Rutgers University has announced it will implement flexible work arrangements for employees as part of a new extensive program that draws from lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort is being made to ensure the university remains competitive in a changing work culture while better serving students, patients and the community.
The Rutgers Future of Work initiative was announced by President Jonathan Holloway, who commented, “Managing the university throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to be more flexible, resourceful and resilient while staying focused on what matters most to our students, faculty, staff and the communities we serve.
“As we launch the Future of Work initiative at Rutgers, we will make certain that our students are well-served – that they have reliable and consistent access to people and resources they need, both in person and online; that they can benefit from the best practices of technology-enhanced teaching and learning; and that we meet their physical and mental health needs as we also support the well-being of our employees,” Holloway said.
The president approved all 25 of the university Future of Work Task Force’s short- and long-term recommendations, which were crafted with input from the university community through employee and student surveys and listening sessions. Holloway appointed the task force a year ago to explore insights gained during a pandemic that significantly changed how work gets done at nearly every workplace – including Rutgers, which pivoted quickly in March 2020 to remote instruction and, where possible, virtual operations.
Among the short-term recommendations are flexible work arrangements for positions and units where that is possible – with eligible staff who are granted permission for such arrangements expected to work a minimum of three days per week on campus or at Rutgers locations where employees are regularly assigned to work. Called FlexWork@RU, the year-long pilot program will begin Sept. 1.
Mindful of frontline workers who don’t have a remote work option, the short-term recommendations include exploring emergency caregiver support programs and expanding the types of authorized flexible work arrangements to include a flex workday schedule or a compressed workweek option.
Holloway acknowledged that faculty members work in a different fashion from their staff colleagues, and that he expects academic departments, centers and institutes may be able to develop flexible work options for faculty. “That said, it is my unambiguous expectation that faculty teach, train, advise and mentor in person,” he said.
“During this pilot year, we will apply what we have learned to formally offer employees more flexibility and develop programs to help improve their work-life balance and overall well-being and enhance workplace culture while operating the university with greater efficiency,” said Vivian Fernández, senior vice president for human resources and task force chair. “The changes we will make will help us better meet the needs of our students and employees and attract and keep the excellent employees we need as a leading national public research university.”
Details for employees who wish to apply for flexible work arrangements will be provided by University Human Resources through various means including virtual and in-person information sessions and on the Future of Work website. Supervisor approval is required for all flexible work arrangements.
The university will implement the report’s other short-term recommendations, including developing the infrastructure needed to support new work arrangements and establishing a Presidential Employee Excellence Recognition Program, this fall. During the pilot year, the university will also assess the effectiveness of flexible work arrangements in supporting student services, patient care and other areas, including how reducing the number of cars on roads and related carbon emissions may help Rutgers’ progress in achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
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