Jessica Pfeiffer, Wayne State University
As the world turned inside out, new ways of living, working, teaching, and learning were forced to emerge. Although academia has slowly progressed toward online education for some time, the Covid-19 pandemic pushed many to take the plunge without a parachute. This has left students worried about their coursework, instructors struggling to create engaging online environments, and advisors reimagining how to stay connected to students and their colleagues. Additionally, the line between work and home has become blurred giving new meaning to work-life integration. I find myself scrolling through emails from my couch well into the evening, as well as enjoying the ability to have breakfast with my son when he wakes in the morning.
Despite any challenges, the pandemic has bulldozed a path for innovative practices that has shaped the future of advising and has changed the way we work for the foreseeable future. Students are now being advised through video conferencing and screen sharing, and although technology-enabled advising is not a new concept, the pandemic advanced the agenda based on necessity. The immediate move to a virtual world provided a broad range of new and innovative tools, as well as an unexpected pilot program to prove advising could be offered successfully online.
Life after the pandemic will undoubtedly take new forms and involve the continued use of educational technology. This means faculty and staff will need to stay current on trends and best practices for student success in a more permanent hybrid environment. Although the current generation grew up in the digital age, education and advising primarily remained face-to-face prior to the pandemic. Students were compelled to evolve their perception of learning and interaction, just as instructors adapted their content delivery and advisors their appointment format. However, institutions of higher education will not only need to continue to understand digital learning environments in this new era; the need to engage students immersed in educational technology at a younger age will greatly impact recruitment and advising practices.
These changes will ultimately affect how administrators view office policies for increased flexibility and accessibility that benefit both students and advisors. The advising community should prepare for a continued shift in appointment hours and format to accommodate busy students accustomed to virtual platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. This could either create advisor burnout or encourage work-family enrichment depending on the administration and expectations.
As a mom of a toddler working remotely full-time, finding work-life balance has often been difficult. At first I thought drawing clear lines would make it easier: don’t answer emails before 8:30am, maintain the evenings for family time only, limit work to my home office. I quickly realized these boundaries were stressing me out more than alleviating my anxiety. For me, embracing the marriage of work and family proved to bring the balance and enrichment needed in my life. I may be certifying degrees at 9pm or checking emails from my phone all day, but it’s well-worth it to be able to make dinner at 5pm rather than rush to pick my son up from daycare and spend 2 hours with him before bedtime.
This may not work for everyone though, so administrators will need to understand the needs of their advisors on a continuous basis. Some policies and procedures to consider include:
Flexible Work Arrangements. This aspect is crucial to the development of a supportive culture that offers flexible work schedules, compressed workweeks, and telework that can foster work-family enrichment for parents and caregivers. Collins (2019) found that many women, in particular, expressed a desire for more work flexibility because the lack of flexibility created significant work-family conflict.
Early Release Incentives. This option consists of allowing advisors to leave early on select Fridays or the day before holiday closures. Leaving at 4:00pm or 4:30pm instead of 5pm may seem slight, but can mean a great deal to staff and emphasize the value of work-life balance. McClellan (2014) explained leaders can promote a culture of trust by establishing a shared purpose, vision, and value system for the organization. This transformational approach to leadership allows administrators to build a connection that results in increased motivation and morality (Amanchukwu et al., 2015).
Regular Wellness Checks. This is simple. Administrators should check-in with staff to ensure everything is going well. This provides an opportunity for administrators to connect with their team and make adjustments to suit both office and advisor needs, such as workload and flexible arrangements. According to Amanchukwu et al. (2015), one of the key principles of leadership is to “know your employees and look out for their well-being” (p. 9). A similar concept known as personal management interviews (PMIs) consist of discussions that range in focus from professional goals to time management and personal concerns (McClellan, 2014). McClellan (2014) stated “these interviews significantly contribute to performance as well as improved morale, trust, and engagement” (para. 8).
The Covid-19 pandemic has shined a light on the ongoing struggle for work-life balance and the successful implementation of remote work in higher education. This is the opportune time for organizations to revise policies accordingly based on adapted workplace practices and advanced technological resources.
Academic Services Officer III
Office of Student Affairs
Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Wayne State University
Amanchukwu, R. N., Stanley, G. J., & Ololube, N. P. (2015). A review of leadership theories, principles and styles and their relevance to educational management. Management, 5(1), 6–14.
Collins, C. (2019). Making motherhood work: How women manage careers and caregiving. Princeton University Press.
McClellan, J. L. (2014). Promoting trust through effective advising administration. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 16. https://doi.org/10.26209/mj1661261
Cite this article using APA style as: Pfeiffer, J. (2021, June). Advising in the new world: The importance of work-life balance in a changing educational climate. Academic Advising Today, 44(2). [insert url here]