Effectively managing flexible work arrangements
Departments are working to support caregivers during a time when the workplace itself has changed and everyone is feeling extra stress. This is an opportunity for everyone to shift their mindset, commit to supportive values and norms, and to provide guidance that supports good work, balance and well-being during this unprecedented time.
Express departmental commitments
Consider communicating department-wide commitments:
- Acknowledge that flexibility is key to retention and one measure of success post-COVID is avoiding loss of talent, institutional knowledge, and skills.
- Support flexible work schedules, adjustments to FTEs and other flexible approaches to the greatest extent that business needs allow — being mindful that jobs may vary considerably in terms of the availability and responsiveness they demand and that the University’s successful operations and delivery of mission cannot be impeded.
- Trust employees to take personal responsibility for fulfilling work responsibilities, as is required of all state employees.
- Encourage collaboration and creativity when it comes to completing work and offering flexibility.
- Recognize and acknowledge expectations of those exempt employees regularly exceeding FTE and encourage that managers ensure expectations are reasonable.
- Modify business or turnaround time expectations, as appropriate and feasible, focusing work on the highest priority tasks and projects.
- When evaluating performance, acknowledge both accomplishments and challenges faced.
- Empower supervisors to use all available flexible approaches to enable employees to perform their functions under a realistic workload.
- Acknowledge the perspectives of employees with caregiver responsibilities and honor the fact that “take your kid to work day” may be every day for a while.
- Recognize that each person’s situation is unique and that needs may vary over time.
- Extend grace to colleagues and recognize we are all navigating our own challenges.
Establish specific departmental norms
Consider the following departmental norms:
- Institute department-wide “no meeting hour” or “no meeting day.”
- Memorialize expectations in telework agreements for all teleworking employees.
- Support and encourage participation in The Whole U’s exercise or mindfulness breaks.
- Establish norms around expectations for virtual meeting participation. Examples: whether video is required (consider whether employees may be taking calls from a doctor’s waiting room, while driving, and/or managing multiple work priorities while in a virtual meeting).
- If your department has approved employees for flexible work schedule arrangements, establish norms for all remotely working staff to support transparency, collaboration, and communication by asking employees to:
- Add their work schedule to their email signature and calendar to communicate availability.
- Create an out-of-office message to communicate a reduced or flex schedule.
- Email the entirety of their unit, not just their supervisor, about their revised work schedule, or provide a central place where work schedules may be viewed, in order to support collaboration.
- Block out “busy” time on their calendar so child/elder time can be scheduled around (e.g., “hold” time on calendars for a child’s lunch hour or zoom class change).
- Be transparent about their availability and challenges and work with their supervisor to clarify what time blocks work best for meetings or conference calls. While all meetings cannot be scheduled around caregivers, ensuring employees understand each other’s realities may help mitigate avoidable scheduling conflicts.
- Practice patience and understanding of caregivers if they have to take a meeting while multi-tasking with child(ren).
- Be thoughtful about colleagues’ varied work schedules by looking for opportunities to send email instead of scheduling a meeting, or recording meetings to allow for later viewing as appropriate, and/or taking meeting notes for later review.
- Ask, when feasible, if people would prefer an audio-only call to prevent “Zoom fatigue.”
- Limit responses to email while on vacation or time off
Establish manager supports for caregiver success
To the extent possible for each position:
- Identify work that could be cancelled or postponed, reprioritized, or reallocated to others, being mindful to not overburden others taking on moved work.
- Communicate how individuals may be reached if they are needed after hours (e.g., phone or text) so people can disconnect from email when not working.
- Be mindful of direct reports’ working hours and support and encourage time away from the telework environment.
- Allow employees to continue to telework through the school year if helpful, even if UW starts returning to the office sooner, to provide predictability/certainty for child care and other planning.
- Suggest a “buddy system” where each team member has a designated colleague who will brief them if they need to miss a meeting.
- Consider adding team-wide “no meeting” blocks in addition to department-wide “no meeting” times.
- Work collaboratively with employees to innovate additional ways to flex work schedules and workloads.