Purpose of Reimagining How Rice Works
Developing a Workforce Plan and Organizational Structure
- Work with your HRBP
- Involve Supervisors in the discussion
- Conduct an environmental scan of your current staffing/workforce and identify gaps (unmet needs and skills), current vacancies, potential eliminations where there is excess or duplication, areas where technology can make processes more efficient, positions that can be redesigned, where do you expect retirement/turnover, what positions are critical to keep or source (internally or externally).
- What are the future trends, skills, and needs?
- How does the current structure align with the strategic plan?
- Is there a need for a transitional structure? Reasonable timelines?
- What financial resources are needed? How to position/sell the need?
Alternative/Flexible Work Arrangements
Rice strives to be a great place to work. In an effort to attract, retain, reward, and sustain a happy and healthy workforce, Rice offers a variety of flexible work arrangements. Flexible work arrangements enable staff to have greater control over how and where work is accomplished. There are a variety of different flexible work options, including but not limited to flexible schedules, compressed workweeks, and telecommuting options. The Options for Flexible Work Arrangements section below is not meant to be an exhaustive list of flexible work options, but rather a helpful tool for supervisors and employees. Not all flexible workplace options are available in all departments or for all positions. Supervisors must consider the potential benefits and challenges of each option
All requests for flexible work arrangements should be made in writing to an employee’s supervisor through the Flexible Work Arrangement Request form. The supervisor may seek guidance from their supervisor, division administrator, and/or their HRBP. In some instances, formal agreements will be made. Please contact HRBP@rice.edu with any questions and/or guidance on implementing a flexible work option in your department.
General Considerations When Assessing an Alternative Work Arrangement
Prior to implementing a telecommuting or other type of arrangement, it is important to have discussions regarding the specific tasks and duties that will be performed. In some cases, the work being performed may not lend itself to being done at another location other than the normal work location.
NOTE: See the Options, Benefit, and Challenges for Flexible Work Arrangement session of this toolkit.
Recommended discussion points include:
- How can this benefit the department?
- Whether the responsibilities to be performed outside the usual workplace are appropriate to the individual’s job classification assignment;
- Whether the work to be performed off-site meets a business and critical operational need;
- The degree of interaction (both in-person and by phone) with other university offices required to get the work done;
- Ability to provide expected levels of customer service;
- Whether the job includes supervising the work of others;
- How the employee will be available to respond to real-time work questions (e.g., work a set schedule; be accessible by phone, e-mail, instant chat);
- Whether the employee has completed at least six months of their probationary period;
- Whether any of the work will have to be done by others NOT working in a flexible arrangement;
- Whether the employee has the resources and support needed to telecommute (or similar) successfully; and/or
- Other factors deemed relevant by the manager and/or university.
When evaluating a potential flexible arrangement, such as telecommuting, it is important to take into consideration an employee’s performance level. For example, generally, telecommuting may be considered when the performance is at an acceptable level or above and the employee has completed their probationary period. Telecommuting arrangements are typically not a consideration when performance improvement actions are in effect.
Supervision: How will the arrangement be monitored? Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that they continue to supervise an employee in a flexible working arrangement. Specific items include:
- Clarity as to how performance will be evaluated;
- If the employee has completed the probationary period;
- The degree of supervision required to accomplish the work;
- The supervisor's ability to evaluate whether work is being performed;
- The degree to which the employee can work with minimal supervision;
- The supervisor's ability to verify the time spent working; e.g., whether the work has measurable outputs (e.g., pages to be typed, a paper to be produced, a specific number of accounts to be reconciled, etc.); and/or
- The degree of confidence the supervisor has in the employee's ability to accomplish the work off-site;
- How the employee will communicate with you.
Is the alternative workspace adequate?
The work environment that is proposed for the work arrangement needs to be appropriate to accomplish the work without competing obligations. There also needs to be appropriate data and document security and ensure there will be no health and safety concerns. Finally, decisions will also include the resource limitations of the department.
Considerations should include but are not limited to:
- Does the workspace have the appropriate space and allow for minimal disruption?
- Will the employee have adequate equipment and technical support?
