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UVM Employee & Labor Relations

Work at Home

Stephen was working on a long-term computer project with a six-month deadline. At the onset, he tore his Achilles tendon and was suddenly unable to come to his office, but felt he could continue his work at home without jeopardizing the project and losing valuable sick leave. He requested to continue to work in his home and transfer his computer and all his data to that site. Since the project was almost entirely independent, this was certainly doable. His supervisor had information and work transferred to Stephen's home with the help of a colleague, and much communication was handled by telephone and e-mail. Stephen's tendon healed as scheduled and he completed the job early.

Rachel worked on special projects for an office in University Advancement until her daughter was born and she took a six-week leave of absence. Thereafter, she wanted to extend her time and requested to temporarily work at home for three months. She submitted her request to her supervisor with a proposal for several special projects to be completed during the three months. This would include a regular on-campus meeting every week to go over progress and receive direction. Her supervisor was agreeable to the additional time at home as long as Rachel agreed to return to work in the office if the work at home was unsatisfactory in significant ways.

Work at Home Defined

Work at home is an extraordinary scheduling alternative that allows employees to temporarily accomplish their work responsibilities while balancing family and personal needs. Supervisors set clear expectations about how the work is to be assigned, completed, and evaluated as well as how colleagues communicate at a distance.

Work at home frequently entails a temporary work-time reduction since employees may not be able to maintain their regular schedule.

Not every job is suited for work at home, of course. Some positions require certain equipment and materials while others require personal, regular contact with the public and University community. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to determine whether the job can in fact be done in the home.

Assigning Work and Monitoring Performance

When an employee works at home for a temporary period, there should be a clear agreement about how work will be accomplished and evaluated as well as a regular communication system to keep any problems from growing beyond control.

When assigning work, the supervisor should review:

  • The duties and responsibilities of the position to identify the most appropriate assignments for work at home.
  • The work of the department to identify work that could be temporarily done away from the office.
  • Special projects that lend themselves to work at home.

With this information, a supervisor should be able to develop a solid agreement with the employee who must temporarily work at home.

To monitor performance, the supervisor may want to schedule a daily telephone call, a weekly call, a written report, or a meeting on campus when possible.

Ending the Work at Home Period

The temporary work agreement should include an ending date for the work at home arrangement, and when that is not possible, a process for determining when the return is appropriate. Generally, an employee will inform their supervisor when they are ready to return to work on campus. From time to time it may be necessary for the supervisor to speak with medical or other professionals about readiness to return and the supervisor always has the final right and responsibility to end a work at home arrangement in order to meet the objectives of the organization.

The Importance of Good Communication

It is critical to keep an open line of communication between the supervisor and the employee in an alternative work schedule arrangement. Here are several options that may be combined or adapted to the individual situation:

  • Hold a weekly informational staff meeting to keep everyone in the department informed
  • Meet with individuals or small groups depending on their schedules
  • Consider a weekly report or progress memo
  • Schedule a monthly meeting to supplement written communications.

Using Money Saved in Alternative Schedules

Any salary saved by alternative scheduling may be used by supervisors to fund temporary workers required or to supplement regular employees who assume additional duties. In planning budgets, however, the full salary should be maintained for those employees who expect to return to full-time status.

Next: When an Alternative Schedule is Not Approved

Last modified October 22 2013 11:59 AM