Follow-up: Strategic Listening Post

May 6, 2020

 Dear Colleagues,

We are inspired by all of you who have stepped up and continued to support Yale’s mission and make progress on our goals during these challenging times.

To better understand what is on employees’ minds, we conducted a Strategic Listening Post exercise last week with a random sample of staff from across Operations. Over two days, participants shared feedback on how they and their teams were doing, what it’s like to work remotely, and what they think we should know. We are grateful for the participation and insights.

Below are some of our takeaways, including some representative comments that captured the sentiment.

Employees have found ways to adapt and contribute meaningful work, regardless of the circumstances.

  • “I’m grateful for the adaptability of our team. The department has been able to restructure and keep staff on a rotating schedule to limit our time on campus while still supporting critical operations.”
  • “My team remains highly engaged in spite of moving to a distance work environment. They are adapting to the rapidly changing work and I truly believe this experience will make our team stronger in the end.”

We were impressed by the numerous examples of employees trying new ways of working. They hope—as do we—that we’ll carry our newfound agility and innovation forward.

  • “I love my work at Yale. Due to COVID-19 my department is learning how to process work differently. Every change has brought a new savings with it, either in time or direct dollars spent on expenses such as paper.”
  • “The current situation has magnified the importance of moving from a manual / paper invoicing process to an electronic one. This process has also opened up discussion about internal controls and how to effectively balance roles and access across departments. In many ways, the current situation has opened up communication that would have otherwise been bypassed and allowed for cross-departmental collaboration. This is something that should continue to develop moving forward as the insight and knowledge provided has been enlightening and invaluable.”

We heard you loud and clear that the adjustment to working from home, for many employees, has been successful and that we should broaden flexible work arrangements.

  • “I think the availability of work from home days can reduce commute time and burnout without reducing productivity. With minimal interruption, I find I can accomplish much more focused, detailed work from home than on site in a busy operation. Also, Zoom meetings tend to start and end on time without the wasted time of gathering in a shared location and taking operations managers out of their workspace, so these should continue.”
  • “Things are going very well when it comes to flexible work schedules, being adaptable, and utilizing technology like Zoom to stay connected and be innovative. I didn’t know what to expect while working from home, but am thoroughly impressed with the amount of Yale resources that have been made available virtually (e.g., Fitstyle workshops, Being Well mindful movement in the morning, emotional intelligence webinars, self-defense courses, happy hours, wellness check-ins, career development forum).”

We were encouraged by the many employees who shared examples of “silver linings” and want to ensure that we acknowledge and build on these recent experiences.

  • “It has always been common to see things done a certain way simply because we have always done it that way. I think everyone being forced to adapt to a completely new and different way of working will result in an environment where people are less resistant to change and more confident in their ability to find new and innovative ways to perform their work. This is just a feeling based on how it seems Yale has responded to the shift to remote working so well.”
  • “Yale exists on over 300 years of tradition, which makes it such an incredibly rich and rewarding place to work. And, I hope that we walk away from this current situation recognizing that CHANGE IS GOOD and that WE CAN DO things differently, while honoring the past that brought us here.”

Understandably, nearly all respondents mentioned health and safety in their responses.

  • “Make the health of students and staff the top priority and figure out the rest as needed.”

A number of committees, each chaired by staff in the Provost’s office, are looking at how best to reopen Yale. In all aspects of planning, we will continue to follow the principle that the safety of staff, students, and faculty is paramount. One of the committees is comprised of Yale’s public health experts, who will guide us on when it is safe to open.  We will know more over the next few weeks about when it might be possible, and how we would start to bring staff back to campus. Thinking about how we can continue flexibility in our work practices will be part of the planning, and lessons learned about being open to new ways of working will be particularly critical as we face financial challenges throughout campus. The committees will report back to Scott Strobel and to Jack, and we will share updates with you as we learn more.

Thank you again for the abundance of valuable input you provided, and we will be good stewards of your experiences and ideas.

Jack Callahan
Senior Vice President of Operations

Janet Lindner
Vice President for Human Resources & Administration