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How AU Works AU's new way of work starting in fall 2021 and into the future

Fall 2021 won't be like fall 2020, but not like fall 2019 either

Beginning August 2021, American University is implementing a new way of working based on learnings from the past year and new workplace approaches to advance our mission, serve our students, and support our staff. Many staff members will work some days on-campus and some days from a remote location in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia region (DMV). This is referred to as a hybrid work environment that combines the elements of remote work with the benefits of campus presence. Our new way of work is part of the University’s commitment to increase staff satisfaction, retention, and productivity. It is how AU works now and in the future.

Keys to success

A hybrid work environment is different from how AU has worked in the past. Staff and supervisors need to approach hybrid work with intentionality. Intentionally doesn’t just mean setting schedules based on university needs and job functions. It means developing norms, expectations, and structures around working in a hybrid work environment.

Together, we will support our students, our learning and research, AU’s business functions, and each other to make this new way of work successful in the long term. 

How it works

Each full-time and part-time staff member will be assigned one of four working modalities based on the position’s job duties, the University’s needs, and the department’s operational requirements.  

Full campus presence modality

Physical presence positions require an on-campus presence five days a week.  

Hybrid work modality

Hybrid positions work a set number of days each week onsite and remotely the balance of the time. 

All hybrid schedules include one Core Day requirement when all members of the whole unit, or subgroups/team are together in the office in person, beginning in spring 2022. However, department heads have discretion to implement a core day In fall 2021 for their unit or team.

One of our lessons learned is that some critical aspects of a healthy work community cannot be replicated in a fully remote environment. The University believes it is essential for teams to come together on a regular basis to connect in person, build community, enjoy opportunities for the social and spontaneous aspects of work, strengthen our teams, and collaborate in ways that are not as easy when virtual.

Full Campus Presence

5 days per week on campus.

Schedule options

May include compressed work week and flex hour.

Hybrid 1

3 or 4 days per week on campus, including one core day + 1 or 2 days per week remote.

Schedule options

  1. Staff taking a regular day remote with one day set as core day (e.g., team members take Mon, Tues, Thur, or Fri as remote on a regular basis, with Wed as the core day).

  2. Staff working on campus on alternating schedules (e.g., remote day varies by week or month). 

May include compressed work week and flex hours.

Hybrid 2

2 days per week on campus, including one core day + 3 days per week remote.

Schedule options

  1. Staff working on campus on regular staggered schedules (e.g., some Mon/Wed, Tue/Wed, etc. with Wed as the core day).
  2. Staff working on campus on alternating schedules (e.g., vary by week or month). 

May include compressed work week and flex hours.

Hybrid 3

One core day per week on campus + 4 days per week remote.

Schedule options

May include compressed work week and flex hours.

Note: Few staff (likely under 5%) will fall into this category, based on their job function (such as required regular travel). The overarching target for staff is at least 2 days per week on campus.

Who can work remotely

Eligibility for a hybrid modality is based on the operating needs of the University, individual departments, and whether a particular job can be done remotely. The University’s goal is to make the process as transparent and consistent as possible for positions that have similar duties. Basing remote work schedules on job tasks rather than personal preferences or performance reduces the chances that managers will grant access unevenly to positions with similar duties resulting in a feeling of unequal treatment or unfairnessThe University’s goals is to treat like positions in a similar way. Factors including staffing levels, space and peak work periods for the department enter into the planning, so not all similar positions will have the same schedule – some may have a day of remote eligibility, while others may work remotely two days or more per week.

It is important to remember that employees are responsible for their performance wherever they work, and department heads retain the right to make changes as needed to support their teams and the University or department’s goals. The goal is to have a common approach to determine the hybrid work modality most suited for each position based on the needs of the university and job duties. 

Hybrid 1, 2 or 3

The University has developed a process and transparent criteria for all units to use to make their decisions through a fair and equitable approach. In general, staff positions eligible for remote work have similar characteristics, but those denoted as Full Campus Presence or Hybrid 1 have a greater degree of those characteristics. Six of the most essential characteristics that the University considers are the degree to which a staff position:

  1. Is responsible for face-to-face, walk-in, scheduled or unscheduled advisory or customer service to students, faculty, staff or external customers.
  2. Requires the use of equipment or tools only available onsite.
  3. Requires a visual inspection of work in order to assess performance or ensure health, safety, security or quality standards.
  4. Licensing, accreditation or other compliance requires an onsite presence.
  5. Requires direct supervision, including frequent check-ins and collaboration.
  6. Involves supervision of staff whose presence is required.

There is no single rule or bright line on how much of each of these characteristics is required to draw the distinction between full presence, or mostly or primarily remote work. Departments may try an approach for a period (e.g., the fall 2021 semester) to determine the effectiveness and how it impacts staff performance, satisfaction, and fulfillment of goals. It is important to understand that the modality may change in order to meet University or department needs. 

Process and timeline

  • President Burwell notified staff of the fall work planning effort and hybrid work modalities on April 26, 2021.
  • Fall Planning Working Group developed a plan and vetted it with campus stakeholders including Staff Council and other campus groups in April – May 2021.
  • A survey of staff was conducted in April to learn more about their experience with remote work over the last year.
  • Focus groups were held in May to gather additional insights into how to successfully launch the hybrid work environment. 
  • AU launched departmental level planning on June 1.
  • AU departments will submit their fall plans to HR by June 18.
  • A Town hall for staff is scheduled for June 22 to review the hybrid work environment framework, process, and implementation.
  • Through early July, HR will work with units on their plans, including ensuring equitable treatment for similar positions.
  • Staff will be notified of new working arrangements by their manager by July 16.
  • Supervisor training will be held starting in mid-July.
  • AU will transition to on-campus presence within the new hybrid modalities, which begin on August 16.

Contact for more information.

What is AU’s dress code for faculty and staff in the Fall 2021?   

At AU, all faculty and staff are expected to dress in a professional manner that aligns with the nature of their role at the university and their individual function at any given time. Staff who work in certain university positions, such as  facilities and public safety, are provided with uniforms. For other positions, in general, business casual dress is appropriate. Business casual dress generally includes shirts with collars, business casual tops and shirts, blouses, and polo shirts. Casual slacks, trousers, skirts, dresses, and jeans are appropriate but does not include shorts. Casual slip-on or tie shoes, boots, dress sandals, and athletic shoes are appropriate.  

Traditional business attire may be expected when meeting with parents, alumni, or external organizations. Although it is impossible and undesirable to establish a universally applicable dress code given the range of roles and functions at AU, the university will apply a reasonable and professional workplace standard. An employee who is unsure of what is appropriate should check with their manager or supervisor.