Dec. 11, 2008

How flex policy and tools can help staff and supervisors

Consider these hypothetical situations: "I really enjoy my job, but I could save on child care expenses if I worked four days a week instead of five." "I've joined the Wellness Program, but it would work better for me to leave work a little later each day and have an extended lunch break to do my workout." "As supervisor of a customer-service department, I'd like to extend our office hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but I can't afford to pay for the overtime."

With Cornell's flexibility policy and open dialogue between supervisors and staff, these wishes could become reality. Though the Flexibility in the Workplace policy (see http://www.policy.cornell.edu/vol6_6_13.cfm) was created in 1998 and has been used informally in many departments, recent discussions about sustainability, wellness and cost-savings have prompted many colleges and units to seriously consider implementing flexible work arrangements.

What are the available options for flex? How can they be implemented? How do supervisors avoid the office dynamics that can arise when some staff can take advantage of flex arrangements and others can't? How do staff members go about asking their supervisor to consider a flexible work arrangement?

The Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity and Life Quality (WDELQ) answers these questions here: http://www.ohr.cornell.edu/workLife/flex/index.html. Described on these pages are four kinds of flexible arrangements:

"Flexible work arrangements have been shown to enhance the recruitment of high-quality employees as well as contribute to the engagement and productivity of current employees," says Lynette Chappell-Williams, director of WDELQ.

At Cornell, Chappell-Williams continues, "We have been working to implement flexible arrangements throughout the campus ever since our Flexibility in the Workplace policy was created, because they support the university's commitment to the well-being of a diverse workforce. Our flexible work options are also one of the reasons Cornell has made a number of 'best employer' lists such as AARP's Best Employers for Workers over 50 and Working Mothers' 100 Best Employers for Working Mothers."

The new Web pages also include sample flex agreement forms, tips for supervisors and staff on setting up a flexible work arrangement, and a variety of other resources.

Staff and supervisors are encouraged to contact WDELQ, 607-255-3976; TDD: 607-255-7066, e-mail WDELQ-L@cornell.edu, with questions about the flex policy, its implementation or ways to handle specific situations.