Bacow said the University is considering how aspects of remote work may be carried forward into fall 2021 and beyond.

“We have learned a lot this past year about the capacity of people to work remotely and to do so quite productively,” Bacow said. “There have been a number of studies that productivity has improved due to remote work over the course of the pandemic. Faculty have long enjoyed greater flexibility in their work but staff have now had this opportunity as well.”

“While we recognize that while many of us are anxious to return to our pre-pandemic work life, others have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and may seek to continue to do so,” he added.

Per Bacow, University Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp has been working with administrative deans across Harvard’s schools to develop “options for people to permit greater flexibility in how they work.”

He added that the University will experiment with “different models for accommodating remote work” during the remainder of the calendar year, with the goal of developing formal policies regarding remote work by the start of 2022.

Expanding telework opportunities has long been a priority of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, which represents more than 5,000 employees at the University.

During the same meeting Tuesday, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to establish a new Quantum Science and Engineering graduate program.

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences professor Evelyn L. Hu, who initially presented the proposal at last month’s faculty meeting along with Physics professor John M. Doyle, spoke briefly before the vote about the development of the new program during an unprecedented year.

“The past year was a time when we all faced necessary changes in lifestyles, teaching, and scholarly endeavors — a time when we needed to learn and adapt,” Hu said. “As we look outwards to a return to some new normal, I’d like to think that this program might be a wonderful example of how — during a ‘quiet time’ when we focused our efforts inwardly — we were able to re-examine, re-create, learn broadly, and emerge with new opportunities for education and learning at Harvard.”

—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at meera.nair@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at andy.wang@thecrimson.com.

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