Teachers divided about working from home in September

Some teachers love working from home, while others just want everything to go back to how it was before the pandemic. Photo: Pixabay

What do those teaching in higher education institutions in the Netherlands really think about working from home and online education? Nearly 750 professors and lecturers at five universities (Twente, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Groningen and UvA) and two universities of applied sciences (Fontys and Utrecht) completed the questionnaire.

Two camps
The majority of those polled are still doing all their work from home. Most of them think there’s an upside to that. “I’m going to try to keep working from home one or two days a week if my employer is amenable” is a statement 63 percent can agree with.

The rest are split into two camps: 20 percent of respondents “can’t stand” working from home and want to go back to the campus as soon as possible, while nearly the same number say the opposite: they want to “work from home as much as possible”.

Most expect that e-learning will not disappear completely once the coronavirus pandemic has passed. For 65 percent of respondents, digital education is “a good complement to face-to-face teaching”.

Yet, a substantial number of teachers do not agree with that statement. Of the professors and lecturers surveyed, 28 percent support the statement “higher education has to return to the way it was before the coronavirus crisis”.

That opinions are sharply divided is also evident from the answers to open questions. Some are sick of working from home. “I don’t have the space for a desk at home, so I work at the dining room table, which is making my back problems worse”, one respondent reveals. Others complain about the low level of compensation for working from home and the lack of facilities: “The trouble it took for me to get a desk chair for my home beggars belief.”

Their home situation is a big factor behind their position. In the words of one lecturer, “In the first few weeks of the crisis, an older colleague said with great satisfaction: ‘Now I can finally finish my book!’ And he did, while my partner and I were suddenly saddled with extra childcare duties for two pre-schoolers, extra teaching duties, plus extra cooking, dishwashing and laundry.”

Some are suspicious of the motivations administrators might have for choosing online education. “I suspect that they will try to use the coronavirus situation to ‘solve’ structural problems (such as the lack of office space, lecture halls and so forth).” Some people even distrust the questionnaire itself: “If this survey is just a disguised attempt to expand flexible working in higher education, then, please, spare me.”

Own choices
Others don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and think digital possibilities are not a bad thing. “Online teaching is perhaps not ideal for everyone, but for some people it is. It would be great if teaching faculty had more opportunity to make their own choices in the future. Besides, meetings often work very well online.”