Mason Lauded in Great Colleges to Work For Survey

Posted: July 7, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: July 7, 2009 at 8:48 am

Mason's telework policy, which allows John Creuziger, above to work remotely from Florida, was cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education's survey.

Mason's flexible work policy, which allows John Creuziger, above, to work remotely from Florida, was cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education's survey. Photo courtesy of John Creuziger

By Catherine Ferraro

For the second year in a row, Mason was named one of the “Great Colleges to Work For” in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey. This year, Mason scored highly in 13 different categories, three more than in 2008.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For program recognizes colleges for specific best practices and policies. This year, Mason was one of 122 four-year colleges recognized in 26 different categories regarding work environment issues.

The results of the survey, which were published in the Chronicle’s July 6 online edition (they will appear in the July 10 print edition), are based on responses from nearly 41,000 administrators, faculty and staff members at the institutions.

In the survey results, Mason was recognized as having the best practices and policies in the following categories:

  • Job Satisfaction
  • Healthy Faculty-Administration Relations: Senior leadership communicates with and respects faculty members.
  • Collaborative Governance: Faculty members are appropriately involved in decisions related to academic programs.
  • Supervisor-Department Chair Relationship: Supervisor makes expectations clear and solicits ideas.
  • Vacation or Paid Time Off
  • Life Insurance
  • Professional/Career Development Programs: Employees are given the opportunity to develop skills and understand requirements to advance in their careers.
  • Work-Life Balance: Policies give employees the flexibility to manage their personal lives.
  • Internal Communications: Ideas are fully considered and issues debated for better results.
  • Perception of and Confidence in Fair Treatment
  • Respect and Appreciation
  • Policies, Resources and Efficiency
  • Honor Roll (institutions cited most often in the survey)

Feeling Respected and Appreciated

While the slumping economy has created a tough time for everyone, survey results indicate that administrators, professors and staff members remain upbeat about their jobs and employers.

According to Mason administrators, the university is committed to ensuring its faculty and staff members feel respected and appreciated. Providing employees with meaningful and rewarding work and the support of senior administration are some of the contributing factors.

Mason also pays attention to how values and ideals are communicated and uses vehicles such as town hall meetings, University Life Core Values, E-Files and the Mason Gazette to keep faculty and staff connected.

“Our goal at Mason is to have a creative environment where expertise is shared across departments and disciplines,” says President Alan Merten. “Our faculty and staff make Mason a great place to work and learn.”

Believing that there are many ways to thank employees for a job well done, Mason holds a variety of formal and informal recognition ceremonies to show its appreciation for hard work. Some of these include Outstanding Achievement Awards events in the spring and fall, University Day Service Awards and Employee of the Month ceremonies.

In addition, recognition of faculty and staff can be immediate through both monetary and nonmonetary awards, including gift cards, Mason socks and beach towels, to name just a few.

Creating a Work-Life Balance

Recognizing Mason’s commitment to work-life balance, a separate article in the same issue notes that approximately 693 Mason employees take advantage of one of the university’s flexible work options, including telework, flextime, compressed schedules, remote work, job sharing and alternate work schedules.

Mason has had a formal flexible work policy in place since 2002 and allows employees to adjust their work schedule to something other than the traditional workday. With their supervisor’s approval, some employees can also arrange to work at home or on an alternate campus that is closer to home for a portion of the workweek.

“It’s a very competitive market around here, so we try to create a flexible work environment,” Linda Harber, associate vice president for Human Resources and Payroll (HR), says in the article.

“Initially, many employees are hesitant to explore flexible work options, but thanks to a push from Mason President Alan Merten, more departments have been willing to try the options in recent years.”

Summer Flex, which provides departments with an opportunity to “test drive” flexible work options,  is under way until Aug. 15

Some of the other ways Mason employees can balance their work and life schedules are by taking advantage of the cultural and recreational discounts on the campuses. Employees receive special pricing at Patriot Center events, including basketball season tickets, as well as for subscriptions to performances at the Center for the Arts.

Mason also offers activities to keep employees involved in university life. These include the Faculty Senate and the Staff Senate, recreational sports teams, informal book clubs and support groups for working mothers, military families and elder caregivers.

Wellness by Mason, a new program for faculty, staff and students, focuses on wellness, exercise and preventative screening. The program is centered on getting people moving, setting goals and encouraging activity in a noncompetitive way.

Another way to help employees balance work-life is through transportation options. Mason has a creative Parking and Transportation office that oversees an array of free shuttles, van and car pools. The Commuter Choice Program provides up to $230 per month for those full-time employees who use public transportation to get to work.

Developing Personally and Professionally

Mason employees can also take advantage of the wide array of opportunities for personal and professional development provided by HR.

For example, the SUPERvisor Series program provides relatively new Mason supervisors with professional development regarding their responsibilities and duties and helps them navigate human resources issues.

Workplace coaching is another option for faculty and staff members who need help addressing a workplace issue they are facing. The Workplace Coaching Program is staffed by trained Mason employees who help other employees understand both what they expect of others and what others expect of them. They can also serve as a sounding board to help employees process their thoughts.

By offering employees classes and seminars on such topics as health and wellness, personal financial management and leisure time interests, Mason stresses the importance of work-life balance.

Mason was recognized this year in a new category called Honor Roll, which recognizes the institutions, according to their size, that were cited the most in the individual recognition categories.

The Honor Roll designation also singles out Mason’s new residential project, Masonvale. This new community of 157 rental housing units for faculty and staff members will help the university continue to attract and retain a talented workforce.

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