Four-Day Flex Work a Win-Win for Nursing Association and Its Staff

RosenKeaton_NLN four day workweek October 11, 2023 By: Jane Rosen and Michael Keaton

The National League for Nursing was thinking about a more flexible work schedule prior to the pandemic, which made for a nimbler and more successful rollout of its flex work policy earlier this year.

When the National League for Nursing reopened its Washington, DC, headquarters in fall 2021 to begin welcoming back full-time staff, the world looked very different from when it initially closed in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic raged.

But NLN was prepared.

That’s because NLN was already immersed in a process to transform its work environment to match the sensibilities and realities of a new 21st century normal. In 2019, NLN President and CEO Dr. Beverly Malone assembled a task force to examine workplace hours and policies, as it was starting to become clear that to attract top talent to positions, NLN would have to adopt a more flexible approach to working at home.

“I could begin to see the writing on the wall,” said Dr. Malone. “We preach caring and kindness as a hallmark of nursing, but just how are those sentiments reflected in our own home and in our shared workspace?”

The Beginning

To find out, Dr. Malone created the task force, inviting five members of the full-time staff to join senior leaders considering those questions. They represented a variety of departments, levels of experience, pay grades, and generations—and included managers along with support staff.

Initially instructed to consider all potential options for change, including telework and a compressed work week, they shortly narrowed their focus to devising a plan for a four-day work week in the office at Dr. Malone’s request.

“I wasn’t immediately convinced that working from home presented the best scenario at the time,” she said.

For guidance and inspiration, the group reviewed what scant literature and news accounts there were of such a schedule implemented elsewhere. They also conducted a thorough analysis of existing NLN HR policies and protocols, such as paid time off, average commute times and cost of transportation subsidies, and potential savings to NLN in transportation subsidies with a shortened work week. They also considered potential changes to productivity with a longer workday and any changes in office culture that might ensue.

As 2020 dawned, many of the details for introducing and implementing the four-day work week had been hammered out. Plans for a pilot phase, followed by a staff survey to gauge success and then make any necessary tweaks, were announced.

But before it could even be tested, the plan was scrapped when the office closed and the entire operation went remote for nearly two years due to COVID-19. Amid the uncertainty, the task force took the opportunity to revisit various issues that had initially raised potential red flags. For example, they recommended that the 9.75-hour workday be shortened by an hour, reducing a 40-hour five-day work week to 35 hours over four days, including the lunch break. Productivity was made up for by reducing the lunch break from 60 minutes to 45 minutes.

The Results

The new NLN Flex Work Policy was fully implemented in January 2023 with the office officially closed on Fridays. Employees may choose to work either four or five days a week, with a minimum of three days required onsite. Depending on which option is chosen, employees can then work one or two days from home.

Kathy Young, a member of the task force, has lived through a host of changes in her 28 years with NLN. She was the only member of the full-time support staff to make the transition to the DC headquarters when NLN relocated from New York City in 2013, settling in Baltimore.

She was, therefore, an enthusiastic supporter of the hybrid model the task force ultimately recommended. “When I reflect back, I feel a sense of pride to know that the association I work for transformed to meet the times and, in so doing, brought satisfaction to its staff, membership, and all its stakeholders alike,” she said.

Janet Darko, the deputy director of finance and benefits and another task force member, spoke with the employer team at goDCgo to alert them to the NLN’s new flex-work policy. That led to NLN being named Silver and Platinum Employer Transportation All-Stars for 2023, coveted awards from the D.C. Department of Transportation, which sponsors the goDCgo initiative.

Dr. Malone sees the new policy as a win-win for the organization. “We haven’t missed a beat in terms of serving our membership. I can honestly say we’ve launched new creative professional development; maintained support for rigorous, original scholarship in the science of nursing education; established meaningful collaborations with outside organizations; sustained outstanding leadership development programs; and continued important advocacy for public health at home and around the globe,” she said. “All this while seeing real savings and productivity gains and making a significant difference in the quality of life for the entire NLN team—myself included.”

Contributors: Linda Christensen, EdD, JD, MSN, RN, CNE, FAAN, Chief Legal Officer; Arielle Charles, Director, Office of the PCEO; Janet Darko, Deputy Director of Finance and Benefits; Mike Kristek, MA, Chief Operating Officer; Elaine Pickens-Hughes, Director of Information Technology; and Kathy Young, Membership Data Coordinator

Jane Rosen

Jane Rosen is a communications consultant for the National League for Nursing.

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton is deputy chief communications officer for the National League for Nursing.