June 7, 2021

Future of Work Project Team created to meet needs of Purdue's evolving workforce

Input from West Lafayette faculty, staff will be sought to shape strategies on what works, what doesn't

How organizations operate day to day has changed dramatically over the past year because of the global pandemic. And that has been the case at Purdue University, where up to 70% of employees at the West Lafayette campus have been working in a fully or partially remote status since March 2020.

To reimagine how to support an increasingly mobile and virtual workforce, Purdue has created the Future of Work Project Team to develop new workplace strategies that meet the needs of that evolving workforce. Drawing on input from faculty, staff and students, the project team will create a flexible and collaborative workplace strategy that supports the health, wellness and performance of employees; attracts and retains faculty and staff; and supports our residential learning experience and research enterprise at the highest levels. The team also will examine measures that improve student support, customer service and enhance space optimization. 

Members of the Future of Work Project Team will be:

  • Rob Wynkoop, associate vice president, Auxiliary Services
  • Jay Wasson, associate vice president, Physical Facilities
  • Kim Pearson, chief administrative officer, Administrative Operations
  • Rebecca Terry, director, Administrative Operations Communications
  • Nathan Manges, director, Real Estate
  • Michael Gulich, senior director, Campus Planning, Architecture and Sustainability
  • Amy Boyle, senior director, Human Resources
  • Dwight Snethen, executive director, End User Experience
  • Robert Frosch, senior associate dean of Engineering & Operations and professor of civil engineering
  • Heather Beasley, director of operations, Student Life

This team will be guided by an Executive Oversight Committee: 

  • Bill Bell, vice president, Human Resources
  • Michael B. Cline, senior vice president, Administrative Operations
  • David Hummels, dean, Krannert School of Management
  • Nancy Marchand-Martella, dean, College of Education
  • Theresa Mayer, executive vice president for research and partnerships
  • Chris Ruhl, treasurer and chief financial officer

“We want to hear directly from faculty and staff about our workplace environment –– what works, what doesn't and where there is opportunity to improve,” Bell says. “We appreciate the participation in this very important effort to meet the needs of our workforce and shape the future of our workplace. Participation in this process is essential to achieving the right outcome, an outcome that represents the shared values of our entire Purdue community.” 

In the coming weeks, faculty, staff and graduate staff on the West Lafayette campus will be invited to participate in three feedback opportunities. Input from these will inform strategies designed to ensure alignment between campus operational and workspace needs: 

  • Group departmental interviews — Leaders from all major departments will be invited to participate in 60-minute interviews. More than 30 of these sessions are planned to ensure a wide base of feedback.
  • Workplace experience survey — Employees (faculty, staff and graduate staff) on the West Lafayette campus will be invited to give feedback regarding work patterns, location flexibility, culture and collaboration, and technology. This is an opportunity to provide constructive, candid and anonymous feedback. 
  • Employee focus groups — These will take a deeper dive into the survey results. There will be 12 focus group meetings covering a variety of career streams and levels. 

In the fall, the project team will offer additional opportunities for faculty, staff and students to provide feedback.

The creation of the Future of Work Project Team follows a March 2021 communication sent to all faculty and staff that outlined Purdue’s Back to Work guidelines for the 2021-22 academic year. In that message, campus leaders encouraged employees to have conversations with supervisors during the annual performance management process about what works, what doesn’t and what the future of work at Purdue might look like.

When the public health emergency from the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in spring 2020, nearly 70% of all Purdue staff were moved to full or partial remote status as part of the Protect Purdue Plan. That meant more than 4,700 of 7,000 employees on any given day began working fully remote or in a combined, hybrid remote status, while another 2,200 came to campus to perform their duties.

Importantly, this allowed employees to stay healthy and safe by working from home as part of an aggressive campuswide de-densification plan while also protecting employees with medical vulnerabilities and those susceptible to serious outcomes of COVID-19. In addition, the move facilitated efforts by Purdue to assess the long-term benefits of some staff permanently working remotely while deploying a strategy to recruit talent that may be unable to relocate to West Lafayette.

As President Mitch Daniels stated in a recent video message to all faculty and staff, the goal is to capitalize on this opportunity that stands before the Purdue community. And a key component of the Future of Work plan is early and widespread engagement with the campus community.

“The steps we take now, together, have the opportunity to transform how Purdue operates going forward,” Bell says.


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