The Koffee Klatch: a virtual drink with three pumps community and two pumps professional development

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

As the virtual workforce grows, academic leaders look for ways to support and develop faculty and mentor future leaders from a distance. This session will present a remote-support-model, as well as benefits and challenges from multiple perspectives, including on-campus and remote leaders, as well as remote faculty and program directors. 


Dr. Karen Snyder is the Director for the post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy at the University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences. Over the past 30+ years, she held both management and clinical positions in a variety of clinical settings specializing in orthopedic, neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and pediatric disorders. Her leadership and teaching experiences range from the associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral level education in occupational therapy programs at Barry University, Keiser University, and both in the entry- and post-professional programs at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Dr. Snyder authored materials presented at the International Autism Conference in Skive, Denmark and Geneva, Switzerland, Autism One Conference in Chicago, IL, as well as presenting in didactic seminars at national, regional, and state occupational therapy conferences. She also published articles in the Florida Occupational Therapy’s FOCUS and College Internship Program Student Life Newsletters, as well as her dissertation research publication in ProQuest.
Dr. Jordan Utley is the program director and associate professor of the Master of Health Science Athletic Training program. Prior to her work at the University of St. Augustine, she served as the director of teaching and learning and as athletic training research faculty at Weber State University, as well as a faculty member at the University of North Texas, Denton, where she also developed an athletic training program. She has also served as the director of fitness management and an instructor at DePaul University and as the director of athletic training and instructor of health science at Chicago State University. She is a certified athletic trainer who implemented various cognitive interventions with athletes rehabilitating from sport-injury while earning her doctorate. She has worked with athletes from all levels, including providing sports medicine services to United States Soccer teams, Olympic athletes, and extreme sport athletes. She serves as a committee member of the National Athletic Trainers' Association's Post Professional Education Committee (PPEC) and the Transition to Practice Workgroup where she is collaborating with others to create change for the future athletic training. She is also a member of several professional organizations, including the National Athletic Trainers' Association, Association for Applied Sport Psychology, and the American Psychological Association.
Dr. Dennison is the Director for the Nursing Programs at the University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences. She has extensive experience in critical care nursing, working as a staff nurse, nurse educator, clinical nurse specialist, consultant, and professor. She has also been very involved in planning and providing professional development programs throughout the United States for the last 30 years. She is currently an Educational Consultant at Baptist Health Lexington, a Magnet facility, in Lexington, Kentucky. She has held teaching and leadership positions at University of Cincinnati, Georgetown University, and Chamberlain College of Nursing. Her teaching experience is extensive but she enjoys teaching evidence-based practice, pathophysiology, leadership, and education topics. She has extensive experience teaching online in three different learning management systems. She is currently certified as a critical care clinical nurse specialist (CCNS) by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, as a certified nurse educator (CNE) by the National League for Nursing, and as an advanced nurse executive (NEA-BC) and nursing professional development specialist (BC) by American Nurses Credentialing Center. She is a frequent contributor to nursing journals and books. She is the author of the book Pass CCRN!, which prepares critical care nurses for the CCRN exam, Pass CEN! which prepares emergency nurses for the certified emergency nurse (CEN) examination, and Pass PCCN!, which prepares progressive care nurses for the progressive care nurse (PCCN) examination. All of these books are published by Elsevier. She is also the author of Evaluation Beyond Exams in Nursing Education. Designing Assignments and Evaluating with Rubric, published by Springer Publishing Company.
Dr. Mathena is the Dean of Post-Professional Studies at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. She is an Occupational Therapist who has been with the University for 19 years. She has held roles faculty, leadership, and in assessment, accreditation, program development and online education. Her passion is developing online education programs in a unique and innovative manner.

