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Policy on Flexible Work Arrangements for Staff

Introduction

The School of Social Work is committed to creating and promoting a positive work climate as one of our core values. To help foster this positive work climate, the school encourages supervisors and department leads to adopt flexible work arrangements for staff, informed by our organizational needs and services, as well as the larger mission of the school. SSW is deeply committed to residential education, which is core to our mission, and the standards below were developed with that in mind. It is essential that all flexible work arrangements be implemented in a manner that preserves a robust, active, and engaging presence on campus for students, and for the common good of our faculty and staff community, and other stakeholders.

In the spirit of striving for excellence in all that we do, another core SSW value, the following policy will be adopted on an interim basis for the 21-22 academic year that allows us to experiment with and continue to explore new ways of working. We are committed to assessing and collecting feedback at the end of the 21-22 academic year to help inform a final policy.

Interim Policy Standards

This interim policy applies to non-bargained for, regular and temporary staff members (full or part-time) in good standing. Supervisors should initiate conversations with their staff about flexible work arrangements, and staff interested in proposing a specific flexible work arrangement should discuss it with their supervisor. Supervisors will work with department leads to approve any flexible work arrangement.

  • Flexibility for All Staff: Every staff member in the school, in collaboration with their supervisor, should have some level of flexibility in their role. Flexible work arrangements encompass a wide variety of options that alter the traditional scope of when, where, and how work gets done. This includes flex time, alternative work schedules, adjusted summer schedules, meeting-free days, and ongoing or non-recurring telecommuting events, among others. The type of flexible work arrangements available will vary based on job role, responsibilities, performance, and organizational support needs. Certain positions and circumstances are not conducive to telecommuting, and flexibility is not synonymous with telecommuting.
  • Open Offices and Campus Presence: The school has a fundamental expectation that offices will be open during core hours of operation and that students, instructors, and other stakeholders will have in-person support during those hours. Offices have the autonomy to explore and offer flexible work arrangements as they see fit within the standards of this interim policy so long as offices remain open to those on campus during core hours and all staff members work at least 60% of their time in-person unless a role has been specifically hired as a partially or fully remote position, or with approval from the dean’s office.

    Recognizing the wide variety of team size and operations, offices may request an exception if there are concerns about the impact of this general rule on their team (e.g., smaller teams, teams without public-facing operations, past practice). Exceptions require advance approval from the dean’s office.

    Implementation Guidance Related to Open Offices and Campus Presence
    • For purposes of this policy, work-related travel (e.g., traveling to recruitment or development events) and field work (for research staff) are considered a part of one’s in-person time commitment. However, time spent commuting from one’s home to their in-person work location is not.
    • Some offices periodically close for short periods during the day for meetings that staff are expected to attend, for lunch breaks, team-building activities, staff appreciation events, and the like. This policy does not prevent office closures for those types of activities.
    • Additionally, offices may continue existing practices of operating at reduced levels of availability during periods of traditionally decreased activity on campus, such as during the summer term.
    • Supervisors are responsible for ensuring their offices maintain open and accessible in-person support hours regardless of staff absences due to illness or vacation scheduling. 
  • Department Lead & Supervisor Responsibilities, Discretion, Approval and Clear Communication of Office Hours and Coverage: Departmental leads have the discretion—within the parameters of this policy—to determine which flexible options can be accommodated based on the unique needs and mission of their office/team. All flexible work arrangements require supervisor approval and approval from the supervisor’s department lead (if one exists) or the School’s chief operations officer. Departmental leads and supervisors are expected to review requests for flexible work arrangements objectively and fairly to ensure an equitable process. Consideration should be given to which flexible work arrangements are appropriate for staff in probationary periods, with respect to onboarding new employees or with staff who have recent performance concerns. Department Leads will clearly communicate, on the web, and on office doors, the hours of operation of the office.
  • Compliance: All flexible work arrangements must comply with federal labor laws, state labor laws, the University’s Standard Practice Guide, and must align with the campus presence expectations outlined above unless the dean’s office has approved an exception.
  • Periodic Review and Modifications: All approved flexible work arrangements should be assessed regularly (at least annually during the staff evaluation process) to ensure they are meeting the needs of the staff and the office. Offices retain the ability to determine which flexible work arrangements are meeting their operational/organizational needs, and flexible work arrangements may need to change at the discretion of the supervisor or department lead, who should provide reasonable notice (ideally, two weeks).

Additional Considerations for Telecommuting and Remote Work

Telecommuting and remote work arrangements involve a number of important considerations for staff and supervisors. In particular, determining what work is best performed on campus with key stakeholders is critical to sustaining the value of a residential campus experience. Telecommuting is not an employment right, and any telecommuting arrangement may be changed or terminated at any time, and for any reason, by the employer. The descriptions of the following types of arrangements should help inform decisions for individual staff and positions, recognizing that these are meant as general guidelines that may not apply in all circumstances.

