Flexible work arrangements (FWA)
The university recognizes that flexible work arrangements (FWA) are an important part of being a Great Place to work. FWA options are outlined below. For more information about preparing for the Fall 2021 semester, visit together.vcu.edu/fall-2021-info/timeline/.
One of the many advantages of working at VCU is the quality of our work life. While numerous factors contribute to a positive working environment, a major benefit is flexible work arrangements (FWAs). FWAs allow flexibility in work schedules so staff are better able to balance their work and home life while still meeting the needs of the university and supporting an engaged living, learning and working environment.
FWA options outlined below are designed to balance the need to support the university mission and in-person experience, the unique needs of each school/college and department, various roles and job requirements, and well-being and equity for all university staff. While these guidelines provide operational parameters, they offer a variety of flexible options up to and including hybrid and remote working arrangements for eligible positions.
Supervisors are encouraged to support FWAs and many FWA guidelines are approved at the supervisor level. FWAs that result in more than 40% remote work, which roughly equates to two days a week, are also shared with deans or vice presidents for approval. Approval for more than 40% remote work should not be considered a limit; rather, it is a threshold to ensure equity in allowing FWAs as well as review to make sure a balance is maintained between accommodating the needs of the university and employee.
The reality is that to support the in-person experience, the experience that our students expect and need from VCU, most of us must work on-campus in some capacity. However, we fully expect that some employees will work solely on-campus while others may work predominantly remotely. We have learned a great deal about what our workforce can accomplish and it is important not to limit that innovation and flexibility to times of crisis.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been deliberate in taking small steps, and adjusting as circumstances require. These guidelines are a starting point and an opportunity for VCU to refine and improve our previous approaches to workplace flexibility. They emphasize close collaboration at the local level.
Employees who are eligible (see “determining eligibility” dropdown box) to telework may do so with an approved FWA agreement. See examples below for details and ideas for utilizing hybrid telework schedules.
- Monday and Wednesday telework; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday on campus
- 3 weeks per month on campus; 1 week per month telework
A compressed schedule will consist of longer or shorter workdays to fill a full-time work schedule.
FLSA guidance: Full-time, non-exempt employees are required to work 40 hours per week. This schedule must be fixed and the day off should not vary week to week or month to month. *Although it is permissible, with the supervisor's approval, for a nonexempt staff employee to alter when the 40 hours are worked during the workweek, such employee cannot "bank" overtime hours worked in one workweek for use as time off in a future work week.
- Full-time employee works 10 hour days for four days (10 X 4) with one hour lunch
- 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- 8:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
- Full-time employee works nine hour days for four days plus one four hour day (9 X 4 + 4) with one hour lunch
- 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. plus a 7 a.m. - 11 a.m. shift one day per week
- 8:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. plus an 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. shift one day per week
- Part-time employee works six hours per day, five days per week (.75% FTE)
- 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. (each day)
- Part-time employee works two eight-hour days and one four-hour day per week (.50% FTE)
- 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.
A flextime work schedule allows employees to adjust their arrival and departure times subject to supervisor approval and the operational needs of the school and/or department.
FLSA guidance: This option involves establishing a flexible work schedule around a “core” work period. During this “core” period, staff are required to be at work to meet customer service and internal department needs. The employee works a standard number of hours each day. Non-exempt employees are required to be at work during their defined “scheduled hours” during the day and they must work a standard eight hour day.
Options for full-time (40 hours per week) employee with a one hour lunch break.
- Employee arrives between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. each day, takes a one hour lunch, and leaves nine hours after arrival (between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.);
- Employee arrives between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., takes an hour for lunch, and leaves nine hours after arrival (between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.)
A restructuring of the work assignments allowing two or more employees to rotate assignments in student/patient/customer-facing roles and non-student/patient/customer-facin
- A team of student facing and non-student facing employees share roles allowing for one day of telework/week for each employee.
FLSA guidance: Beyond routine FLSA compliance, there are no specific FLSA considerations with this work arrangement.
Reduced schedule arrangements allow an employee to voluntarily work less than the standard workweek hours. This FWA must be entirely voluntary and at the employee’s request. Compensation and benefits are prorated. If management initiates the reduction in work hours, this is not voluntary and is considered a Workforce Reduction and the reduction must be processed according to the applicable University policy.
FLSA guidance: Exempt employees may become non-exempt if their resulting salary falls below the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) salary threshold.