OIT Resources for Remote Working
Video – No Wifi: How to Wire Your House for Internet (22:00)
Guidelines for Remote Work Arrangements
Tips for Making Alternative Arrangements Work
- Clarify roles and goals
- Establish clear objectives
- Avoid micromanaging
- Create a shared document that clarifies ownership of projects with clear deadlines
For Remote/Telecommuting Arrangements:
- Make time for connecting and collaborating for remote/telecommuting arrangements:
- (1) schedule time for virtual huddles
- (2) encourage the use of a chat platform
- (3) schedule a weekly kick-off meeting
- (4) continue group projects
- Emphasize and manage the need for flexibility for remote/telecommuting arrangements:
- (1) set aside time for each team member to share their workspace
- (2) discuss barriers
- (3) allow flexibility based on family needs
- (4) help team members work through distractions
- Make virtual meetings effective and engaging:
- (1) encourage the use of web cameras and the chat function in Zoom
- (2) assign roles for meetings such as opening icebreaker and notetaker
- (3) call on people by name so everyone can contribute
- (4) open with highs and lows
- Provide guidance on separating work from home:
- (1) proactively help employees set a realistic daily schedule
- (2) encourage employees to take breaks and even walk outside
- (3) limit communications outside of work hours
Options, Benefits, Challenges & Guidelines for Flexible Work Arrangement
A reduced work schedule is a schedule that is less than 40 hours per workweek. Some positions at Rice are part-time in nature, but the majority are full-time (40 hours/week). There may be opportunities for an employee to request a reduction in the schedule, temporary or permanent, depending on the needs of the department and the function of the position. These decisions are solely at the discretion of the supervisor and head of the department.
Rotating/alternating schedules can allow the employee to have flexibility especially for things unique to their situation (e.g. child care needs, transportation issues, etc.)
Staggering arrival and departure times can reduce traffic in common areas including elevators.
Allows a possible budget-saving if a full-time position is reduced to part-time.
- Supports employees who need or require additional time off due to caregiving, personal, or other responsibilities.
- Attracts employees who prefer to work part-time.
- Provides flexibility depending on academic or calendar demands.
- Can retain employees in the longer term.
Depending on the size of your staff, demands of the department, and/or demands of the position, reducing coverage may not be feasible.
- It could be difficult when scheduling meetings and coordinating departmental collaborative efforts.
- The arrangement may not work for all departments, roles, or situations.
Based on the employee's needs and circumstances and the needs/essential functions of the position, the following are recommended:
Telecommuting is a regular or temporary arrangement of working from a location other than the employee’s office for a portion of the employee’s schedule. Rice is a collaborative work environment, and as such, the large majority of work is conducted on campus. Though there may be instances where telecommuting arrangements add value, the majority of the work should still be accomplished on campus and not at an alternate location. Requests for telecommuting are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and are seen as a privilege, rather than a right.
Telecommuting is appropriate for employees who:
- Have the ability to successfully organize, manage time, work independently and productively with minimal supervision, and have at least a satisfactory work performance history;
- Have a thorough knowledge and understanding of their job functions and the equipment required for the alternative work arrangement;
- Have access to a remote worksite or space that is safe and free from interruptions; and,
- Are able to provide the security necessary to adequately protect any University information and equipment used at the remote worksite.
- Allows staff to minimize commuting time over the span of a workweek.
- Allows for less inter-office interruptions and enhanced productivity.
- Serves as a form of positive recognition for staff.
- Serves as temporary reasonable accommodation, if approved by the Disability Resource Center.
Depending on the size of your staff, office coverage may not be optimal, especially when staff is out of the office or on vacation.
- Could be difficult when scheduling meetings and coordinating departmental collaborative efforts.
- Employee must have a high level of autonomy and self-direction to be productive in the absence of direct supervision.
- May present technology and/or security concerns, depending on the work and level of security needed.
- The arrangement may not work for all departments, roles, or situations.
Telecommuting is an authorized work arrangement that involves an employee routinely working one or more days per week at a location that is not the regularly assigned place of employment (on-campus or other permanent location).
Telecommuting and the Employment Relationship
Telecommuting includes alternative work arrangements available to employees whose job duties are appropriate for such an assignment. The decision to authorize these options is within management’s discretion based on the nature of the work being performed and other business considerations. The arrangement is voluntary and participation does not alter an employee’s work relationship with the University nor does it relieve an employee from the obligation to observe all applicable University rules, policies, and procedures. All existing terms and conditions of employment, including but not limited to the position description, salary, benefits, vacation, sick leave, and overtime remain the same as if the employee worked only at his or her regularly assigned place of employment.
