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Alternative Workplace Arrangements Toolkit & Guidelines for Success

VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY HUMAN RESOURCES POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
SUBJECT: ALTERNATIVE WORK ARRANGEMENTS
EFFECTIVE DATE: March 27, 2020

 Introduction

A commitment to excellence is reflected in all aspects of work at Vanderbilt and Alternative Work Arrangements (AWAs) exemplify this commitment, while supporting the retention and job satisfaction of high-performing staff, who contribute greatly to departmental objectives and the mission of the university.  Flexible scheduling and/or remote work also supports Vanderbilt’s commitment to environmental sustainability and the balance of employee work and personal life. 

The purpose of this toolkit is to provide information about a variety of alternative workplace arrangement options, along with resources and considerations for successful implementation.  

Recognizing that each department and school best understands their organizational objectives, operating and workforce needs, Human Resources does not prescribe a “one size fits all” approach for AWAs.  AWA options and employee schedules are determined based upon the needs of the department, as determined by school and department leaders. Not all AWAs are available in all departments or for all positions and are affected by factors such as the nature of the work performed, employee productivity, task interdependence, federal and state laws and operational constraints.  Alternative Work Arrangements are not guaranteed to any staff member .

Advantages of Alternative Work Arrangements (AWA):

  • AWAs can be an important component of a rewarding career at Vanderbilt, enabling our institution to attract and retain top-talent in the dynamic and growing City of Nashville.  The use of AWAs is increasingly becoming a standard in many employment sectors.
  • Staff may experience greater wellbeing and job satisfaction from reduced stress (time spent in traffic, balancing work/life commitments) and greater personal control over their worktime.
  • Less traffic during peak periods aligns with Vanderbilt’s MoveVU and FutureVU sustainability goals.  Even employees who are not able to work remotely or outside of traditional working hours benefit from reduced traffic.
  • AWAs may present an opportunity for better utilization of physical space through shared work areas.
  • AWAs can support business continuity in the event of disruptions from weather or other unforeseen conditions.

Examples of Alternative Work Arrangement Options:

  • Flexible Work Schedules – An alternative working schedule that differs from department operating hours. 
  • Remote Work Location – Work performed remotely from campus.
  • Partial Year Schedule – Work schedules that align with the academic year, either 9 or 10-month Arrangements.

Additional resources, including training and workshops, can be found on the HR website.

Resources for Managers

Collegial collaboration is very much engrained in Vanderbilt’s culture and we hold a strong sense of relationship through face-to-face interactions.  It is understandable that leaders and managers may be apprehensive about introducing or agreeing to Alternative Work Arrangements.  However, in tandem with Vanderbilt’s culture of high-performance and an outcomes-based performance model, Alternative Work Arrangements can provide a strategic tool to attain goals, while fostering engagement and supporting high-achieving staff.

Leaders have a powerful influence on the success of AWAs and are in the best position to determine which positions and which staff are well suited for this option.  Factors that must be considered when implementing an AWA:

