National Academies Press: OpenBook

Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies (2023)

Chapter: Chapter 6 - Conclusions and Future Research

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Page 44
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 6 - Conclusions and Future Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27235.
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Page 44
Page 45
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 6 - Conclusions and Future Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27235.
×
Page 45
Page 46
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 6 - Conclusions and Future Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27235.
×
Page 46

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44 Conclusions and Future Research This report is intended to present a summary of current practices regarding remote work and the evolution of work strategies at airports. Conclusions can be drawn from the responses gathered to arrive at a state of current practice and provide insight to airports moving forward. These conclusions are the topics of this chapter. 1. Eligibility for remote work. Airports commonly determine employee eligibility for remote work based on the type of work employees perform. Some employees remain on-site and in-person due to the nature of their work and are classified as essential, such as those conducting airfield inspections, ensuring security, and responding to emergencies). Other employees can perform tasks remotely (at home or other off-site locations) and are classified as non-essential, such as those processing accounts payable, managing contracts, and maintaining information technology resources. 2. Technological tools. Rapid advances in cloud computing and technological tools such as webcams enabled significant numbers of airport employees to work remotely during the pandemic. 3. Business continuity. Whether or not an airport had an existing business continuity or crisis plan, airports were confronted with a crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic created a sense of urgency at airports nationwide to consider how to continue operating amid these challenges. Some airports have created a business continuity or crisis plan and have an emergency team structure in place to ensure they are equipped to handle future crises that may cause significant disruption of the business. 4. Essential/Operational employees. Airports benefit from determining a team of essential employees that need to remain at the airport during significant events, including a pandemic. Deciding who is on this team ahead of time minimizes the need to make these staffing decisions “in the moment.” 5. Back to the office. Now that the pandemic is officially over, numerous airports no longer allow employees to work remotely and are requiring all employees to be back in the office. Leadership at these airports generally see greater benefits in face-to-face interaction. 6. Remaining remote. Some airports, recognizing the benefits of remote work to both airports and employees, are continuing to allow “non-essential” employees to work remotely. These airports often have unique considerations for new employees, possibly requiring the new employees work on-site and in-person for the first 9 months to one year before being eligible for remote work, for example. 7. Long-term accommodation of remote employees. As half of employees that have worked remotely at airports may like to continue working remotely, airports may consider how to accommodate these employees in a remote or hybrid fashion for the long term; otherwise, employee retention could be negatively impacted. 8. Enhanced hiring practices. Numerous airports have altered hiring practices for the foreseeable future to allow flexible options, such as conducting virtual interviews. C H A P T E R 6

Conclusions and Future Research 45   9. Generational similarities. Generally, there is no difference among various generations regarding their level of success with remote work. 10. Sustainability of remote work. Almost half of those airports experienced with remote work feel that remote work is sustainable for their airport years into the future. Almost half of employees with remote work experience feel that remote work is sustainable for the long term. However, fewer than 20% of airports experienced with remote work actually have plans to support long-term remote work. Thus, the feasibility of long-term remote work does not correspond to the plans to maintain long-term remote work for employees. 11. Employee training expectations. Employees have high expectations for training delivered at a distance. Just over 40% of remote employees feel that training is more difficult while working remotely. Oftentimes, airports fell short in this regard, leaving employees to rate in-person training as more effective. Those airports receiving high marks from employees with distance training were intentional about delivering high-quality virtual training using motivated presenters, “live” webinars, and opportunities for employees to engage in the virtual environment. 12. Benefits. Generally, burnout was not experienced by airport employees working remotely. Employees with experience working remotely speak highly of numerous benefits, including less time commuting, more time with family, more time for hobbies, less stress, and, in general, better work-life balance. 13. Challenges. Employees with experience working remotely also speak of challenges, including less face-to-face interaction with co-workers and supervisors, distractions at home, and difficulty in accessing “paper” files at work. More than eight out of ten airport employees with some remote work experience feel they socialize less with co-workers while working remotely. Just over one-third of airport employees with remote work experience feel that morale among their team has suffered while working remotely. Four out of ten feel their team’s culture has suffered while working remotely. 14. Innovation. In the dynamic airport industry, innovation can be a source of competitive advantage. However, more than half of remote employees report that innovation is more difficult while working remotely. Although a remote employee may have fewer distractions and spend less time commuting, remote employees also report having less interaction with colleagues, making in-person collaboration all but impossible. Perhaps innovation is more likely when in discussion and collaboration with colleagues. 15. Career progression. Generally, employees working remotely are not concerned that remote work will hamper their future career progression. 16. New employee integration. Although remote work has numerous benefits, employees report that integrating new employees onto their team while remote is difficult. Indeed, three- quarters felt that it is difficult to add new members to their team while working remotely. Further Research As the nature of work and ideas about what defines a workplace continue to evolve, the airport industry would benefit from continued research on the topic of work arrangements that include remote work, hybrid work, and in-person work. In the future, research will be less focused on pandemic-related remote work and more focused on innovative work arrangements and recruiting practices to support airport staffing needs and airport succession planning. 1. Future research on the use of remote/hybrid work arrangements will be helpful, especially considering that many participating airports believe that remote work is sustainable for the long term. 2. Airport staffing needs, including recruiting, selection, and retention, would be a worthy topic of future research.

46 Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies 3. Research into airport work policies, including flexible schedules and new employee work incentives, would be appropriate. 4. Future research into how airports compete for the workforce with other businesses that allow employees to work remotely would be useful. 5. Research into airport irregular operations plans and business continuity plans and how these types of plans were used during the pandemic and can be used to prepare for future business disruptions would be insightful. Research into each of these topics will provide insight into current airport practices to address staffing shortages, retention challenges, and flexible work arrangements. Once the pandemic is several years behind us, it would be helpful to know the degree to which flexible arrangements that began during the pandemic continue to exist, even in alternate models.

Next: Appendix A - Airport Manager/HR Manager Survey »
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, airport operators had to develop strategies that maintained operations while ensuring employee safety and public health. Though not all airport-related tasks can be performed from remote worksites, many airports identified tasks that could be performed remotely.

ACRP Synthesis 126: Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies, from TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program, provides information on those airports that experimented in remote work, provides options for airports that did not participate in remote work, and identifies emerging trends.

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