Agreement and Approvals Required
A Flexible Work Agreement must be completed and signed by the employee and the employee's supervisor and must have the approval of the employee's Dean or Director prior to the employee initiating the arrangement.
The agreement must contain the following information:
- Workspace: The employee agrees to work from a place where distractions and disruptions are minimal and work can be performed effectively and efficiently.
- Description of Work: The agreement must contain a description of the general nature of the work to be performed by the participating employee and to what degree the work will e performed remotely (e.g. 50%)
Supervisors have the discretion to approve or deny an employee’s request for telecommuting based on job or business-related criteria. Positions that may be considered for telecommuting arrangements are those that:
- Have job functions that can be performed at a remote site without diminishing the quality of the work or disrupting the productivity of a unit;
- Do not require an employee's presence at the regularly assigned place of employment on a daily or routine basis;
- Allow for an employee to be as effectively supervised as he or she would be if the job functions were performed at the assigned place of employment;
- Have an emphasis on the electronic production and/or exchange of information by means of computers, modems, or phones;
- Involve a measurable or quantifiable work product; and
- Have a minimal or flexible need for specialized materials or equipment available only at the regularly assigned work site.
Additionally, when operational needs require, an employee must report to the regularly assigned place of employment upon the supervisor’s request. Employees will be given as much advance notice as feasible under the circumstances presented.
Equipment and Supplies
- An employee will describe and present to the supervisor a request for office equipment, hardware, software, communication needs, and office supplies needed to participate in telecommuting from a remote worksite. The supervisor will review the request for approval for purchase or reimbursement. The University will not reimburse the employee for any costs not pre-approved by the supervisor. Purchases or reimbursement shall be provided in accordance with applicable University policies.
- The University will not reimburse employees for out-of-pocket expenses for materials and supplies that are reasonably available at the regularly assigned place of employment.
- Only University-approved software shall be used for connecting with the university's network from the remote work site. Employees who are participating in telecommuting shall run university prescribed anti-virus software at all times and follow all University information security rules, copyright laws, and manufacturers' licensing agreements.
- University equipment located at the remote worksite is subject to all policies and restrictions related to the use of University equipment. Participating employees are responsible for any equipment and software that is used at the remote worksite and accept financial responsibility for any equipment that is lost, stolen, or damaged because of the employee's negligence, misuse or abuse
- Work Schedules – An alternative work arrangement does not necessarily alter the employee’s work schedule. The specific work schedule of a participating employee shall be agreed upon by the supervisor and employee and described in the agreement.
- Employee Availability – Participating employees shall be available for communication and contact during telecommuting as they would be if working at their regularly assigned place of employment.
- Participating employees and their supervisors shall agree on how their communications shall be handled. During the agreed-upon work schedule, it is expected that the participating employee shall be available for contact by phone or email.
In general, employees who have a Flexible Work Agreement are expected to report to the regular place of employment at least once per wee
Work Documentation, Timekeeping, and Leave
- Work Documentation – Participating employees and supervisors should identify work items for review and discussion on an ongoing basis to ensure that tasks are fully described and timely performed and/or completed.
- Timekeeping. Participating employees will be required to maintain accurate time accounting documentation to support their work hours and must submit regular weekly time reports detailing hours worked. Departments shall maintain all-time records for the employee.
- Overtime – Under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees will be compensated in pay or compensatory time for overtime that has been approved by the supervisor in accordance with the provisions of the FLSA.
- Injuries at Remote Work Site. The University assumes no liability for injury at the remote worksite to any other person who would not be in the work area if the duties were being performed at the regular place of employment. An injured employee participating in telecommuting must notify his or her supervisor immediately and complete all requested documents. Workers' Compensation benefits will apply to injuries arising out of and in the course and scope of employment.
- Damages to Personal Property and Operating Costs. The University will not be liable for damages to employee-owned equipment being used in telecommuting or that may result from telecommuting. The University will not be responsible for operating costs, home maintenance, or any other incidental costs (e.g. utilities, telephone, insurance) associated with the use of the employee's residence for telecommuting unless specifically provided in advance and in writing by the department head as outlined in the agreement.
When a participating employee is working in another state, the employee is responsible for contacting Human Resources and the University’s Payroll Office regarding tax ramifications that may relate to working in another state.