- Reduced days per week
- Days worked per work week: Monday to Thursday
- Hours worked per day: 8
- Hour worked per week: 32
- Reduced hours per work day
- Days worked per work week: Monday to Friday
- Hours worked per work day: 6
- Start and end times for each work day: 8 a.m. - 2:45 p.m. (including a 45 minute lunch break)
- Hours worked per week: 30
A staggered schedule allows employees to work a full work week during unconventional hours (not the traditional 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday work week) that best suit the employee’s schedule. Management should refer to FLSA guidance.
- Monday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Tuesday: 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.
- Wednesday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Thursday: 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.
- Friday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Employees may be reimbursed for work-related technology, office and business-related supplies when authorized by the department. The decision whether to reimburse for employee technology, office or business-related expenses is made at the sole discretion of the department and is dependent upon the department's budget. The employee is responsible for documenting any expenses for reimbursement. Reimbursement decisions must be made equitably by the department.
- If the employee borrows university equipment, including the required VCU-issued laptop to use remotely, employee agrees to follow VCU’s computer and other equipment use policies and VCU’s information security policies and standards, to protect such equipment in accordance with university guidelines and ensure that the equipment is used only for authorized purposes by authorized employees. University-issued computers should be used for work-related purposes. While limited personal use may be permitted, these computers should not be used by anyone other than the employee who is assigned the computer. University equipment will be serviced and maintained by the university.
- If employee provides business, technology or office supplies, employee is responsible for servicing and maintaining them.
- Neither the university nor the state will be liable for damages to an employee's personal or real property during the course of employee's work at the alternate work location or while using university or state equipment in the employee's residence.
- Neither the university nor the state will be responsible for operating costs, home maintenance, or any other incidental costs (e.g., utilities) associated with the use of the employee's residence.
- All remote access involving data stored on the university network requires encryption. The university will provide the encryption mechanism, such as VPN, that is appropriate for the level of access and the data involved.
- Sensitive data must not be stored on the employee’s personal computer; university-issued computers that are configured and maintained by university IT personnel in accordance with applicable standards and baselines should be used to conduct university business; especially any work involving sensitive university information.
- Sensitive data should not be included in electronic messages; such as email; unless there is some form of encryption being used.
- A secured remote workspace should be established for remote work; such workspace should not be accessible by the general public. Paper documents or portable electronic storage media (e.g. USB drive) containing sensitive university information should be stored securely and locked away when the remote workspace is not occupied; when disposal of such information is needed, secured disposal such as shredding and physical destruction of media is required. For more information, please consult with the VCU information security policies and standards.
- Any exceptions to university security standards must be approved by VCU’s Information Security Office.
For more information, please visit the VCU telework website and the VCU Information Technology policy and standards framework. Any exceptions may be filed with the VCU Information Security Exception form and will require the department head's approval.
The following technology resources (including e-learning) are recommended, but not required depending on job duties:
- Laptop or workstation capable of accessing job-related university applications (when working with sensitive information, an encrypted university-issued and managed computer should be used)
- High-speed internet
- Earbuds or headset for phone calls and meetings
- Google Meet for web meetings and screen sharing (All employees can attend; must be initiated/hosted by VCU employee with @vcu.edu account)
- VCU VPN and 2Factor for accessing university applications that contain sensitive information
- Webcam for meetings
- Zoom for web meetings
- Docusign to electronically receive, complete, and sign documents
- FileLocker to securely share large files with people both on and off-campus
- Avaya Phone app
VCU employees with @vcu.edu accounts
- Google Chat for instant messaging/chat
- Google Meet for desktop conferencing
- Zoom desktop conferencing
VCU employees with @vcuhealth.org accounts
- Zoom desktop conferencing
Please contact your department VCU Technology Services consultant with any questions or concerns. For additional technology guidance and resources for telework employees, visit our Telework @ VCU site.
Q: What flexibility is permitted?
A: Options for flexible work arrangements (FWAs) include telework (ex. two days at home and three days in the office), compressed scheduling (ex. 4 10-hour days), flex-time (ex. leaving the workplace at 3:00 and completing the remainder of the work day from home), job-sharing (ex. A team of student facing and non-student facing employees share roles allowing for one day of telework/week for each employee). Supervisors have discretion to approve FWAs based on the employee’s position, performance and other factors.
