University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources
http://www.umn.edu/ohr
612-625-2016

Flexible Work Arrangements

Types of flexible work arrangements can include flextime, compressed work weeks, job sharing, telecommuting, or reduced-time/part-time arrangements. Finding the right type can depend on the employee and the type of work being done.

When deciding how a flexible work arrangement might fit an employee, some questions to consider are:

  • How much onsite supervision, oversight, or direction is needed?
  • Can the employee work independently and be self-directed in accomplishing their tasks?
  • Can the employee miss some meetings and social functions?
  • Will the flexible work arrangement affect existing career development plans?

When deciding how a flexible work arrangement might affect the work being done, some questions to consider are:

  • Can the employee complete the same amount of work while on a flexible work arrangement (not including a reduced appointment)?
  • Does the workload need to be restructured for the flexible work arrangement?
  • How will the employee receive the work that needs to be accomplished?
  • How much travel is required to do the job? Are the travel demands of the job aligned with the flexible work arrangement?
  • Does the job require working with others? How will the flexible work arrangement affect interactions with others?
  • How necessary is it that someone be onsite at all times?
  • How will office communication be affected by the flexible work arrangement?
  • How will the flexible work arrangement affect the workload of other employees?

Forms

Use this form to begin a flexible work arrangement:

Use these forms to begin a telecommuning arrangement:


Telecommuting Guidelines

The University of Minnesota does not have a system-wide telecommuting policy. Individual departments or colleges are encouraged to define their own policies and procedures for implementing telecommuting arrangements. It remains the discretion of a supervisor to decide if a telecommuting arrangement is feasible, given the work setting, job duties, and individual employee. Telecommuting is not an entitlement. In agreeing to telecommuting arrangements, it is expected that supervisors will:

  • Ensure that all applicable employment laws and obligations are enforced
  • Take appropriate steps to ensure a safe remote workplace
  • Ensure that University property and information remain protected

Creating a Telecommuting Agreement

It is advisable that any telecommuting arrangement with an employee be subject to a telecommuting agreement. The agreement should cover all aspects of the scheduled work arrangement where the employee is working remotely on assigned work responsibilities. When working remotely, the telecommuter should remain accessible during normal business hours, if necessary.

A successful telecommuting agreement will:

  1. Explain how telecommuting arrangement can benefit the office.
  2. Make a case as to why the employee is a good candidate for telecommuting.
  3. Describe how accountability, cost effectiveness and customer service needs will be addressed.
  4. Clearly state how the work in the unit will continue to get done.
  5. Spell out how communication with co-workers and supervisors will continue unimpeded.
  6. Describe telecommuting hours, time spent in office, etc.
  7. Explain evaluation process.
  8. Define a pilot period to test out the arrangement.
  9. Take into consideration the application of labor laws and University policies (e.g. OSHA, Fair Labor Standards Act, Employment Discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act, PELRA, collective bargaining agreements)

A telecommuting proposal should take into consideration the impact of telecommuting on:

  • Customers (Will customers be inconvenienced in any way? Is the telecommuter available when customers need assistance?)
  • Co-workers (Will co-workers be responsible for a heavier direct service component because of a telecommuting arrangement? Do co-workers support the decision to telecommute?)
  • How the work gets done (Do job responsibilities need to be redefined to accommodate telecommuting?)

Essential Components in a Telecommuting Agreement

  1. Definitions of Job duties and Employment Expectations
    • Scope of duties to be performed
    • Agreed work hours (days per week, length of telecommuting agreement)
    • Expectations for accessibility, communication, presence on-site at the University
    • Compensation and benefit eligibility (specific terms)
  2. Expectations for Home Office Furnishings, Equipment, and Maintenance
    • Responsibility for furnishing and equipping home office
    • Obligation for maintaining and returning University property
    • Responsibility for insuring equipment, furnishings
    • Responsibility for paying for services (phone, maintenance)
    • Unauthorized use of University Property
  3. Establishment of a Safe Remote Work Site
    • Define and maintain a designated work area
    • Ensure safety and ergonomics
    • Work site access for inspection
    • Procedures for reporting injury
    • Employer liability for injury (employee, third party)
    • Employee obligations with respect to maintenance of insurance
  4. Maintaining Confidentiality
    • Confidentiality of sensitive data
    • Employee obligations for ensuring confidentiality/data privacy
  5. Defining Expectations
    • Family life and family care intrusions
    • Terms, conditions for Telecommuting arrangement

Defining Eligibility for Telecommuting

Telecommuting is only feasible for those tasks within a job that are amenable in whole or in part to being performed away from the main office. The usefulness of telecommuting depends on the work group, organization, and the employee’s past and present level of performance.

Supervisors/managers should establish employee selection criteria for deciding which employees are eligible for telecommuting. Selection of employees should not be arbitrary, but should be based on specific work related criteria established by management. Such selection criteria may include reasonable accommodation provisions for permanently disabled employees, temporarily disabled employees and displaced employees. However, such accommodations should be addressed through Disability Services.

In deciding to establish a telecommuting agreement, these aspects should be considered:

Job Duties: Tasks that are clearly defined and easily quantifiable are ideal for telecommuting.

Tasks that might work well for telecommuting:

  • System administration with tasks that can be done remotely
  • Technical writing
  • Communications development
  • Graphic design
  • Referral consulting
  • Course development
  • Administrative tasks (e-mail, status reports, budgets, etc.)
  • Web development, Software development, Programming
  • Certain research (i.e. on-line)
  • Individual work (non-collaborative)

Tasks that present challenge for telecommuting:

  • Work requiring face-to-face contact with customers (front-line support)
  • Anything that requires hands-on contact with equipment
  • Interviewing and performance reviews
  • Teaching courses
  • Projects requiring large amounts of collaboration
  • Clerical support (i.e. receptionist, file clerk)
  • Hardware related services
  • Contract discussions
  • Staff meetings

Employee Characteristics: Employees who are good candidates for telecommuting generally have a number of work-related characteristics in common.

  • History of reliable and responsible discharge of work duties
  • Full understanding of the operations of the organization
  • Trust of their supervisor
  • Ability to establish priorities and manage their own time
  • Proven track record of personal motivation which is reflected in past performance ratings

Ideal Candidates are:

  • Self-motivated and responsible
  • Results oriented and comfortable setting priorities and deadlines
  • Able to work independently; need minimal supervision
  • Successful in current position
  • Knowledgeable about office procedures
  • An effective communicator who takes initiative
  • Adaptable to changing routines and environments
  • Committed to telecommuting