Presence v. Productivity (Employee Considerations)

If you are a productive higher education professional who is challenged by having to adhere to the traditional work schedule (i.e. Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), you are not alone.    In today’s world of flextime and high technology, including telecommuting, distance learning, and the cell phone, you might wonder why your adherence to such a rigid schedule is as important as it might have been in the past.  Universities, who are typically vanguards of change based on their own research advances, might be expected to be among the first to embrace the notion that your work performance or productivity is more important than your physical presence at the worksite.   This is often not the case, however.  Universities, I have learned, have traditional workplace expectations for higher education positions.  Meeting those expectations is very important – especially until you establish your reputation as a productive and valuable employee. 

Persons seeking administrative or faculty positions, but are challenged by the proverbial body clock, must be sensitive to and compliant with the needs of their prospective employer.  Be knowledgeable about position responsibilities and non-negotiable expectations.   Should you apply for the type of university position that demands a non-flexible work schedule?  If you accept such a position are you setting yourself up for position failure or career suicide?  Should you discuss your personal challenges with the prospective employer?    How do you demonstrate your capability of making a consistent, valuable contribution to your employer and institution, regardless of your personal challenges?  These are important considerations that should be carefully weighed by every prospective employee.

In addition to performance expectations, there are traditional attendance expectations for college positions.  Two traditional beliefs are:  “The early bird catches the worm,” and “You must lead by example.”  Embrace the tradition or pursue more flexible opportunities.


D. A. Buchanan is a 30-year higher education administrator and a member of the educational leadership graduate faculty of a historically black university in the southeast United States.

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