Planning for Success with Flexible Work Arrangements

Published on July 28, 2021.

Key Insights

  • Creating equal flexible work arrangements across the University is impossible.
  • Work. With Flexibility. offers an opportunity to think differently about how we work. 
  • Be intentional about creating connection and inclusivity in hybrid teams.
Feature Insight

With many teams and departments transitioning to hybrid work and the Work. With Flexibility. model after a year in which many faculty and staff have been working remotely means we are approaching another period of change. Supervisors and managers have a heightened role to play in assessing the unique needs to their diverse teams and adapting their approaches to support a flexible work environment given the uncertainty that faculty, staff, and supervisors are feeling right now.

One size won’t fit all. 

As you work to implement Work. With Flexibility. in your department or unit, remember that not all flexible work arrangements will be the same because some jobs are more conducive to flexible work arrangements than others, even those with the same job title. The needs of day-to-day work in a particular role should inform the kind of flexibility each employee is afforded. For some that means their work is best done mostly or entirely away from the office at varied times of the day. For others that means most or all of their work is best done in the office at specific times. This could also mean variations of the two.  

Work. With Flexibility. presents an opportunity to think differently about how, where, and when work is done. Analyze each person’s job responsibilities to determine which need to be done in the office at a particular time and which can be done remotely. Offer flexibility for the tasks that can be done remotely and make clear the responsibilities that need to be taken care of in the office. Also consider adjusting schedules or shifts to allow for flexibility.

Listen to this short clip from the “Managing Flexible Teams” webinar to understand more about equity in flexible work. 

Take a look at the Preparing for Flexible Work Arrangements Worksheet for guidance on analyzing the needs of each job, understanding biases in making decisions, and talking points for discussing flexibility with your faculty and staff. 

Perceptions of Inequity.

The majority of faculty and staff have been successfully working remotely for more than a year, so most of them (including supervisors) hope that some type of work flexibility will continue into the future. Asking faculty and staff to return to pre-pandemic ways of working without a solid rationale could undermine engagement and motivation. 

You can address perceptions of inequity in flexible work arrangements by ensuring that everyone has access to and an understanding of the Work. With Flexibility. guidelines and your college or unit's guidelines. Then be honest and transparent about the other factors that you considered in making decisions around flexible work. 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind. 

It will take a conscious and purposeful effort to involve remote members in the discussion and decision-making process when in collaborative meetings. Make a point to ask for input from those who have joined remotely, and make sure materials, handouts or other visual assets are available to everyone in the meeting. Sending visual assets to meeting participants ahead of time is a useful practice for inclusion of those working remotely.

Talk with your team or department about how you’ll work to ensure that all team members are able to have authentic, engaging, and collaborative interactions regardless of their location outside of meetings as well; using Google Chat or Slack, for example, or scheduling regular video check-ins.

Also, no matter what a person's work arrangements are (virtual, hybrid, or fully in-person), be sure everyone is receiving the same high-quality ongoing feedback and development coaching.

Workload and Productivity.

Studies show that while remote workers are more productive, they are less likely to be promoted than their colleagues who work in the office. Supervisors can fall into an unconscious bias by favoring those they see most often (whether in the office or via Zoom) by assigning them responsibilities that develop their skills and experience. Managers will need to be intentional about assigning work responsibilities and development opportunities equally to those at home and in the office. 

Similarly, supervisors may also need to address perceptions that those working remotely are not working as hard. They can help by clarifying each team member’s responsibilities, expectations, schedules, and ways to share information. Once expectations are clear, make sure to check-in to understand other types of support each person may need. 

While it might be tempting to re-assign projects to star performers or those in the office, doing so on a regular basis will contribute to inequitable workloads and burnout. If an employee is not meeting expectations, find out what support they need and adjust deadlines if possible or discuss other options to address performance.    

As more faculty and staff attempt to return to their pre-pandemic life, create strategies and practices to make meaningful connections, recognize the uncertainty that many are feeling, and encourage experimentation, patience, and grace as you evolve to an exciting new post-pandemic reality together.

Upcoming Events

Fall 2021 Supervisory Development Course Application Window August 9–22

Leadership and Talent Development will accept applications for the Fall 2021 Supervisory Development course from August 9–22. Watch for more information about the application process. The course will begin September 8 and end December 8. 

Employee Engagement Survey Coming October 11–29, 2021

Find out more about the employee engagement survey as well as resources to support engagement at ee.ltd.umn.edu