The Future of RISD Work

During the COVID-19 pandemic, much of RISD’s staff were required to work remotely to reduce the spread of the virus. As we enter a post-pandemic world, RISD recognizes that the nature of the workplace has changed. Starting September 1, 2021, RISD will pilot a program to foster a more flexible, productive and efficient workplace based on the lessons learned from the past year. 

RISD is a Place-Based Institution

RISD’s guiding philosophy: As a place-based institution with a commitment to providing a transformative residential educational experience, we anticipate that most employees will return to in-person, on-campus work to ensure the highest level of service to and engagement with students, faculty and each other. Yet, RISD also supports increased flexibility depending on the nature and requirements of the work.

Flexible Work Pilot Program

Over the next six months RISD will pilot a program that allows for flexible arrangements across administrative departments that are mutually agreed upon between managers and employees.

A consistent and equal framework has been developed for managers and their Cabinet-level supervisors on how to develop a comprehensive pilot work plan for their area. The outcome, however, will not be a “one size fits all” model across RISD. Arrangements will be specific to the nature of each department’s work and in line with mission of the institution.

Timeline and Process

Considerations for Flexible Work Plans

The following considerations will be taken by leadership when assessing whether flexible work arrangements can be increased and extended during the pilot program:

  1. RISD’s guiding philosophy and division plans related to remote work
  2. The operational needs and services provided by the department including the impact flexible arrangements will have on quality and consistency of service to students, campus partners, and other constituencies
  3. The core responsibilities of each employee, the nature of each position and it’s suitability for remote/hybrid work
  4. Each employee’s ability to work successfully in a hybrid or remote fashion
  5. Specific needs or support required to successfully manage department operations if staff are working in a hybrid/remote mode

Evaluation and Long-term Planning

RISD will conduct a formal evaluation of the pilot in January and February of 2022 to understand the benefits of a flexible working environment as well as the challenges. Areas of focus will include: 

  • Impact on organizational success and achievement of goals
  • Employee and supervisor satisfaction
  • Communication
  • Impact on work/life balance
  • Work environment
  • Performance management
  • Manager effectiveness
  • Commuting
  • Workspace adequacy
  • Information technology
  • Equity among employees and departments

The task force will be reassembled to conduct this evaluation led by the Office of Human Resources with long-term recommendations made to Cabinet by March 1, 2022.

Guidelines and Forms 

Hybrid and remote employees will need certain equipment to be successful in their work.

  1. Computers: all employees will have RISD owned laptops managed through the RISD computer replacement program.
  2. WiFi: employees are expected to have access to WiFi or a personal hotspot that is reliable and of adequate bandwidth to connect to the RISD network and participate in virtual meetings.
  3. Phone: RISD will provide phone access via Zoom to be used on a personal handheld device or through their RISD laptop.
  4. Printers: RISD will not normally fund home print devices, paper or ink/toner. Employees can print documents when they come to campus.
  5. Peripherals: in certain cases peripheral equipment may be required such as microphones/headsets, monitors, keyboards, etc. ITS will maintain a list of preferred equipment and departments can fund on a case by case basis upon approval of their divisional Vice President.

Expectations of employees:

  • RISD work is to be performed on RISD equipment
  • RISD computers should be kept secure when not in use
  • Virtual Private Networking (VPN) is required to connect to the RISD network

RISD will provide training on use of VPN and other security measures, as well as software such as Zoom, Canvas, Zoom Phone, Series 25 and others.

Meeting spaces that can accommodate in-person with remote participation will be identified and available to schedule in Series 25.

RISD will not invest in significant reconfigurations of space or furniture for the pilot phase of the program.

The expectation is for each department to run the pilot with the facilities they have and identify opportunities for potential reconfiguration of space for the assessment in January-February, 2022. These opportunities could be shared office/workspaces, meeting spaces and changes in location of work.

RISD has approximately 141,000 square feet of office space that it maintains. As we look to the long-term work strategy after the pilot phase, we will assess opportunities to share and reconfigure space, possible office consolidations and the possibility for repurposing space that becomes free.

These options for space to support hybrid working should be considered:

“Hoteling” model 

  • Groups of desks/offices provided for scheduled use when on campus
  • Provide employees with laptops for office or remote use
  • Provide centrally located office equipment (printers, scanners, etc.)
  • Provide private storage space for personal files, etc.
  • Note: at a minimum, this will require a scheduling tool to implement, e.g. 25 Live

Desk/office sharing model

  • To be shared by two or more employees on alternate/different days (or alternating schedules)
  • Provide bookable office space for privacy or use when unexpectedly on campus

Remote Office

Employees are expected to maintain an appropriate work area to limit distractions.

Fewer people coming to campus will help with RISD’s sustainability efforts. For those employees who need to come to campus, RISD will not charge for parking permits during the pilot period, however, employees will need to obtain a parking hang tag from the Department of Public Safety to access RISD parking areas. RISD will continue to encourage the use of public transportation (RIPTA, Amtrak, Commuter Rail) when practicable to reduce single vehicle commuting. Coordination of work schedules will be needed to maximize the impact on parking.

RISD is currently developing a strategy to comply with state regulations for employees who are working in a hybrid or fully remote mode addressing issues of taxation, worker’s compensation, minimum wage, paid time off, family leave and other regulations.

To minimize compliance concerns and cost to comply, RISD will be limiting the states for employees to work from to the following:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Maine
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New Hampshire
  5. New York
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Vermont


Flexible Work Resources

For Managers

For Staff

Frequently Asked Questions

Hybrid or remote work arrangements are not a substitute for family care arrangements and it is expected that the time of day designated as work time is focused on job responsibilities and that others are attending to family care arrangements during that time.

Since the services provided by each department, the nature of each position and its suitability for remote/hybrid work are factors in alternative work arrangements, existing agreements do not automatically transfer to the new department. Staff should explore with their new supervisor the potential for an alternative work arrangement.
Yes, and all RISD policies continue to apply including the expectation to report all hours worked and to obtain supervisory approval prior to working beyond scheduled hours and/or overtime hours.

The staff member should discuss their desire to return to work on campus with their supervisor and ideally, in advance of their desired return date.