Extended Abstract

Working remotely, or managing those who do, presents challenges, as well as benefits. Working from home has increased 103% since 2005 (Global-Workplace-Analytics, 2016). Faculty and administrators are uniquely positioned to secure remote positions as academic work can be accomplished from most locations (Kossek, Thompson & Lautsch, 2015). As the virtual workforce grows, academic leaders look for innovative ways to support and develop faculty and mentor future leaders from a distance. Few experimental research studies exist examining the pros and cons of working at a distance (O’Leary, Wilson, & Metiu, 2014), and even fewer report on the effectiveness of remote-support-models in higher education (Chuek Fan Ng, 2006). With chronic cuts today across university budgets, expanding the remote workforce in higher education is a way to reduce spending, while maintaining student academic and social services (Waters); however, this too comes at a cost. Program directors working remotely for the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) developed the Koffee Klatch as a way for remote leaders, faculty and staff to join together bimonthly for professional development, peer-mentoring and social support that is often lacking in the life of the geographically dispersed (Cooper & Kurland, 2002).


The Koffee Klatch (KK) began as a result of remote peers at USAHS wanting to connect more, to learn from, and with peers, and as a breeding ground for motivation. The definition of Koffee Klatch is “an informal social gathering for coffee and conversation”
(Merriam-Webster, n.d). It was meant to mimic meeting “at the water cooler” or “by the coffee pot” on a traditional brick and mortar campus. The discussions that happen at the water cooler are invaluable; they may be motivating for some, the source of peer-collaborations for others, or the place to clarify important university or department policy or procedure. These interactions are important for new employees (Cawyer & Friedrich, 1998), and especially new remote employees.


The employee benefits of remote work have been well documented, and the most cited include flexibility to balance work and personal life, less interruption while on-task, greater control of their work environment and less stress (Kossek, Thompson & Lautsch, 2015). Compared to their on-site peers, remote workers felt that telework enhanced productivity, motivation, and job retention (Hill, Ferris & Martinson, 2003).  An early adopter of remote-work, British Telecom, reported 16% of their workforce is remote and is 20% more productive compared to on-location peers (Lister & Hanish, 2013). However, a critique of productivity is unsubstantiated self-report data (Chuek Fan Ng, 2006), with the main confound being daily hours on-task. To that point, in a study of more than 24,000 global managers, remote employees report being able to work 58 hours per week before interfering with personal obligations, while their matched office-peer maxed out at 38 hours per week (Lister & Harnish, 2013).

Employers benefit from offering remote jobs by being able to attract, retain and motivate talent (Kossek et al., 2015). A 2014 survey of 1,777 Human Resource Directors in 13 countries found that 79% of companies allow staff to telecommute as a way to attract and retain talent (Koh, Allen & Zafar, 2014). Money savings is potentially a larger focus for big businesses; IBM reported a savings of $75 million in 2003, AT&T reported $34 million in 2004 and Nortel saved $22 million following implementation of teleworking remotely (Verbeke, Schulz, Greidanus & Hambley, 2008). Teleworking/working remotely has been strongly supported by President Obama, citing cost savings for large companies (Business Management Daily, 2010). Related benefits include less overhead costs including office space, building leases, and utilities (Kossek et al.). It has been estimated that the average business saves $11,000 annually per remote employee, remote workers save $2000-$7000 annually and the greenhouse effect is reduced (Global-Workplace-Analytics, March 2016). Both large and small companies benefit from expanding their talent pool through remote work and keeping talent when geography gets in the way (Kossek et al.)

Challenges & Supports

The challenges from a remote employee perspective include time management, social isolation, tech support, facilitating communication, performance planning, and creating teamship with on-location peers (Kossek et al., 2015). Time management, or overworking stems from the idea that remote employees always have to be available, leading to workaholism (Raiborn & Butler, 2009). Additionally, if a remote-worker is not available during normal operating hours, they might be considered absent and slacking on job duties (Kossek et al.; Schulte, 2015). Another commonly cited hindrance of remote employment is feeling isolated from leaders and peers. A study on the psychological impact of remote work suggests a negative mental and physical impact of the setting; so much so, that companies are suggesting remote employees balance their work with a “rich social life” (Laureate My Learn, May 2016). Research found that remote workers experience more loneliness, irritability, worry and guilt, and that they report more stress as compared to their on-location peers (Mann & Holdsworth, 2003); remote workers reported a higher incidence of physical health symptoms. Remote employees also lack visibility (McCloskey & Igbaria, 1998), perceive a limited opportunity for advancement (Cooper & Kurland, 2002), and perceive a lack of professional development opportunities including networking, informal learning and mentoring (Cooper & Kurland).

