COVID changed how we work
Three months into 2020 we found ourselves in a world of uncertainty, one where COVID-19 changed our lives. It continues to alter our lives almost two years later. Societal norms are being challenged. Protocols, policies, political polarization and expectations are ever changing. At work, there are shifting perceptions and expectations, and at CUNY, the quality of a work-life balance is a paramount concern for Higher Education Officers (HEOs) and all PSC members.
Amidst the pandemic and national protests, higher education has a responsibility to help shape the conversation on workers’ rights, racial equity, social justice and managing a national health crisis. Like much of the country and the world, CUNY faced a daunting challenge. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, leaders in higher education had to act swiftly. As CUNY campuses closed to go to remote learning environments, many questioned the validity and credibility of the online method.
A heightened sense of anxiety pervades our personal and work lives. For those of us in higher education, working remotely for industries that were in many cases underprepared and thrust into a technological online response to the crisis posed a collateral impact that has thrown the industry into uncertainty and highlighted the digital divide.
MEMBERS STEPPED UP
Even less clear was the expectation for staff to learn to navigate this brand-new world, its expectations and technological tools with little-to-no guidance or support. HEOs stepped up to create and implement an infrastructure to close the digital divide and successfully reached out and engaged students online. A new model was revealed and for many a better approach to meeting work-life demands. Some industries, including higher education, recognized and appreciated the value of flexible scheduling from hybrid to fully remote. The pandemic has changed the way we live and educate.
A NEED FOR FLEX
Many HEOs throughout CUNY have expressed the need to have flexible scheduling as part of the PSC’s contractual agreement. The pandemic has created a perfect storm, triangulating the impact on the delivery of education and services, the need for work-life balance and economics. HEOs want a choice on how and where they work. The pandemic has thrust this issue forward, representing a major shift in how we do business at CUNY.
In one case, flexible scheduling has enabled a staff member to manage a demanding work schedule while being the primary care giver to an extremely sick family member. Without flexible scheduling, this member would have had to exhaust her annual leave time and go on an unpaid family and medical leave. The member shared how flexible scheduling has reduced her stress and anxiety by allowing her to be there for her family while being able to manage increasing work responsibilities. It was a win-win situation.
HEARTS AND MINDS
Changing hearts and minds are at the core of offering the opportunity to choose flexible scheduling. CUNY is well positioned to lead the way for expanding the narrative on flexible scheduling in support of the changing times and commitments.