  • Resident Arrangement: This arrangement is appropriate for staff whose primary responsibilities inherently involve in-person services or whose work depends on onsite technology, capital assets, or equipment on campus that requires all, or nearly all, the work to be accomplished onsite (e.g., receptionists who greet onsite visitors to a space, facilities staff responsible for the building). Because remote work is generally not feasible, supervisors should consider other flexible arrangements such as flexible time schedules, alternate work schedules, meeting-free days, adjusted summer schedules, etc.
  • Hybrid Arrangement: Hybrid work arrangements allow some job responsibilities to be accomplished onsite and others to be performed remotely. Hybrid work arrangements may be appropriate for a number of SSW staff, though the percentage of time or number of days that a staff member can work remotely as part of a hybrid work arrangement should be informed by considerations such as whether the staff member’s work directly supports students, instruction, internal functions, or the extent to which the role supports on-campus services. Approved Telecommuting Agreements are required for schedules that are 20% or more remote. Completed telecommuting agreements must be on file with SSW HR. With appropriate notice, staff who are telecommuting regularly may still be expected to come to campus for unit/team events, meetings, to pick up equipment and supplies, etc.
  • Fully Virtual Arrangement: Details around changing a traditionally in-person role to a fully virtual work arrangement is outside the scope of this policy. Any such change would need to be approved by the dean’s office. This level of change is expected to be rare, if supported at all during this time.

Following central university guidance, remote work from foreign countries is not permitted absent compelling circumstances that require advance approval from the Office of General Counsel. Additionally, due to differences in local labor, employment, and tax laws, work arrangements that involve working remotely outside the State of Michigan require specific approval by the dean’s office prior to approval. This is also expected to be a rare occurrence at this time.

Flexible Work Arrangements - Definitions

Supervisor: The person to whom a staff member reports to administratively. Supervisors are responsible for outlining the default work arrangements and staffing schedules required to fulfill the operational needs of their team/office and ensuring equity across their team/office, determining the flexible work arrangement requests of their staff, and approving them in conjunction with the department lead. Note that the department lead and supervisor may be the same person.

Department Lead: The highest level leader for an organization unit in SSW. For example, the ADEP is the Department Lead for all units that report up through the ADEP office. For an administrative unit like Facilities, the Assistant Dean & Director for Finance, Administration and General Operations holds this role. Individuals in this role are ultimately responsible for reviewing and approving all flexible work arrangements in their organizational unit.

Core Working Hours: SSW has typically maintained core working hours of 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, for the Fall and Winter semesters. Specific exceptions to this have and may continue to vary based on service needs and expectations.

Flex Time: Variable starting and ending times during the workday and/or workweek on an as-needed basis. Requires supervisor approval prior to the adjustment of a schedule. Staff should only flex their schedule in the same workweek. For example, if a staff member must be at home to sign for a delivery, they leave work 2 hours early on a Tuesday and make up the 2 hours by starting and/or ending work early on Wednesday, the next day. Schedule flexibility for non-exempt staff must remain within the same 40-hour workweek.

Alternative Work Schedules: Work arrangements that vary from the standard SSW work hours. Requires supervisor approval prior to adjustment of schedule. These arrangements may be made on a regular long-term basis or occasional arrangements. Examples:
Working five hours per day in the building and three hours from home to accommodate family care needs.
Working four, 10-hour days versus the standard 8 hours per day five days per week.
Sporadic or occasional work schedule adjustments to accommodate a one-time or short-term personal circumstance.

Adjusted Summer Schedules: Adjusting work hours to accommodate seasonal changes in workloads. Example: The ‘Summer Hours’ option traditionally available to many staff in SSW, which entails working four 9-hour days and taking a half-day on Friday.

Meeting Free Work Days: Pausing meetings and non-essential emails for an approved period of time. These deep work days can be used for a much-needed reprieve from meetings and email in order to focus on projects and other complex or detailed work.

Ongoing Telecommuting Arrangement: This arrangement is made on a regular, long-term basis or full-time permanent basis. These arrangements require supervisor/department lead approval and require a Telecommuting Agreement to be on file with SSW HR. Examples can include but are not limited to: 1. A staff member telecommutes one or two dedicated days per week on a preset schedule; 2. A staff member telecommutes one or two days per week, and the day(s) of the week could vary; 3. A staff member telecommutes a percentage of their time. These arrangements are renewed/updated annually or sooner if needed.

Non-recurring Telecommuting Arrangement: Occasional arrangement to work remotely, under special circumstances. These arrangements require supervisor approval, are handled on an exception basis, and do not require a Telecommuting Work Agreement to be on file with SSW HR.

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