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Teleworking and Flextime Arrangements at UGA

Both teleworking and flextime arrangements can offer a variety of benefits to both the employee and the employer. Here at UGA, these arrangements are established by each college or unit based upon their needs but each must include a justification as to how it benefits the unit, school, and/or institution. As such, the information below serves as a general guide. Each unit may have its own set of principles and stipulations for teleworking arrangements.

Teleworking arrangements work best when there is an established set of guidelines for all parties involved. Some best practices for employees and supervisors include:

Setting clear expectations

Clarify expectations. Be sure to lay out clear expectations around job performance and responsiveness.

Be specific
. Employees should fully understand what is expected of them when they telework. Outline communication and system tools and expectations (such as shared Outlook calendars with notes including telephone numbers) to deliver on work and projects in the same way that you require when the employee is onsite.

Agree on expectations
. Ask the employee to reflect what they understand as telework expectations to ensure your agreement and alignment. A teleworking self-assessment is a great tool in establishing these expectations between supervisors and employees.

Plan ahead
Plan ahead. There are several issues—workspace, work hours, expected productivity, IT support, among others—that need to be decided and discussed with teleworkers to ensure a positive start to a telework program or arrangement. Work with your unit’s IT group to ensure the provided technology is effective, efficient, and operates consistently. Ensure that teleworkers have the direct contact information for your unit’s IT in case of questions or emergencies.

Designate “office” space
. Encourage teleworkers to create a quiet place to get their work done. While it need not be an elaborate set-up, a dedicated area helps teleworkers concentrate on their work, minimize distractions, and ensure that phone calls and video conferences are effective.

Establish communication guidelines
. Set up guidelines around responsiveness. For example, you may establish the expectation that emails be responded to before the end of the workday, and any missed calls should be returned within two hours. These guidelines should be clearly communicated and should be compatible with the operational needs of the agency and the work that employees are expected to complete.

Reinforce expectations around work hours
. As part of the telework arrangement, be clear about when teleworkers are expected to be completing tasks and when they should be responsive to incoming calls or emails.

Get IT support
. Teleworkers are dependent on fast, reliable, consistent connections. Work with your IT group to ensure the provided technology is effective, efficient, and operates consistently. Ensure that teleworkers have email and phone numbers to contact IT in case of questions or emergencies.

Communicate regularly
Communicate regularly. Effective teleworker management requires strong communication and collaboration practices. Set guidelines regarding response times, shared calendars and documents, and preferred communication methods for various situations.

Establish a virtual presence
. Transparent communication tools and team norms like shared calendars can be useful. One tip is to require that teleworkers’ calendars indicate they are working from home and show a phone number where they can be reached. UGA EITS also provides great resources such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams which have a wide range of functionality allowing for impromptu meetings and quick communications.

Engage your teleworkers daily
. Regular interaction and engagement provides opportunities for managers to clarify expectations about the work to be done, helping to ensure that the time working away from the office is productive.

Be available to teleworkers
. You don’t want to micromanage teleworkers, but you do want to be available and supportive, track progress, and keep them in the loop. The same goes for employees working in the office—make sure they are available to collaborate and communicate with teleworkers as needed.

Use reliable technology tools
. If teleworkers can't access files or struggle to make themselves heard on a conference call, the telework arrangement will hinder the employee’s productivity. Make sure teleworkers have access to reliable tools to make collaboration possible. Again, Microsoft Teams is a great tool for file sharing and collaboration.

Foster effective teamwork
Foster effective teamwork. If more than one employee is working remotely, treat telework as a team activity rather than an individual one. Develop a team schedule and a teleworking system that is consistent with the needs of your unit.

Help teleworkers avoid multi-tasking
. With your teleworkers, figure out ways to avoid multi-tasking. Video conferences instead of phone conferences work well. Encourage people to stay in working mode and off email back-and-forth as much as is feasible while still ensuring agency operational goals are met.

Establish strong relationships with teleworkers
. Check in as needed using collaboration tools, shared docs and spreadsheets, phone calls, chat, and video. Invest in your professional relationship by showing you are supportive of their success and want to help them achieve their goals rather than just check on their progress and numbers.

Build effective project management practices
. Organization is critical for teams that mix teleworkers and office workers. If available, it’s a good idea to use cloud-based tools so that everyone can access the files and information they need at any time. These tools also offer efficient ways to communicate, organize projects across teams and set deadline reminders.

Reflect and adjust
Reflect and adjust. Over time, you are likely to face challenges related to managing teleworkers. It is important to build in time to have open and honest discussions with employees regarding telework and work performance. Solution-oriented discussions can help ensure the sustained success of telework programs and arrangements.

Establish regular check-ins
. Set aside time on a regular cadence (e.g. monthly, quarterly) to discuss telework. Discuss what is working well with the current arrangement and what could be improved. Brainstorm changes to address any issues and follow up at the next check-in to see if those changes have led to improvement. 

Source: Massachusetts State Government Teleworking Guidance

Any employee teleworking at UGA must have a completed and approved Teleworking/Flextime Agreement on file. To submit an agreement, we recommend the following process:

Teleworking Submission Process

Resources:
Teleworking Self-Assessment Guide
Find Your Unit's HR Liaison
Teleworking/Flexible Scheduling Agreement Request

Question

Response

Why does UGA and USG require formalized teleworking and flextime arrangements? Formal teleworking and flextime arrangements establish uniform guidelines and expectations for both the employee and employer. These formalized agreements also allow for consistency, policy alignment, and reporting for a variety of purposes.
What steps should supervisors take to terminate a telework/flextime agreement prior to the original scheduled expiration date? Managers have the authority to end a teleworking or flextime agreement at any time. Contact hrweb@uga.edu to change the end date that was submitted via Smartsheet.
How is the employee notified of the outcome of the teleworking/flextime request? An email from Smartsheet will be sent to the unit approver(s) who were assigned in the request noting the outcome after the Employee Relations review. It is then the responsibility of the unit approver(s) to notify and discuss next-steps with the employee.
How can someone check the status of a telework/flextime request? Each unit’s designated HR Liaison has access to a report which provides a real time status of each Teleworking/Flextime Request in their unit.
If I have an employee with both a teleworking and flextime arrangement, can I submit both with one request? Yes, you should only submit one request.
When a request is denied by the school/college/unit approver(s) or cancelled by Employee Relations, does a new request have to be initiated or can the existing request be edited? Any changes to a request must be done by cancelling the original request and submitting a new one.
How do supervisors and employees know who the designated approver(s) should be for their request? They should check with their HR Liaison before submitting the form.
Can the Telework/Flextime Agreement request be used for student employees? Yes, so long as they can perform the essential duties of the position from a remote work location.
If my school/college/unit requires multiple approvers, what happens if one approves and the other denies the request? Any Telework/Flextime agreements can be denied by either approver or the HR Liaison. If any one of these does not approve, the request is denied in full.
UGA’s policy on teleworking includes the option for flextime arrangements. Please ensure that both the supervisor and employee are aware of each stipulation established within the Teleworking/Flextime policy.

For questions regarding the teleworking philosophy of your college or unit, please contact your unit’s designated HR Liaison.