Task force chairs answer questions about 'Work Anywhere'

Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain

Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain

Noel Hirst

Noel Hirst

Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, senior director of capital planning and space management in Land, Buildings and Real Estate, and Noel Hirst, manager of finance and facilities for Business Affairs, co-chair the Work Anywhere Task Force. They routinely work in close contact with top administrators in their offices and the offices of the president and provost on major issues related to campus and facilities planning.

Below, Dyer-Chamberlain and Hirst answer some of the most common questions from staff prompted by their presentation on the plan for Stanford's Redwood City campus and the Work Anywhere Task Force:

When was the Work Anywhere Task Force formed and by whom?

"The two of us began talking about the concept of 'Work Anywhere' in the fall of 2005, and with the blessing of Randy Livingston [chief financial officer and vice president for business affairs], Bob Reidy [vice president for land, buildings and real estate] and Provost John Etchemendy, the task force was formed in June 2006. We volunteered to lead this effort together because we felt that it would be critical in our planning for future campus locations, particularly Redwood City."

What does the concept of Work Anywhere entail?

"Work Anywhere is all about developing tools for employees. It's about new technologies, policies and practices that enable collaboration and other work between different Stanford locations, between those locations and home, and really, anywhere there is a device and a connection. Work Anywhere allows us to make choices and manage our time. It helps with work-life balance and provides flexibility and degrees of freedom in the workplace."

What set this into motion?

"We first learned about Work Anywhere by researching what our neighboring employers in Silicon Valley are doing to give workers the flexibility that they need. Sun Microsystems and many others have had these programs in place for some time. We heard that Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland was piloting such a program, and Margaret visited with them to see what it was all about. Some of our other peers in higher education are thinking along the same lines. But generally speaking, the Work Anywhere concept is newer in higher education than it is in the corporate world."

Will the task force report any results or make any recommendations?

"Yes, the task force is working on a variety of deliverables, including standard workplace options for Work Anywhere; mobile technology 'toolkits' and support models; information security policies and practices; new university policies for all of the above; and training for employees and managers."

When will these results be communicated, and to whom will they pertain?

"We have been making presentations around campus about Work Anywhere over the last few months. We have talked with the University Management Group, with TIPS [Team to Improve Productivity at Stanford] and with a range of staff in Business Affairs and Land, Buildings and Real Estate in 'town halls' and other gatherings.

"We will begin piloting the Work Anywhere program in the fall; and in fact, we already are doing this with the move of the School of Medicine to the SRI campus in Menlo Park. You will hear much more about the program in the fall quarter, as we develop more detailed training and planning."

If non-academic offices such as Payroll or the Benefits Department—both currently in the Serra complex—move off campus, how can the university ensure that accessing their services won't be more difficult for employees?

"We have just completed a survey for all of the Serra complex occupants, as well as the rest of Business Affairs, which will give us data about how offices such as Payroll and Benefits work with campus customers and how their work might be impacted by relocation. We have not yet determined exactly which offices might move off campus and which will need campus locations. You will hear more from us about this in the fall."

Is Stanford looking at relocating university business offices instead of academic ones just because they aren't directly involved with teaching, learning and research?

"We are at such an exciting and vibrant period in Stanford's history that we need to work to dedicate more space on the main campus to teaching, learning and research. What this means for those of us who support the academic side is that we have the chance to make a difference by freeing up space for our colleagues. And hand in hand with this, we have the opportunity to think creatively and innovatively about how we work and how we might like to improve the way we work."

Are Stanford's faculty, students and academic researchers being asked to make accommodations as well, so that they are doing their part to make the most efficient use of floor space on the main campus?

"Absolutely. In a collaborative effort with the Budget Office, Margaret has worked for the last 18 months on the development of a 'space charge,' which will charge the schools of Humanities and Sciences, Education, Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Law, and the offices of the Dean of Research and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education for the floor space they use. The goal of the charge is to make everyone aware that space is not an unlimited resource and to provide a financial incentive to use space on campus as efficiently as possible. Margaret and her Capital Planning and Space Management team also conduct detailed studies of how space is used on campus on a regular basis. Her team works closely with schools and programs to make improvements that lead to better use of space."

What if the people who we usually serve are used to actually walking into our office? It's not our fault that the university is moving us off campus.

"Working from a number of campus locations, and from off-site locations, already happens for several groups on campus, particularly for those in the School of Medicine. This will be a change for many of us, and we will inform the campus about the change and about how to manage it. We will have training sessions that deal with specific issues and help us along the way."

If the Work Anywhere Task Force is discussing flexible work schedules and locations, how will it be made clear which employees will be allowed to work off campus or from home?

"This will be developed as the Work Anywhere program policies are finalized. Employees and managers will agree to flexible work plans together, and will set up guidelines and communication tools to facilitate their work processes."

Have all the decisions already been made about who will be moving and what other workplace changes will take place, or do staff still have a chance to have their questions and concerns taken into consideration?

"Not all decisions have been made, and we welcome input, ideas and concerns. We have already heard a lot of great ideas in the town hall sessions we have held. The survey that we mentioned will help us to make decisions. Survey results will be communicated later in the summer, as they are tabulated. We will continue to communicate in town halls and other settings as well."

Feedback for the task force may be submitted by e-mail to work_anywhere_facilities@lists.stanford.edu.