During the pandemic, UC Berkeley staff schedules were uprooted in the transition to working online, exposing numerous inequalities as people struggled to develop a manageable work-life balance.
“The pandemic has put us in a position where we’re seeing that any inequities we already had are exacerbated when we’re on the virtual platform,” said Katrina Pantig, learning and development strategist for campus’s Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, or DEIB.
Campus recognized the 2021-22 academic year to be transformative as administrators transition to a new normal and support staff after the pandemic, according to the UC Berkeley People & Culture website. As part of the transition, Eugene Whitlock, chief people and culture officer and associate vice chancellor for human resources, said in an email that campus has introduced workshops and programs centered around staff well-being.
Through the Be Well at Work program, UC Berkeley has provided a series of workshops for employees to focus on their mental health, offering guided meditation or strategies to preserve wellness in the workplace, according to campus’s University Health Services website.
Pantig recognized the psychological toll caused by the stress of working at home due to the rapid changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are times when I’m more tired than I used to be, having to manage multiple responsibilities, including personal matters as well as being as supportive as I can to my colleagues,” Pantig said.
Moving forward, Whitlock said campus is now offering flexible work arrangements for employees. The arrangements provide the possibility for employees to work remotely, have flexible in-person hours or participate in a hybrid of both in-person and virtual teaching.
Flexible work arrangements have been adopted in hopes of maintaining employees’ well-being and helping them establish a sustainable balance between work and home life, Pantig added.
Faculty working schedules are expected to fluctuate while staff adapts to the in-person learning environment.
“The only thing that is predictable is that it will be unpredictable as we experiment with Flexible Work Arrangements,” Whitlock said in the email. “We do know that many people will return to onsite work, either 100% of the time or on a hybrid. However, as compared to prior to the pandemic, we will have more employees working with a Flexible Work Arrangement.”
Flexible work arrangements also have the potential to promote diversity in terms of hiring, according to the UC Berkeley People & Culture website, as it would reduce commute time or enable the hiring of people who may not be able to afford campus-adjacent housing.
Campus created flexible work arrangements with diversity and equity in mind, the website adds. Through the arrangements, Pantig said the campus hopes to promote affinity among workers and support members of the community who are BIPOC and may struggle from additional racial stressors in the workplace.
“For communities that have been marginalized, it’s not uncommon for them to say they’re more comfortable being at home, so they don’t have to deal with interpersonal, racialized interactions,” Pantig said. “However, for those who have been struggling with working from home, the option to go back is certainly beneficial.”