Well, here we go. We have found the worst policy to come out of higher ed during a pandemic. (Although, this working mom points out it would have also been awful during The Before.) Behold: Florida State University bans parenting during remote working. Now, before I tear this apart: I’ve seen a couple of different explanations of how this unfolded (none of which is anything but outrage- & what-the-hell-worthy!). But one explanation was that it’s just a reminder of their regular telecommuting policy that requires parents who are working from home to have childcare. My employer actually has that exact same policy; they just haven’t taken the cruel step to remind us of it during a bleeping pandemic, when already stressed-to-the-max parents have no alternative. The other explanation I’ve seen is that the story is misunderstood. That this policy applies only to staff…and only to staff who cannot do their jobs remotely. No matter how many explanations FSU offers, outrage and condemnation remain the lasting impression of this news. And that’s no surprise, and in fact, deserved. But here’s the thing. Now, while we can all agree that nobody can get safe childcare right now and that this announcement couldn’t have been handled or timed worse….what I don’t see anyone talking about is how do we expect higher ed employers to handle this as the pandemic continues unabated, long-term? Before you think I have any answer: I don’t. And neither does anyone else. In fact, a viral New York Times story from yesterday did a good job of summing up the issue: In the Covid economy, you can have a job or be a parent. Pick one. Parents like me can advocate. And we should, and loudly. And often. Especially those of us with sufficient career capital to push back on behalf of younger and less experienced peers and colleagues. And employers can continue to operate with grace and patience and tolerance. But for how long do we expect them to do that, as higher eds hemorrhage money and incur increasing costs? My employer has from the beginning made all
When it comes to job searches, a lot of alt-ac clients want to find a job that allows them to at least in part work remotely. I know how important this is for academics in particular.
So today I’m tackling one of the most common questions in my inbox: “Where do I find remote jobs?”
Why Academics Want Remote Jobs
Academics WANT control over their work. Autonomy and independence are some of the biggest reasons for pursuing academia and grad/professional degrees in the first place! We wanted to become experts so that we could exercise greater control over the kinds of work we do. The ability to make choices about what kinds of tasks we take on. The ability to schedule our own workday as we please. That is part of the expected deal. That what comes with deep expertise and authority over one’s subject matter is a more professional level of job.
And these days, most of us are smart enough to realize that there’s often no compelling NEED for us to physically be in the office 5 days a week. (Or at all?!) Between Zoom, Skype, Slack, and I don’t even know what else, can’t we be connected no matter where we are? If dumb #influencers (yeah, I said it!) can work from anywhere, why can’t those of us with highly specialized knowledge and skills be afforded the same courtesy?
Why Academics Need Remote Jobs
And then there’s also very real needs. Many of us alt-acs NEED remote work – for all kinds of reasons. Many academics are members of dual-career households. Many are partners with someone who is faculty and/or otherwise geographically bound. My alt-ac PhD spouse, for instance, specializes in the archaeology of the Colorado Plateau. Even if I find a great job in Minneapolis, that’s not going to work for his career. So should my career suffer when I’ve maxed out my opportunities locally?
Of course I’m all for finding the style and type of work that you need AND want, but I’m afraid I’m here to warn you that there is no great answer to this question.