  • The nature of the work performed.  Not all positions can be effectively performed remotely or outside of traditional business hours.  Clearly defined responsibilities in the job description will aid in this evaluation.
  • Performance management.  AWAs are an option for recognizing the contributions and work ethic of strong performers who are highly motivated and can work independently.  Staff who perform satisfactorily may not be ideal candidates for an AWA and HR advises that staff who have documented performance issues not be eligible for an AWA. When working to manage employees participating in an AWA, it is recommended to consider the fundamentals of a successful Results Only Work Environment (ROWE):
    • employees must understand what their role is in the organization;
    • employees must understand the work they are responsible for carrying out;
    • employees must understand what the measurement for success is and the consequences of failing to meet this;
    • employees must be confident that the consequences are meted fairly among employees.
  • Expectation setting.  The success of an AWA is dependent upon clear, regular and frequent supervisor and employee communication.  Expectations must be set in advance of AWA implementation regarding work schedules, type and frequency of communication, availability, check-ins, pre-approval of PTO, leave or if applicable, overtime, duration of AWA, etc. 
      • It is critical when managing employees working in an AWA environment to remain consistent with regard to management style, even if requiring additional documentation, so as not to create a micromanagement situation where one did not previously exist. A shift in management approach can create employee disengagement or make the AWA environment appear untenable.
      • VU office space logistics – It may be the case that for employees who spend the majority of their time working remotely, e.g., 3 work days per week or more, to share a workstation or to use a “hoteling” workstation while on campus.  Space considerations should be included in expectation setting conversations.
      • Included in this toolkit is a Sample AWA Expectations document that can be used to codify expectations, if desired.  Note that this form is not an agreement – an AWA can be revoked at any time.
  • Technology and Security Protocols.  Employees working remotely will be required to use reliable internet and maintain appropriate methods for securing the storage or transmission of confidential information, mobile phone technology.  Employees working remotely shall use the University’s SSL-VPN system when accessing systems remotely to ensure the safe transmission of data.   All requirements, procedures and expectations for technology use must be discussed and agreed upon in advance of a remote work arrangement.  The cost of Internet service or other required technologies for remote work are the employee’s responsibility.
  • Equity issues or perceived equity issues. A strong performer should not be denied an AWA simply because an employee with standard performance is denied the opportunity.  However, leaders and managers must be prepared for difficult conversations with employees whose request for an AWA is denied or determined not to be feasible.
  • Distance and location.  Other factors come into play if the individual performing the work lives outside of The State of Tennessee and is performing their work out-of-state.  In this situation, please contact your HR Consultant for guidance.
  • Workers Compensation.  In the event of an injury at an approved remote work location, Workers Compensation may apply. 
  • Trial AWA.  If a longer-term arrangement is daunting, consider a one-month AWA to test an alternative work arrangement.  Reconnect at the end of the trial to discuss any changes, concerns and whether to continue with the AWA or to return to a traditional workplace schedule and location.
  • Work Styles Differ. While different AWAs may meet the needs of the work unit and the employees in it, it is important to recognize that some employees may actually prefer a more standard work arrangement or those that participate in an AWA may find over time that they prefer to spend more time in the office directly collaborating with colleagues vs. doing so virtually, and that management should be prepared for some employees to seek out a balance between their AWA and the ebb and flow of the University’s day-to-day operations.

HR is here to help! 

Please check the HR website training page for workshops and discussion groups [LINK].  Your HR Consultant is a resource for specific questions or as a sounding board for ideas. 

Considerations for Employees

Successful Alternative Work Arrangements are rooted in trust and active employee-supervisor communication.  When proposing or agreeing to an AWA, considerations include:

  • Think critically about whether your position can effectively be performed on a non-typical work schedule or remotely.  If so, and you wish to develop a proposal for an AWA, consider how you will address factors such as attendance at routine and ad-hoc meetings, coworker interactions and collaboration, communication with your supervisor about status and progress of your responsibilities, how you propose to remain available for communication during work hours. [I’m sure there is more!]
  • Give thought to your professional goals.  It may be the case that an AWA works well for your current position but if you are seeking stretch opportunities, how would those fit your plans? 
  • Routine Schedule.  Is there clarity and documentation about the agreed upon schedule, including in-office days and remote days?
  • Schedule conflicts.  There may be times when your presence on campus is required on a day or time when you plan to work remotely.  Discuss in advance your willingness to be responsive to the needs of your supervisor and your work team, and to alter your schedule to accommodate meetings or projects.  To be effective, a staff member’s AWA must not negatively affect the productivity of the individual, department or work team.
    • Time and Attendance is recorded in Oracle, irrespective of whether work is performed on or away from campus. 
    • Recognize Exemption. As schedules are being managed and work is performed under an AWA, it is important to understand that hourly (non-exempt) and salaried (exempt) employees are compensated for different things – hourly employees are compensated for the time they work and are eligible for overtime and salaried employees are compensated for performance outcomes regardless of the hours spent on work. Salaried employees are typically expected to maintain at least a forty (40) hour and are not eligible for overtime.

 

This policy/procedure is intended as a guideline to assist in the consistent application of University policies and programs for employees. The policy/procedure does not create a contract implied or expressed, with any Vanderbilt employees, who are employees at will. Vanderbilt reserves the right to modify this policy/procedure in whole or in part, at any time, at the discretion of the University.