Are Education Companies Asking Employees to Work In-Person, or Remotely?

Staff Writer

About a third of education companies have fully remote workforces, while the majority have some number of employees working away from the office, a new EdWeek Market Brief survey of K-12 businesses reveals.

Those organizations’ policies for remote, hybrid, or in-person work, however, vary greatly by their size.

When asked about the benefits and drawbacks of their current remote-versus-in-person work policies, employees at education organizations say overall workplace morale has improved and expenses have fallen. But organizational culture and mentoring opportunities have taken a hit.

Those are some of the conclusions from the survey of K-12 business officials, included in EdWeek Market Brief’s fourth annual State of the K-12 Industry Report, New Directions in AI, Remote Work, And Workforce Diversity. The online survey was conducted by the EdWeek Research Center in July of 429 education company employees, more than 70 percent of whom are at the executive or managerial level.

In addition to tracking changing work environments, the 62-page report also looks at companies’ actual and projected revenues for the next year, the return they’ve seen on efforts to diversify their workforces, and trends in hiring and company acquisitions. It also includes survey findings on the impact of  culture wars on companies’ products, the effectiveness of their sales and marketing strategies, and how organizations are using artificial intelligence.

The survey found that 34 percent of education company officials say their organizations’ staffs are fully remote. But the report also shows how remote work has become commonplace in many K-12 businesses. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed say that more than half of their organizations’ employees are working away from the office full-time.

While remote work policies appear to be a lasting part of the industry, the report also found some statistically significant differences in how companies of different sizes handle this. Larger companies are much less likely to have staff working fully remotely.

Just 14 percent of organizations with 500 or more employees say they are fully virtual, compared to 61 percent of companies with 10 or fewer employees.

Companies with 49 or fewer employees are also most likely to be entirely remote. Forty two percent of respondents from organizations this size say there work is done entirely away from an office, while 10 percent say they are fully in-person.

The openness among smaller organizations to remote work could be because companies that are in an earlier stage need to be flexible in order to attract talent, the report notes. Or it could point to a broader cultural difference, indicating that there’s less interest in remote work among big, legacy employers.

In some cases, the differences in how remote work is handled also comes down to the types of products or services that a company offers.

The survey found, for example, that companies providing core curriculum are significantly less likely to have more than three quarters of their staff be fully remote (42 percent) than companies that offer professional development as a standalone product (61 percent).

Cambium Learning, a curriculum, assessment, and professional development provider, is one large company that has adopted a remote-first approach for its more than 2,800 employees.

The company’s chief people officer, Melissa May, recently told EdWeek Market Brief that having such a model helps them recruit and retain a more diverse staff.

That approach gives the organization the “opportunity to provide more flexibility and more balance for employees,” she said. “It’s about understanding where people are and meeting them where they are.”

Employee productivity and retention are two areas where survey respondents say they’ve seen a positive impact from their company’s current approach to remove versus in-person work. Around half of respondents, 51 percent, say productivity is increasing while 49 percent say the same about retention. And 52 percent say employee morale has increased.

Additionally, 57 percent say their company’s expenses associated with operating the business have decreased — 20 percent of whom say it fell a lot.

On the flip side, representatives from education companies say these policies are also negatively impacting their culture and the quality of mentoring.

About a third of respondents, 32 percent, say the strength of their organizational culture has declined, while 45 percent say the quality of mentoring for colleagues new to the organization or field has slipped.

Image by Getty

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