The challenges from a leader perspective include placing the right hire in a remote position, providing support once placed and evaluating performance relative to on-location peers. Knowing at hire, if an individual is going to be effective in a remote setting is a challenge. The literature suggests the following characteristics frame an ideal remote employee: self-motivated, independent, effective and proactive communicator, and technology savvy (Schulte, 2015). To add another layer, Gen Y workers are more difficult to recruit and retain, however they are attracted to flexible-work arrangements (Lister & Harnish, 2013). Additional challenges include balancing/tracking productivity and awarding merit in comparison with on-campus peers; leaders must make the shift from monitoring visibility to monitoring productivity of remote faculty. With remote employees, some leaders worry about a loss of control, potential for data security issues, balancing morale issues with on-location peers, and budgeting for home-office expenses (Raiborn & Butler, 2009).

New remote employees need to be connected with support structures as part of the on-boarding process; they need to be provided with the same information as if on-campus. Existing research on manager support of virtual employees found the provision of technical and emotional support was significantly correlated with remote job satisfaction and productivity (Hartman, Stoner & Arora, 1991). Remote employees, especially first timers, desire informal communication with their leader (Cawyer & Friedrich, 1998). Regular communication provides the opportunity to define job-related behavioral goals and to receive feedback on job performance. Related, the recent 2015-Faculty-Engagement-Survey-Results from the University of St. Augustine reported high levels of satisfaction from those in remote roles. Another leader challenge cited in the literature is facilitating group communication and work, teamship, between remote and on-location peers (Kossek et al.) Regular mixing of both F-2-F and remote employees in committee meetings, for professional development activities and group-work may open lines of communication and support that sustain beyond the scheduled activity.

The initiators of the KK were two remote program directors, recently hired by USAHS to direct online programs. The KK expanded to include those with whom the remote directors worked, on a weekly, if not daily basis to create and deliver high quality online student experiences. These remote peers included program directors, instructional designers, the Dean of Educational Effectiveness and faculty, as well as contributing faculty (i.e., adjunct faculty). Making these connections allowed work to take place on a virtual team (Zey et al., 2012).

The KK began as a way to connect socially, to limit the negative effects of isolation (Kossek et al., 2015). Involving telecommuters in social celebrations that occur on campus (e.g., birthdays), as well as requiring campus attendance at annual meetings, retreats, or social events, stands to reduce the feeling of isolation (Pinsonneault & Boisvert, 1996). As a group, we motivate each other, we sign up for webinars together, we collaborate on research and conference submissions and we gather virtually using GoToMeeting to sing happy birthday to remote peers. Additionally, we came to realize that the KK was a place to seek information or clarification; newer remote hires had questions that the group could answer. Directly, and often indirectly, we mentor each other regarding the role and conduct of remote employees, establishing and maintaining a record of productivity and successes, and being visible and available through technology and time management. While higher education has been advancing the online student experience with technologies, the KK is an effort to do the same for remote faculty and administrators.

This session will present challenges, benefits and solutions from multiple perspectives, including on-campus and remote leaders, as well as remote faculty and program directors.

Session outcomes:

1) Improved understanding of the benefits of a virtual workforce from the employer and employee perspective

2) Make connections between challenges of working remotely and proposed solutions/supports

3) Apply effective practice guidelines for leading remote employees and/or functioning remotely

4) Provide practical ideas for enhancing remote employee engagement