New Flex Work Programs will reduce the work hours of full-time staff members

Courtesy+of+Utica+University+website%2C+depicting+an+orange+sign+with+the+name.

Utica University

Courtesy of Utica University website, depicting an orange sign with the name.

By Mickale Thompson, Utica University

Utica University recently, with an announcement from President Laura Casamento, launched a new program that will reduce full-time staff work hours from 37.5 to 32 hours. 

The announcement came on the back of a challenging past two years due to the pandemic. This has had a negative impact on the economic climate of higher education which puts a constraint on the salary of employees. 

Time flexibility is a main topic among faculty and staff. Throughout the pandemic, the institution has pivoted to put plans in place to work together to create opportunities that aid in a better work-life balance while also still satisfying the needs of the community. This new innovation is called The Flex Work Program. 

According to President Casamento, flex work is an alternative to the university’s standard administrative staff work week. It will in essence reduce the standard work week for full-time staff employees. Employees will be paid their current full-time salary and receive the same allotment of paid vacation days, holiday time and sick days. 

A four day work week is an initiative that would give employees the opportunity to have one day of the week free from work. Flex work provides an alternative to that by offering more flexibility.

“Our program offers greater flexibility and scheduling,” Casamento said. “We recognize that not every office and administrative department operates in the same way. Flex work allows each of them to develop a plan that fits both the goals of the office and the needs of those who work there.” 

Director of Campus Engagement Lauryn Moore is tasked with leading a team on the campus engagement side of the Student Living and Campus Engagement office. Moore along with her team oversees all the clubs and organization functions, student government, greek life, leadership development, UCPB and the Student Center Lounge/Bubble on campus.

Moore believes that this new initiative is an exciting and real progressive move on behalf of leadership. 

“I think this is a really progressive idea. I think that we are so stuck in the “40-hour, 9-5, work week” mindset in America and I think a lot of businesses are starting to re-shift their thinking on what a work week could look like,” Moore said. “Personally, for me, I love my job but I also love my family, and sometimes I feel there are not enough hours in the day to be good at both. Now, I feel like I can get more time with my son, and that is priceless to me.” 

The new program will not only benefit the work experience of employees but will also improve the experience of the students also because staff will be able to flex their hours so students will be able to get the help they need at times when the office is originally closed.

“For the Campus Engagement team, we now get to look at other ways to serve our students in creative ways, because we know that we don’t have the same hours as you all,” Moore said. “This allows us to work with the schedules of students to provide more support that they might need later in the day. That’s what is most exciting, is that students will positively benefit from flex scheduling, so we can truly just meet students where they’re at.”

The Administrative Staff has what is called the Professional Staff Advisory Council (PSAC) with voted-in positions and committees through which they can bring ideas to leadership. The Flex Work Program some believe will boost morale in the workplace and also personally because employees will feel more refreshed allowing students again to get the full experience.

“I think the PSAC committee and President Casamento have worked together to identify alternative ideas that would work best for everyone on campus. I was personally never expecting to go to a 32-hour work week every week, it was a huge surprise, and I’m excited about it,” Moore said. “When we are our best selves, that’s when we give the students our best selves. If I have a day where I’m feeling rested, and I’m not focused on all the other things I have to do at home, when I’m here I’m fully focused on my job here.” 

According to the Director of Student Living Marissa Hall, this new plan is a  great step forward as there have been companies across the world that have done a similar strategy and it has shown to be super beneficial. Creating the flex work program instead of a strict “4 days on 1 day off” policy allows each office and each employee the flexibility to choose what is best for them. 

Hall also believes that this is a great opportunity and incentive for employees looking to get work opportunities in higher education.

“When looking for any place of employment, each individual candidate has a list of things they are looking for in a job and in a place of employment,” Hall said. “I think this is definitely something that is going to be a great offering that will certainly check some boxes on this list of things people are looking for.”

The program allows employees to be more flexible. Employees will have the opportunity to work four eight-hour days with one day off. Others who may have younger children can work shorter days to have more flexibility. Offices with various workloads can also bank their flex hours and use them in other instances.

However, as long as families and students continue to have full access to services. Casamento believes that this will produce and provide a high standard of student service that Utica is known for. 

“I directed human resources to meet with each vice president and their department heads to work through the details of how flex work will be implemented, “ Casamento said. “These meetings over the next couple of months with the goal of initiating a trial of this program on January 1. We will test the program for one year with assessment points along the way. Our expectation based on our study of other organizations is that this will greatly help Utica University employees while positively impacting productivity. I am confident that if we work together in a thoughtful and cooperative way, we’ll achieve the same goal.” 

This story was originally published on The Tangerine on October 27, 2022.