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Survey: Remote Work in Education Brings Compliance Concerns

As colleges, universities and K-12 schools navigate hybrid and remote work and learning environments during the COVID-19 pandemic, administrative challenges abound, according to research from SAP Concur. The company commissioned Wakefield Research to poll more than 500 finance and administration decision-makers in higher education and K-12 institutions across the United States, to find out how they are managing operations in today's new normal.

Strikingly, nearly all respondents (96 percent) reported they are concerned their institution "will fail to comply with state and federal government reporting regulations due to sustained remote work." Thirty-eight percent said that compliance was a key challenge in their transition to remote work environments. And 40 percent of agreed that "adapting policies to allow for remote compliance would ensure their department could handle financial operations more effectively and over a longer period of time."

Additional survey findings include:

  • Seventy-eight percent of all respondents said they believe "workforce productivity has either stayed the same or increased as a result of remote work," but they are not confident that they will be able to sustain high levels of productivity through another online semester.
  • According to 70 percent of respondents, less than 20 percent of their institution's workforce will be able to work remotely without productivity levels declining.
  • Sixty-nine percent of respondents said their finance and administrative departments "lack a fully remote solution."
  • Since beginning remote work, 41 percent of respondents said they are "managing three or more new responsibilities due to COVID-19."

Looking ahead, 56 percent of higher ed respondents agreed that "within the next five years, colleges and universities will adopt a hybrid classroom model that incorporates both on-campus and remote learning." Yet the majority of higher ed respondents acknowledged that short-term changes would be necessary before adapting to these new models. In particular, 94 percent said they "anticipate taking cost-cutting measures … to offset budget shortfalls due to reductions in student enrollment and on-campus attendance" during the fall semester. Those cuts could include hiring or salary freezes, outsourcing jobs or tasks, reducing their workforce, or enforcing pay cuts.

"Virtually overnight, COVID-19 transformed the way educational institutions operate both in the classroom and in the back office," commented David Ballard, senior vice president, U.S. Public Sector, SAP Concur, in a statement. "As K-12 school districts, colleges and universities begin a new semester and navigate this ever-evolving work and learning environment, education decision-makers will need to address financial and operational implications by balancing short and longer-term needs. This could include adopting mobile apps now, and a longer-term investment in tools that will help schools migrate to hybrid classroom and back office operation models."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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