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Flexible work arrangements: Overview

Many employees are experiencing more work/life conflict than in the past due to advances in technology and increased demands on personal time. It is important for employers to acknowledge and respond to these changes in the workplace to stay competitive in attracting talent. Changing technology, demographics, attitudes of the workforce, and new ways of managing employees play a significant role in the viability of flexible work arrangements. Flexible work arrangements enable employees and supervisors to work outside of the standard 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. work schedule and office location.

Flexibility can be accomplished without changing a department’s regular hours of operation, or altering the responsibility or diminishing the authority of supervisors to establish and adjust work schedules. Any change in regular hours of operation is solely a departmental decision.

We suggest the following principles for workplace flexibility (as defined by the When Work Works project from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation):

  • Flexibility is a management tool that can help get the job done, not an employee perk or accommodation.
  • Flexibility can be used by employees in a range of jobs or levels.
  • Employees’ reasons for wanting flexibility should not matter unless required by law as a reasonable accommodation.
  • Not everyone wants flexible arrangements.
  • Flexibility should be applied creatively.
  • Flexible work arrangements can be short-term or long-term.

The information provided on this website is offered as a centralized resource for departments who would like to explore flexible work arrangements. The university is a complex, decentralized organization where no single program can apply, and no one practice can be appropriate for all situations. Each position or department within the university has different responsibilities to consider when evaluating flexibility, and therefore, these guidelines and recommendations are provided to assist you in determining the feasibility of such flex arrangements within your area. Managers can decide whether they would prefer to a) formally document each flexible work arrangement using the form offered on the Guides and Forms webpage or b) agree informally on a flex arrangement without requiring a signed agreement.

Flexible work arrangements should support the mission, goals and functional role of the employee, department and university. If a flexible work arrangement is interfering with any of these, it can be revoked. But, managers are encouraged to get creative and think outside of current practices to enable flexible work arrangements whenever possible. The ultimate decision to approve flexible work arrangements rests with the supervisor.

General guidelines

  • Get creative when considering flex requests. If one type of flex won’t work, consider an alternative. Consider the flex needs of all of your team members and encourage team-based thinking about how to meet employees needs for flexibility.
  • In the vast majority of cases, the answer to a flex request should be “yes.” If you have concerns, you can still approve an arrangement with conditions that need to be met in order to extend the arrangement beyond a trial period. Or, you can deny the request with conditions that, if met, can enable flex in the future.
  • Develop and implement a program that won’t interfere with the functioning of the department as a whole, the supervisor and its employees.
  • Check with HR when developing a flex arrangement outside of the ones described in this document to confirm that it meets requirements of applicable wage and hour laws.
  • Determine which employees are interested or are able to participate in a flexible work arrangement. The number of staff participating needs to be considered to ensure department coverage.
  • Flex arrangements can be approved for employees with performance issues, at the discretion of their manager, especially if performance concerns could be improved by increased flexibility. Consult with your HR representative if you need assistance on a case by case basis.
  • Maintain strong communication between management, employees and team members. Clearly communicate employee performance expectations and hours that an employee will be working.
  • Determine a reasonable trial period (e.g., 6 months) and review periods as needed (at least annually) to re-evaluate the flexible work arrangement.
  • Once you’ve approved a flexible work arrangement, monitor its ongoing effectiveness to determine whether it should be expanded, revised or discontinued.
  • Non-exempt employees must receive prior approval from their supervisor or department head before working extra hours or overtime. The standard work week is Sunday through Saturday.
  • Receive training regarding how to handle performance management issues (e.g., training, work monitoring, performance evaluation).
  • Consider reasonable accommodations for employees who qualify under the ADA, check with your HR representative for more information.
  • Communicate flexible work schedule options in any recruitment postings or announcements. Example language: Flexible work arrangements are supported and may be available for employees based on performance.

Note: Flexible work arrangement guidelines and related information are not intended to serve as policy and do not represent terms or conditions of employment, nor is the language intended to establish a contract between the university and its employees. If there is a conflict between information in any flexible work arrangement documents and information contained in benefit plan documents, contracts, HR Policy, or the Collected Rules and Regulations, the flexible work arrangement documents always defer to the controlling legal documents.

The university reserves the right to change, interpret, amend or terminate any or all of these guidelines or any flexible work arrangements at any time for any reason.

Reviewed March 29, 2017.