Flexible Work Arrangements
Northwestern’s work encompasses a wide range of positions to fulfill its mission. Understanding the many varied duties of staff members across the University, Northwestern recognizes that the implementation of a flexible work arrangement can often optimize the needs of the University and the staff member or work team and supports flex work arrangements where possible.
The availability of flexible work arrangements varies by school, unit, and position based on business and operational needs; the approval or denial of a request for a flexible work arrangement is at the supervisor’s discretion. When appropriate, both individuals and teams may propose and utilize a flexible work arrangement if approved by a supervisor.
Policy on COVID-19 Alternative Work Arrangements
Northwestern has established a temporary provision for faculty and staff required to return to in-person campus work activities, or who support ongoing academic research, who request alternative work arrangements due to:
- Own or household risk of exposure,
- Required care of minor and/or adult dependents,
- Limited access to reasonably safe public transportation options, and/or
- Inability to secure child or elder care.
A school or unit's Return to Campus Plan may adequately address employee scheduling or flexibility needs. In these cases, the provisions of this policy need not apply. This policy is intended to address situations in which an employee requires additional flexibility. Employees will need to complete an Alternative Work Arrangements Request Form (VPN required). Faculty can complete this Alternative Work Arrangement Proposal Form to share with your department chair or supervisor.
The COVID-19 Alternative Work Arrangements Policy will be in place through December 31, 2020 and may be extended, discontinued, or modified at any time.
Download the policy
Training, Tips and Tools for Effective Remote Work Arrangements:
- Learn From Where You Are: Transition to a Remote and Virtual Workplace
- Leading Distributed Teams Certificate Program
- Tip Sheet: Managing Remote Workers
- Tip Sheet: Managers of Employees with Caregiving Responsibilities During COVID-19
- Tip Sheet: Helping Remote Workers Stay Connected
- Best Practices for Working Virtually
- Tip Sheet: Remote Work Tools
Types of flexible work arrangements
There are two types of flex work arrangements: occasional and formal. Occasional refers to one time or intermittent requests. Formal are arrangements that require some type of change in when or where someone works on a regular basis. Both require communication with and approval by the manager, however, it is suggested that a more formal arrangement be documented by using our flexible work arrangement proposal form.
The specific nature of the flexible work arrangement, whether occasional or formal, can take a variety of forms. The most common are:
Transition To/From Leave
The main consideration in setting up an alternative work arrangement is how the work will be completed. It is recommended that the below guidelines be taken into consideration as well.
- Flex is a business strategy and engagement tool.
- Flex is NOT a perk; a way to facilitate caregiving; a way of addressing health issues; or a form of ADA accommodations.
- Staff proposing a flex arrangement should be in good standing and should have passed the 6 month probation period, unless the flex arrangement is part of the staff member’s starting agreement.
- The process by which managers approve flex arrangement proposals should be equitable and objective.
- Written proposals (see below for proposal templates) and pilot periods are strongly recommended.
- Decisions should be reason-neutral; managers should not consider individuals’ personal circumstances or reasons for seeking a flex work arrangement in either approving or rejecting an employee’s flex proposal and should avoid asking for a reason as part of the proposal.
- Flex work arrangements should be job-appropriate, operationally viable and legally compliant. A position that requires the employee to be on-site regularly may not, for example, allow for telecommuting.
- Flex work arrangements should have a net-neutral or net-positive effect on business results.
- Flex work arrangements should be responsive both to the changing needs of the workplace and of the individual and reviewed regularly.
- Team-based flex arrangements should include guiding principles.
- Managers may establish non-negotiable schedule parameters and core hours, based on business needs.
- Non-exempt employees cannot work over their approved hours unless they have supervisor pre-approval.
- Employees and managers should consult the Well-Being team and their HR Business Partner regarding best practices, policies and training for both individuals and teams.