Cabinet Conversations: Flexible Work Schedules Meet the Diverse Need of College Community

April 19, 2022

Cabinet Conversations: Flexible Work Schedules Meet the Diverse Need of College Community

craig patenaudeBy Craig W. Patenaude, Esq.
General Counsel and Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development (HRO)

With few exceptions, flexible work was seen only as an individual short-term necessary accommodation and not as a comprehensive benefit available to most of the employee population.

Most surveys now confirm that an overwhelming percentage of employees strongly agree that working flexibly allows for a better work-life balance, aids with productivity levels, and was ultimately beneficial during the pandemic. Our experience, generally confirmed by supervisors and employees, was that productivity was not negatively impacted as had been the prevailing view of telecommuting pre-COVID-19.  

Now the questions are: What does working flexibly really mean as we encounter a future where the new workforce consisting of Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z (not us Baby Boomers) will expect such work options? What types of arrangements do employees see as important to a flexible work environment? The answer is that the ability to work part-time, varied work hours, working remotely, compressed work weeks, or a combination of remote and in-office work – is a benefit that is here to stay. For many employees and candidates, flexible work options are of equal importance, although flexible work may no longer be a “one size fits all” arrangement.

Talk to most recruiters responsible for hiring our current and future workforce and you will hear that candidates expect the ability to work remotely or at least in a hybrid arrangement (a mix of remote and on-site work). Job ads now routinely include the ability to do so as a benefit. Many workers just entering the workforce are also saying they are willing to trade salary for flexibility. Surveys demonstrate that flexible work arrangements are an important tool for retaining current employees. Indeed, most employees indicate they would stay with an organization longer when flexible work arrangements are offered and supported.

Moving forward, CSM has chosen to implement a hybrid flexibility approach, where most employees work a mix of remote and on-site work schedules. Compressed and alternative work schedules are also available to employees, particularly those who may be unable to take advantage of remote work. The CSM’s President’s Cabinet agreed during the COVID-19 pandemic to some core principles that would take us into the future, namely that we value the diverse needs of our college community and that we support a flexible workplace. The college recognized that employees needed to be supported in finding a work-life balance while balancing the need for in-person contact important to the college’s mission to support student needs. We will continue to reassess how we can support flexible work and meet the diverse needs of our employees and students. Increasing flexibility, in all its forms, can also help us support diversity and achieve our strategic goals of ensuring equity in all programs and services and fostering a high-performing employee culture.

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