Termination of Agreement
Employees may request an arrangement be terminated with ten (10) University working days written notice. It is recommended that supervisors make a decision regarding the termination request within ten (10) University business days. The University reserves the right to terminate the agreement with ten (10) University business days notice if the University determines in its sole discretion that the telecommuting arrangement no longer is in the best interest of the University. The University also reserves the right to terminate without a notice period for any violations of University policy, a violation of the conditions of the agreement or when there is a relevant change in University policy or law.
Return of University Property
When the agreement is terminated, the employee must promptly return all notes, data, reference materials, sketches, drawings, memoranda, reports, records, equipment, software, supplies, and any other University property in the employee's possession or control.
Damaged or Lost Property
The University shall not be held responsible for costs, damages, or losses associated with the termination of the agreement.
A compressed work schedule allows an employee to work a traditional 35-40 hour workweek in less than five workdays. For example, a full-time employee could work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days.
This option is more easily applied to non-exempt (bi-weekly paid) staff for whom maximum work hours are identified, but it is not ruled out for monthly paid staff who may work more than 40 hours during the workweek. Duke Payroll practices require non-exempt staff that agrees to a compressed workweek arrangement to be paid overtime based on all hours over 40 in a workweek.
Another popular option is a nine-day/two-week work arrangement, which allows for two weeks of work to be compressed into nine or nine and a half days of work. This is popular with staff members who want some flexibility in their schedule and do not mind extra time built into the beginning or end of the workday, but do not want the long day's compressed workweek to require
- Reduces an employee's commute time.
- Staff members working compressed workweeks have more time outside of work to take care of personal responsibilities; as a result, they can be more focused on the tasks at hand during their scheduled work time.
- Staff members working compressed workweeks may be more productive during the hours outside of the traditional workday when fewer staff members are present.
It may be a challenge to sustain morale among staff members who work long days but do not have the opportunity to work a compressed workweek. The longer workday may be physically and mentally draining. Some types of compressed schedules, such as 80 hours over 9 days, may present a challenge to supervisors of non-exempt staff members since overtime must be paid to non-exempt staff members who work more than 40 hours in a given week. Staff members may find it difficult to arrange dependent care or transportation around the long workday.
A job share arrangement is a full-time job split between two individuals, each with responsibility for the success of the total job. Job sharing allows two staff members to share the responsibilities of one full-time position, typically with prorated salary and paid time off. Creative and innovative schedules can be designed to meet the needs of the job sharers and the department. Job-sharing arrangements can be 50/50, 60/40 or any similar combination. The schedules may also overlap as needed or desired.
Successful job sharing arrangements usually place responsibility for a functional arrangement on the individuals sharing the job (job partners) rather than the supervisor. Both job partners should agree up front that if one of the job partners is not meeting the needs of the organization or decides to leave the job, the other will revert to a full-time schedule, permanently or until a replacement job partner is found within a reasonable time frame. If a new job partner cannot be found and the remaining job partner does not want a full-time job, he/she will agree to resign from the job to be replaced by a full-time employee. This is considered a voluntary resignation and does not qualify the individual for position discontinuation and staff transition benefits.
Job Sharing Example
Elizabeth began to consider job sharing when her mother became ill. She realized that because of personal responsibilities, she no longer wanted to work on a full time basis but still wanted to be able to preserve her career skills and status within her profession. With her supervisor, Elizabeth determined that a job sharing arrangement would be valuable in helping her create a sense of balance in her life. She now works Monday, Tuesday and until noon on Wednesday when her job sharing partner takes over to work the remainder of the workweek.
- Job sharing partners can provide more consistent service to internal and external clients than two part-time staff members.
- Job sharing partners can fill in for one another during scheduled and unscheduled absences
- Two heads are better than one.
- The job sharing partners' clients, supervisor, and co-workers, and the partners themselves, can benefit from the varied perspectives, strengths, and skills each job sharing partner brings to the job.
- Staff members in job sharing arrangements have more time outside of work to take care of personal responsibilities; as a result, they can be more focused on the tasks at hand during their scheduled work time.
- It may be a challenge for a staff member who is interested in job sharing to find a job sharing partner with whom they are personally and professionally compatible.
- Job sharing partners may find it challenging to maintain the constant communication required to keep one another informed about scheduling (meetings, training, travel, etc.) and the status of shared work.
- A work unit may find it difficult to fund a job sharing arrangement.
- May decrease the potential for advancement.