Q. Each of the departments in my school have a single staff position that serves as the primary point of contact for faculty and students in the department. What if these are critical to the student experience and need to be in the office?
A. It is anticipated that employees in these positions will work on-campus all or most of the time; it is possible that FWAs other than telework are feasible for these positions.
Q. My leadership team has been planning for 100% remote work for some of our work teams which will both save on leased space, as well as free up space for student centered activities. Does my vice president or dean have the authority to approve this?
A. Vice presidents and deans have the authority to approve 100% telework.
Q. How do supervisors and employees initiate a FWA for the fall semester?
A. We encourage supervisors and employees to begin the discussions about returning to on-campus work in an effort to give all parties time needed to prepare for fall. On June 14, a new online e-learning will be available through Talent@VCU that is required training for all employees seeking a FWA and mandatory for supervisors as well. The e-learning contains a link to the FWA agreement form that must be signed by both the employee and supervisor.
Q. How do supervisors learn more about the options and how to balance employee and university needs?
A. Supervisors may bring questions to their HR Professionals. A series of optional facilitated discussions with supervisors and HR staff on FWA best practices and decision-making guidance will be conducted this summer.
Q: We are certain to have some situations where supervisors and employees disagree on the need to return to in-campus work, or the amount of remote work time approved. Is there an appeal process?
A. If an employee does not agree with their supervisor’s decision regarding a request for a FWA, the employee should consult with their HR Professional and may appeal the decision to the VP/Dean of the unit/school via email within a reasonable period of time. The respective VP/Dean will review the supervisor’s decision and any additional information submitted by the employee, and will provide a decision back to the employee, copying the supervisor and HR Professional, in writing via email. The decision of the VP/Dean is final and not subject to further review.
Q: What are the university’s standard hours of work?
A: The standard hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Q: Does my department have the discretion to set their own core hours?
A: Yes, the department can set core hours based on their business needs.
Q: What is the difference between informal and formal telework?
A: If telework is consistent and on a regular basis then it is considered formal. Informal telework is something that happens infrequently under unique or special circumstances, for example, working from home to wait for a delivery or repair person. Informal telework does not require a FWA agreement.
Q: Do I need to return to campus when I worked well remotely during the pandemic?
A: This is a discussion that needs to take place between you and your supervisor and will be based on job needs. Supervisors are encouraged to offer flexibility.
Q: How do I know when I will be expected to return to on-campus work?
A: Supervisors will work with employees to identify the date for their return to campus.
Q: What if I need flexibility beyond my requested return to campus date in August?
A: Supervisors will work with employees to develop flexible solutions when possible, taking into account personal circumstances. In general, VCU employees have demonstrated that we can work well remotely, and we want to retain you through this transition, balancing your needs with those of the university.
Q: What if health and safety guidelines change between now and fall?
A: VCU’s Public Health Response Team and senior leadership will continue to monitor the situation and update our protocols based on new guidance.
Q: I have an underlying health condition and need accommodations if I return to on-campus work. What should I do?
A: There is a separate process in place to initiate the interactive process toward determining eligibility for reasonable accommodations related to illness or disability. Please contact the VCU ADA Coordinator equity.vcu.edu/ada who will assess and evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis and explore possible ways to accommodate a disability.
Q: Do these guidelines apply to hourly employees or student workers?
A: Yes. Hourly employees and student workers will also be required to complete FWA agreements.
Q: I have more questions. Where do I go for additional information?
A: Your HR professional will be able to assist with questions. In mid-June two additional supports will be available:
- The FWA online e-learning module to assist employees considering a request for an FWA. The e-learn is required for employees moving forward with an FWA request, as well as for supervisors.
- A series of optional facilitated discussions with supervisors and HR staff on FWA best practices and decision-making guidance.
Q: Can the FWA change if circumstances change?
A: Yes, the employee and supervisor will complete a new FWA reflecting any changes.
Q: My supervisor and I have reached an agreement on my FWA. What are the next steps?
A: A mandatory online e-learning for all employees adopting a FWA will be available in mid-June, along with the updated FWA agreement. Learn more about the e-learning and FWA agreement form under the "developing the FWA plan" dropdown box.
