To flex or not to flex

About a month ago one of the valued leaders on my team let me know she and her family were moving to Oklahoma. Admittedly my first reaction was something along the lines of, “What?!? You’re leaving Colorado for Oklahoma!??” (I hope I can say this as someone whose parents hail from ‘Oklahoma is OK’.) My fast follower thought was, “Oh no, are we going to have to let her go?” You see we, as with many credit unions, have been grappling with our approach for flexible work arrangements.

Last year, when I had the opportunity to speak with CEOs from large credit unions across the country during CUNA’s National Credit Union Roundtable, the room was split on allowing team members to work remotely all the time, some of the time, or none at all. Nearly a year later, I don’t think we are any further along as an industry in fully understanding the ramifications and potential benefits of providing more flexible work arrangements.

Over the past few months, it has been impossible to read the news and not see an article about industry players from USAA to Goldman Sachs demanding people return to work. Most of these organizations are not demanding 100% return to office but rather focusing on a hybrid working model.

I think most of us agree that there is no replacement for a face-to-face, in-person interaction – deeper human connections, spontaneous collaboration, shared ideation leading to innovation are all examples of ways organizations benefit when team members are together. On the other hand, many credit unions continue to grapple with acquiring and retaining top talent and, whether we want to admit it or not, there remains a battle for that top talent. After all top talent drives better service, more effective execution, and higher growth. And, despite some recent downsizing and layoffs, labor retains the upper hand.

At Ent, we recently finalized our policy for flexible work arrangements and are researching the impact of flexible work on our future need for office space. To be clear, for the most part our senior leaders prefer an in-office environment for all the reasons mentioned. They also recognize the need for flexible arrangements especially for those roles that are harder to hire, or for a situation like my team member who is a valued contributor moving out of area.

At this time, our service delivery teams who are managed to a schedule are excluded from the policy, although many leaders are interested in learning more about how retail roles can be provided more flexibility, such as job sharing, compressed work weeks, and/or intelligent and automated scheduling software. Being open to new flex ideas for these team members is key as research has shown retail workers value flexibility over all other factors, including pay.

For our other team members, the policy outlines four flexible work arrangements. In case our work would help your credit union, these options are described as:

  1. Flexible hours: Our expected office hours are 8AM to 5 PM, and for some roles those hours are naturally adjusted. Otherwise, for roles that can be afforded this opportunity, a team member can work with their manager to define more flexible working hours.
  2. Office Hybrid: This hybrid option allows a qualifying team member to work with their manager to flex in-office time that averages 60% over a month, meaning 40% of monthly hours can be worked remotely. With this option, the team member retains their designated workstation or office.
  3. Remote Hybrid: This hybrid option reverses the concept above and allows a qualifying team member to work with their manager to flex in-office time that averages 40% over a month, meaning 60% of monthly hours can be worked remotely. With this option, the team member is no longer provided a designated workstation or office and, instead, arranges for space sharing or hoteling. We are exploring these office space possibilities with a pilot and will learn more about potential issues and workarounds.
  4. Work Anywhere: This flexible arrangement allows a qualifying team member to work 100% from a remote location. We decided to limit this option to people who live more than 30 miles from either of our two operations centers. We also developed a process in HR to evaluate the remote location for tax implications and employment law impacts. In other words, not all remote locations will be approved.

Ent’s senior most leaders (at this time defined as Vice Presidents (and above)) are not able to participate in work anywhere but may do hybrid.

Each of the arrangements starts with the manager determining whether the role is appropriate for flex. From a human resources perspective, we have attempted to optimize the process for requesting and approving these flexible arrangements. Any team member in a flex arrangement is accountable for ensuring the work location from where they perform more than 50% of work is kept up-to-date in our core HRIS so that we can appropriately withhold and pay taxes.

We believe for these arrangements to be successful, managers must actively and effectively lead. To that end, we are requiring any manager with team members in a flex arrangement to participate in development on culture and leading hybrid teams.

Lastly, if an individual is operating under a “work anywhere” arrangement, they must work with their management team to be onsite no less than one week per quarter. We are creating ways for teams to maximize these in-person weeks with learning, volunteering, and team building opportunities.

According to Gartner, “workforce” is the second highest priority for CEOs, just behind growth. It would be a shame for us to lose amazing talent if, when they move to Oklahoma, we have no policy to allow for working out of state. And, yes, the team is in the process of evaluating the state of Oklahoma as an approved location. I’m hopeful the outcome will be positive.

Mollie Bell

Mollie Bell

Mollie Bell joined Ent Credit Union in December 2018 as Chief Development Officer. Mollie has worked on behalf of credit unions since 2007, having worked for CUNA Mutual Group, Filene ... Web: Details