X

NCURA Remote Work Survey

In July 2021, the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) conducted a survey of research administrators, focused on remote work.

The survey was developed by an NCURA Task Force. Questions included institutional information, information on remote work and flexible work options prior to the pandemic, remote work options and resources during the pandemic, expectations for post-pandemic remote and flexible work, and attitudes towards remote and flexible work.

The survey was open from July 13 - 27, 2021. Data collection took place on SurveyMonkey.com, and responses were solicited via emails to current NCURA members. The survey received 1,618 responses.

A Summary Report for the Remote Work Survey can be found here.

The NCURA Board of Directors Remote Work Survey Task Force included the following members:

  • Rosemary Madnick, University of Alaska
  • Erin Bailey, University at Buffalo
  • Laura Kingsley, University of Pittsburgh
  • Denise Rouleau, Tufts University
  • David Smelser, University of Tennessee

The Task Force wishes to thank the NCURA members who participated in the survey.

Who Took The Survey?
Respondent & Institutional Information

Virtually all of the respondents to the remote work survey identified themselves as salaried administrative or professional staff (1,540 of 1,619 responses to this question; 95.12%). Hourly administrative or professional staff (63; 3.89%), faculty (10; 0.62%), and consultants (6; 0.37%) also provided responses to the survey. The majority of respondents are full-time employees (1,594 of 1,614 responses to this question; 98.76%).

Respondents were asked to select the "most applicable unit type for the job type/position" - referring to whether their position is centrally located (e.g., an office or department that serves the entire university), located within a department or division (e.g., a department of engineering, department of history), located within a college or school (e.g., the school of arts and letters, the school of architecture), a center or institute (center for population studies, center for genomic research), or a shared services unit (a group outside the central administration that provides certain services, such as HR or payroll support, for a number of departments, centers, etc.).

Respondents were asked to identify which type of position they are in within their hierarchy. Options were divided into four categories:

  • Research Administration Senior Leadership ("Leadership Level"): Provost/Vice Provost, Associate/Assistant Vice Provost, President, Vice President, Assistant/Associate Vice President, Dean, Associate/Assistant Dean
  • Research Administration Management ("Manager Level"): Executive Director, Director, Associate Director, Assistant Director
  • Research Administration Management ("Manager Level"): Manager
  • Research Administration ("Staff Level"): Accountant, Administrator, Analyst, Officer, Specialist

Research administration positions are frequently delineated between "pre-award" (individuals who are responsible for activities prior to an institution receiving a grant; activities may include locating funding opportunities for Principal Investigators (PIs), developing budgets, submitting applications to funders, etc.), "post-award" (tracking spending, completing and submitting progress reports, etc.), and positions responsible for both pre- and post-award activities ("consolidated," "lifecycle"). Additionally, some individuals may specialize in research compliance (assuring compliance with human or animals subjects regulations, export controls, conflict of interest, etc.), training, clinical trials research administration, or electronic research administration ("eRA"; working with electronic systems for the management of grants and sponsored research. The majority of respondents fell into one of the three largest categories: Pre-award (394; 24.7%), post-award (323; 20.3%), or lifecycle (777; 48.8%).


 

 

Respondents were asked to provide information about their institution: What type of institution do they work for (public; private, non-profit; private for-profit; or city, state, or federal government). Note that some respondents may have classified themselves as government workers who work for institutions owned or operated in tandem with a government agency (public-private hybrid model). The majority of NCURA members are located at universities and the number of government worker responses is unexpected.

The majority of respondents work for institutions located in an urban setting (1015; 62.9%) versus a suburban (401; 24.9%) or rural (197; 12.2%) one.

For the survey, respondents were asked their organization's geographic location, divided into regions. The regions are:

  • New England (ME, NH, VT, CT, MA, RI) - 206 respondents
  • Mideast (NY, NJ, DE, PA, DC, MD) - 267 respondents
  • Great Lakes (WI, MI, OH, IN, IL) - 190 respondents
  • Plains (ND, MN, SD, IA, NE, KS, MO) - 112 respondents
  • Southeast (WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, AR, TN, KY) - 347 respondents
  • Southwest (AZ, NM, OK, TX) - 193 respondents
  • Rocky Mountain (MT, ID, WY, UT, CO) - 72 respondents
  • West (AK, CA, HI, NV, OR, WA) - 207 respondents
  • U.S. Territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands) - 1 respondent
  • International (outside of United States and US territories) - 22 respondents

A small minority of respondents work at an institution in a US Territory or outside of the United States. As such, charts sorted by region will exclude US Territory and International responses.

 

Major Takeaways

 

The majority of respondents felt that telework had an overall positive impact on their organization. Of the 1,617 respondents who answered this question, 1,327 felt telework had a positive impact, 78 felt it had a negative impact, 80 felt it had no impact, and 132 were unsure of what impact telework had on their organization, if any. Little variation was found when this question was analyzed through the lens of position type (leadership level, director level, manager level, staff level) or research administration specialization (pre-award, post-award, lifecycle; due to the small n for other specialties, variations were only charted for these main 3 divisions). Charts for these breakdowns is available in the PDF report.

 

 

Over half of the respondents indicated they would change their job or place of employment for greater work arrangement flexibility than what their employer currently offers. Of the 1,617 responses to this question, 933 (57.7%) indicated they would change jobs while 347 (21.46%) would not do so. The remaining 337 (20.84%) were unsure whether they would do so.

All position types expressed willingness to change jobs or employers; over 50% of respondents in each group indicated they would do so for greater work arrangement flexibility. Those in leadership positions (those who indicated their job position was "Research Administration Senior Leadership: Provost/Vice Provost, Associate/Assistant Vice Provost, President, Vice President, Assistant/Associate Vice President, Dean, Associate/Assistant Dean") had the least amount of uncertainty; 57.73% of leadership level respondents would change jobs for greater flexibility, 37.27% would not, and 10.0% were uncertain whether or not they would. All other position types had at least 20% of respondents indicate they were uncertain (Director level - 23.04%, Manager level - 21.94%, Staff level - 20.13%).

The report collected comments from respondents at the end of the survey (and this question was the last one asked prior to this comment box). In these comments, some respondents who selected "no" for this question provided more nuanced responses; some indicated they were close to retirement and/or were close to being fully vested in pensions. Others indicated that they selected "no" because their employer already offers a high level of flexibility. Some of the respondent comments are included in the PDF report.

 

 

A Summary Report for the Remote Work Survey can be found here.