Developing flexible work arrangements
FWA options are designed to balance the need to support the university mission and in-person experience, the unique needs of each school/college and department, various roles and job requirements, and well-being and equity for all university staff. Once a supervisor receives a request for a FWA, the supervisor, in consultation with an HR Professional as appropriate, should thoroughly analyze the appropriateness of whether an employee should have a FWA and consider the following:
- the employee’s position description and responsibilities; and
- the employee’s ability to be successful with an FWA.
Supervisors should consider the duties and responsibilities associated with a position when considering whether a specific employee is a good candidate for an FWA. Considerations include:
- The various options for FWAs and which of the options might be applicable to each position.
- For employees seeking FWAs that include telework, additional considerations include:
- Front-facing, in-person customer, student or patient service positions are generally not suitable for telework.
- Positions that lend themselves to telework are generally those that require independent work that can be performed with limited oversight.
- If the essential functions of the position require ongoing access to equipment, materials, facilities and files that can only be accessed on VCU property, the position is likely not suitable for telework.
- If security issues require the position to be conducted on VCU property, the position is not likely suitable for telework.
- Senior leadership positions and positions that require management of on-campus teams are typically not suitable for teleworking.
Employee’s ability to be successful with an FWA
Factors to consider when assessing an employee’s suitability for an FWA include:
- Does the employee demonstrate strong accountability, autonomy, reliability, engagement and productivity (an overall good performer)? An employee who has been rated as “developing” or “needs improvement” is not eligible for hybrid telework.
- Does the employee have strong problem solving capabilities?
- Is the employee well organized?
- Does the employee have sufficient technology resources in the remote work location (if applicable)?
- Does the employee have effective written and verbal communication skills?
- Has the employee demonstrated the ability to be highly productive while working independently and without constant supervision?
- Is the employee able to work within timelines and meet deadlines with little prompting?
- Can the employee work in an environment with little structure?
- Does the employee have a consistent record of accurately complying with time and leave reporting procedures?
- Will the employee, the team and the university benefit from the employee’s FWA?
- If an employee requires a workplace accommodation to work remotely due to medical reasons, the employee should be referred to the VCU ADA Coordinator for assistance at equity.vcu.edu/ada/
- If the employee is on a visa, the employee must comply with the visa requirements and be sure that the visa requirements can be met in a remote work environment. For more information, employees should contact the Office of Global Education at global.vcu.edu/.
- If the employee is currently residing out of state, the employee must comply with all state laws that impact their remote work.
Supervisor training to successfully manage FWAs
FWAs call for a focus on results and productivity rather than direct oversight and require trust and effective communication between supervisor and employee. A mandatory online training will be available in mid-June for supervisors who manage staff with FWAs. The training will cover topics including:
- FWA options
- Problem solving
- Goal setting
- Talent@VCU resources for managing FWAs
- Managing remote teams
- Space utilization
A mandatory online e-learning is available for employees requesting a FWA and their managers:
- New Way to Work: Flexible Work Arrangements (for employees and managers)
- New Way to Work: Conversations about Flexible Work Arrangements (virtual workshops for managers)
Please note, VCU provides many kinds of flexible work arrangements; some include telework and others do not.
Once the e-learning is complete, employees who wish to participate in a flexible work arrangement will select the appropriate routing for the FWA agreement form. Those requesting a flexible work arrangement including a work schedule of 40% or less telework should use the “40% or less telework” routing option. Those requesting a schedule that includes more than 40% telework should select the routing for “more than 40% telework.”
The manager must ensure that the FWA plan includes:
- The specifics of the FWA as provided on the FWA form.
- The terms of the FWA, as agreed upon by the manager and employee. This must be completed before the employee may work a schedule that differs from the university’s core work hours.
Before beginning the FWA, the FWA agreement form must be signed by the employee and the manager. The form may be revised or amended for its duration, with consent of the parties. The agreement will be maintained in the employee’s personnel file. A copy can also be maintained by the employee and the manager. If the employee and manager cannot agree on the terms of an FWA, an appeal process is contained in the Great Place policy.
The FWA plan should be reviewed periodically, typically as part of the performance management cycle. Renewal is not guaranteed; the FWA, employee performance and other circumstances will be considered by the supervisor in determining whether to renew the agreement.
If any amendments to the agreement are agreed to between the employee and the department, those amendments should be set forth in an updated FWA agreement.
A trial period can be a valuable tool to assess the effectiveness of a proposed FWA. In regular situations, a trial period of 30-60 days is an ample amount of time. The FWA can be entered into on a trial basis, with the dates or number of allotted instances of the trial period noted in the agreement.
