Changing how we work

By Christopher Harper

Like more and more Americans, I decided to leave the big city and move to the hinterlands, where I can work via computer and save on taxes and housing costs.

Three years ago, I had proposed to my employer, Temple University, that I teach only online. I have taught online classes since 2005 and was good at it.

Unfortunately, my supervisor fought the plan. I challenged the decision throughout the bureaucracy, including a decision to join the teachers’ union. I finally got to teach one class a semester online after I filed a disability claim because of a bad back.

Fast forward to the pandemic. I was advising my colleagues and my college on how to teach online effectively.

Since I only have a few years left before I retire, my wife and I decided to move from Philadelphia to Muncy, Pennsylvania, a town of about 2,400 people in the north-central part of the state.

That move saves us about $1,000 a month on city taxes. Housing is half the cost for twice the space.

Moreover, research has demonstrated that students learn just as effectively online as they do in person. I’ve found that the discussion is far better online than in person because students don’t feel anxious about talking when they’re outside the classroom setting.

I teach asynchronously, which means there aren’t any silly Zoom meetings. I post prepackaged videos and study materials to a website. Students can work on the material at their own pace and refer back to materials they find challenging.

So far, Temple and other universities have not lowered the price for online classes—a reduction that should happen because virtual learning requires fewer buildings, less maintenance, and only a slightly higher increase in technological assistance.

I’m not alone in my desire to continue working from home. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly a quarter of all Americans worked from home during the pandemic. A new Bucknell University Freeman College of Management survey also found that workers over 40 preferred telework. In contrast, younger workers are more likely to return to in-person work when possible. For more information, see https://www.bucknell.edu/sites/default/files/college_of_management/covid-19_telework_study_report.pdf

The survey of 400 people reported other interesting results:

–67% of those surveyed said telework helped improve the quality of their work. 
 –61% noted a productivity improvement.
 –60% said they performed their jobs better.

Coupled with the savings I and others made, I am more than happy to stay at home and continue teaching online. 

Obviously, some industries cannot be restructured for online-only work. But rethinking how we work has been at least one good effect of the pandemic.

2 thoughts on “Changing how we work

  1. have been working remotely since 2015 on a large software project for a major bank here in US … most days my meetings (all voice) have people from at least 4 different states and sometimes more … even the folks in an office will participate from their desks sometimes feet away from someone else also on the meeting at their desk as well … for certain types of work it can be very productive … but remote work is not everyones cup of tea … there is definitely alot of value in the face to face interactions and sense of team that being in an offices creates …

  2. My wife and I have been listening or watching courses from The Great Courses for quite a few years. Mostly religion and history. It has occurred to us that they would be a good way to package a college class. We joke that we have so many Christianity discs that we have a seminary on a shelf. They generally cost less than $50 for a 36 lecture series. The instructors are uniformly good and knowledgable. If something like that were to catch on though, it would drive a stake through the heart of the entire higher education industry so I don’t expect to see it happen anytime soon.

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