The days of making the commute into the office five days a week are long gone for many. In fact, 2019 feels like it was a lifetime ago. Flexibility is now the name of the game.
According to a MNA LinkedIn Poll of nonprofits on return-to-work policies (conducted in March 2022):
We checked in with a few local nonprofit leaders who told us they are offering flexible workplace options. “Nonprofit Network has fully embraced a hybrid, primarily virtual work environment. All staff continue to work from home, and we gather in person regularly for the purposes of collaboration and planning,” said Regina Pinney, executive director and MNA member. “We utilize multiple technology platforms to keep connected and believe we have maintained a collegial and supportive organizational culture.”
The data from our LinkedIn poll is on par with many studies that show that workers in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors crave a real work-life balance and are not willing to return to the office full-time. Researchers also state that companies that are unwilling to provide flexible work arrangements post-Covid, are having a hard time attracting and retaining workers.
Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) has remained virtual since the pandemic began in 2020. However, effective July 1, 2022, we are implementing a permanent flexible work plan that will allow our employees to choose where they want to spend their workday. Staff who would like to work in MNA’s office building in Lansing can return on July 1.
Those who want to work remotely can continue to do so. MNA will implement in-person “Collaboration and Learning Days” for the upcoming fiscal year which will consist of one staff meeting per quarter, two board meetings and several leadership meetings which will be held in person. “A lot has changed and we as a team have changed since the beginning of the pandemic and we have learned so much about what is important to our employees,” said Kelley Kuhn, president, and CEO, MNA. “While we still have much more to understand, one thing that we did right from the start was gather input and feedback from those who this decision would impact the most.”
The desire for flexibility after two years of working remotely is only growing in momentum. Another MNA member, The Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), has also embraced hybrid work. “The leadership team found itself trying to balance what was in the best interests of our employees while supporting our members and the realities of their COVID situations,” said Deputy Director Kent J. Cartwright.
“MASB decided to implement a hybrid return-to-work approach that provided flexibility to our employees while ensuring our in-office staffing levels offered outstanding and immediate member services.” MASB allows its workers to split their time evenly between home and office. Staff meetings -which are usually held once a month-- are in person.
Experts say resistance to returning to the office full-time is stronger these days mainly because after two years of working remotely–people are now used to having more autonomy over their lives.
Studies show that workers thrive when given the opportunity to decide what their work environment will be--especially among minority groups and women. A study on the virtual office from alliance virtual offices found that remote work options can help utilize the unique experience and skills of minorities, and therefore- increase diversity and equity.
Another pulse survey of underrepresented groups from Future Forum found that 81% of Hispanic workers, 82% of Asian American and 79% of Black workers from across the United States –prefer a hybrid/flexible work schedule compared to 77% of white workers.
Adopting a hybrid or remote work model could eventually help with your nonprofit’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. Employees from underrepresented groups have embraced work-from-home because of the inclusivity that allows them to be their authentic selves at work and reach their full potential. Additionally, when geographic barriers are removed, it is much easier for nonprofits to attract and hire underrepresented skilled talent.
While we understand that not all work in the nonprofit sector can be done remotely-–the data collected by MNA shows that more nonprofits are implementing flexible work policies and choosing to invest in happy employees.
After all, workplace flexibility is an easy way to maximize ROI. “This decision (flexible work policy) centers the needs of our employees first and we continue to see the benefits this approach brings and the positive impact it has on our teamwork, productivity, and strategy,” said Kuhn.