Supervisors should evaluate the arrangement periodically throughout the trial period. Extension of the trial period is not guaranteed; the FWA, employee performance and other circumstances are considered by the supervisor in determining whether to extend the arrangement.
If an employee and supervisor have discussed a proposed FWA, and the employee does not agree with their supervisor's decision regarding the request, the employee consults with their HR Professional and may appeal the supervisor's decision to the VP/Dean of the unit/school via email within a reasonable period of time. The respective VP/Dean will review the supervisor's decision and any other information that the employee wishes to submit and will provide a decision in writing via email regarding the supervisor's decision. The decision of the VP/Dean is final and not subject to further review.
Employees who have concerns regarding manager decisions based on discrimination or retaliation should connect with their HR Professional and can also contact the Office of Integrity and Compliance or the Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success.
Employees requiring a workplace accommodation should contact the university’s ADA Coordinator. Employees with ongoing concerns about their working relationship with their supervisor should connect with their HR Professional and may also contact the Office of Faculty Affairs (faculty) or the HR Office of Employee Relations (staff).
FWAs are not subject to an employee grievance.
The FWA can be terminated at any time by either the department, the supervisor or the employee.
A department may determine that it is no longer in the best interest of the university to continue the arrangement. For example, a department might deem that an employee’s tasks are no longer suitable for telework; find that work product, productivity, or accountability standards are not being met; or a short-term need or other premise that gave rise to the telework arrangement may no longer exist. When a department determines to terminate the FWA plan it should provide two weeks’ notice unless extenuating circumstances make such notice impracticable. If the agreement no longer continues, the supervisor should submit an updated FWA form with the revised end date to the employee’s personnel file.
An employee may also seek to end the FWA by notifying the supervisor or the department that he or she wishes to discontinue the plan. The employee should give as much notice as is reasonably necessary to facilitate regular reporting to the work location. For example, if a telework employee and another employee have a shared workspace that each of them uses on non-telework days, the department may need time to locate another workspace. Generally, notice of intent to discontinue the FWA plan should be accepted by the supervisor and the department. In situations such as emergencies that precipitate the FWA, where the department needs the employee to continue with the current plan, the supervisor should first speak to the employee to try to reconcile the employee’s interests with that of the department.
FWAs are not an accommodation.
- It is important to know that FWAs, as outlined in this guide, are not substitutions for, or part of, the reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. In cases where an employee requests an FWA for medical reasons or to accommodate a disability, the university has a duty to reasonably accommodate (to the point of undue hardship).
- There is a separate process in place to initiate the interactive process toward determining eligibility for reasonable accommodations related to illness or disability. Please contact the VCU ADA Coordinator equity.vcu.edu/ada who will assess and evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis and explore possible ways to accommodate a disability.
- Examples may include compressed schedule, flextime schedule, job sharing, reduced schedule, staggered scheduling, and telework are for non-exempt employees. Although strict recordkeeping of hours worked is not required for exempt employees, similar schedules can be adopted.
An FWA for telework requires special considerations. If the arrangement involves telework, it must address the following:
- If an employee requires a workplace accommodation to work remotely due to medical reasons, the employee should be referred to the VCU ADA Coordinator for assistance. https://equity.vcu.edu/ada/
- If equipment is necessary to complete duties, who is providing the equipment and who is responsible for such equipment? See "technology resources" dropdown box.
- Non-exempt employees are required to record all hours worked. Hours in excess of the standard workweek, or in excess of the hours to be worked, if different from the standard workweek, must be authorized by the supervisor in advance in writing.
- The recordkeeping and timekeeping requirements apply equally to non-exempt remote workers as they do to non-exempt on-campus employees. The supervisor should ensure the employee can access the university tracking system remotely. The employee remains responsible for accurately recording their hours worked. The supervisor should adopt practices which ensure the time worked is being recorded and monitored properly.
- A non-exempt employee that works over 40 hours per workweek must be compensated for additional hours worked (either by overtime pay or overtime leave). Employees should receive authorization from their supervisor before working overtime.
- The authorized offsite worksite is considered an extension of the employee’s office space in the traditional work environment.
- Health or family needs should be addressed through the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Virginia Sickness and Disability Program, Workers’ Compensation or other laws or policies meant to address such issues.