Student-Friendly Office

Even on a bad day at work, we need to remember that we are here to serve students. It may be tempting to make policies or procedures "staff-friendly" instead of "student-friendly." Instead, remind yourself what it is like to try to navigate a process you might not understand, or to seek help from an office when you aren't sure where to go. This is especially important after experiencing several frustrating students - make sure you aren't projecting your frustrations on the next student who walks in your door. By making your physical space, your office procedures, and your online presence student-friendly, you can minimize the stress some students feel when they try to navigate Harper College, which ultimately results in less disruption and stress for you and your colleagues. Here are some tips to help ensure your office is student-friendly:

  • Ensure that everyone in your office understands when and why appeals of decisions might occur.
  • Remember that students and their families don't often know what office is responsible for what - they just need their concerns resolved. 

Post expectations where visitors can see them. Even if students don't act like adults all the time, remember that most of our students are adults. Use friendly and reasonable language (such as "Please put cell phones on silent while in waiting area" instead of "LEAVE ALL PHONES OUTSIDE IF YOU WANT TO BE HELPED BY THIS OFFICE!"

Greet visitors with "Welcome" and a smile, and make eye contact with each person who walks in the door. This not only tells someone that you acknowledge they are here, but also reminds the person they are being observed.

Encourage the use of sign in sheets so that you can call students by name. People respond better when they feel treated like an individual.

Invite a co-worker from a different office to walk into your space and experience it "as a student." Is the space comfortable? Is the temperature reasonable? Does a person know who to approach upon entering a space with multiple staff members? Are the chairs comfortable? Eliminating these simple sources of stress can help more than you might anticipate.

Publish anticipated "low wait" times and tips for expediting your wait time online - such as completing paperwork ahead of time or bringing certain information with you.

Develop office protocol for:

  • Phone scripts for common difficult situations
  • When to report or refer situations to supervisor or colleague
  • When and how to document concerns

Discuss the "high-risk" times when students (or parents/family) are most likely to be stressed or triggered, and develop interventions to help. For example, hire additional student workers to work long lines and talk with students to ensure they are in the right place, have paperwork ready, etc.

As an office, discuss what kinds of behaviors or situations you might choose to:

  • Ignore
  • Address
  • Address and document just in your personal notes
  • Address and document for your office (meaning this is subject to FERPA)
  • Address and report to HEAT or Student Conduct
  • Contact Harper Police to respond