Update (11/30/17): Assemblywoman Nily Rozic announced that the Flex Work Arrangements Law was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on November 30, 2017. Werk provided the following statement for the official press release:

“At Werk, we believe that flexibility is the key to increasing the number of women in leadership and accelerating the advancement of gender equality. While flexibility positively impacts the productivity and retention rates of all employees, it has the ability to keep 6.6 million women in the workforce. We are proud to live and work in a state that has always prioritized the rights of women and workers."

Original story (11/29/17): When it comes to the rights of women and workers, New York State has one of the country’s best track records. Just last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into a law a statewide paid family leave policy that will go into effect in 2018. And now, the state that passed women’s suffrage a whole three years before the federal government is paving the way for a flexible future.

In July 2017, State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and State Senator Daniel Squadron successfully passed the Flex Work Arrangements Bill, which calls for the formal documentation of “alternative working arrangements” within state agencies. This information is to be gathered and analyzed by the President of the Civil Service Commission who will prepare a biennial report on flexibility best practices and recommendations for future implementation. Assemblywoman Rozic told Werk she is confident that it will be signed into law by the Governor by the end of the year.

It might seem like an insignificant victory compared to some of the other flexibility legislation out there, like Vermont’s Right to Request, but the collection and analysis of data about flexibility at the state level could be hugely impactful in the long run—not just for government workers in New York, but within other states and at the federal level as well.

The government is our country’s largest employer, and like many private sector businesses, they’ve been struggling to attract critical talent pools like millennials. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study found that only 2% of millennials plan on working in government. According to this report, millennials are turned off by the status quo and seek greater integration between work and life. It should come as no surprise that flexibility is a top 3 factor in a millennial’s job search.

The flexibility data compiled by the Civil Service Commission will likely show what we already know to be true—employees who utilize flexibility are happier, more productive, and less likely to quit. And while millennials want and value flexibility, it’s women who need it most. Women’s participation in elective and nonelective government roles has risen tremendously in the past few decades, but women still remain grossly underrepresented within every department at every level within the government.

Even states like New York that have been at the forefront of women’s rights are struggling to attract female leaders. Assemblywoman Rozic is just 1 of 45 women in the New York State Assembly, which has a total of 150 seats, and within the state Senate, 14 of the 63 seats are held by women. Not a whole lot better than the national average.

If New York State can effectively prove that agencies with flexibility policies have higher productivity, better results, and a more diverse staff, an important precedent could be set. And having more states on board with flexibility could help the push for more structured flexibility in the private sector, too—maybe even helping to facilitate the passage of Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Flexibility for Working Families Act which would provide all U.S. workers with job protection when making flexibility requests.

“Flexible workplace scheduling is a workplace protection and a fundamental right,” Assemblywoman Rozic tells Werk. “It shouldn’t be treated as something that is a reward or something that can be taken away, and certainly not something that an employer should dangle over an employee’s head or come back at with retribution. If you’re treating flexibility as something that can be a perk, it won’t work.”

Having hard data at the state level might be the first step in making flexibility an inherent part of the modern American workplace—as long as it’s collected and analyzed properly. Right now, it remains unclear how exactly how the data will be obtained or used, and it’s also unclear to what extent state agencies understand flexibility which could impact their ability to report on it in the first place.

“With anything that goes on in government it takes a while to have conversations about issues that are new and at the forefront of public policy,” Rozic says. “Flexible workplace arrangements definitely is a new topic for government. We never really addressed it previously. So having those tough conversations and ensuring that agencies can deal with flexibility is an important piece of that.”