President Rodin has established a Flexible Work Option Task Force whose membership and goals are given below. Further below, the Task Force gives some definitions and examples, and asks members of the University to contribute further examples.

Task Force on a Flexible Work Option

The Executive Vice President and I are interested in considering flexible work options for Penn, including telecommuting, flexible hours, compressed work week schedules, and job sharing. We are aware that staff face increasing demands in their personal lives, as well as at work. We would like to ease this challenge by continuing to offer and enhance, where practical, policies and practices that support career development, community service, and family activities. We see introducing flexible work options to our campus as a chance to enhance the support we currently provide. We also appreciate the organizational benefits we will derive from these programs. Research has shown that flexible work options can improve staff morale, reduce absenteeism and turnover, increase productivity, enhance customer satisfaction, and improve competitiveness for candidates for job opportunities.

Many of our faculty and staff already are familiar with flexible work options and their benefits. They are a common topic in the media. Colleagues outside the University use flexible work options on a regular basis. The Division of Human Resources has received several requests from schools and centers for assistance with specific flexible work arrangements. Additionally, we have received a number of informal requests for flexible work option policies. To reach our goals outlined above and respond to requests we have received in a way that can benefit our community as a whole, we would like to establish a small task force to explore this topic. This task force will research the best designs and approaches for introducing flexible work options in an academic setting, with a focus on those that are cost effective, allow for accountability, and encourage customer satisfaction. We envision a diverse group of individuals from across campus who are aware of and sensitive to the range of work/life balance issues and concerns faced by Penn faculty and staff.

Specifically, the task force will:

  • Consider research and information on flexible work options
  • Review the experience of Penn schools and centers that have introduced some of these practices informally and the experience of outside organizations with flexible work option policies
  • Identify Penn policies and practices that support or limit introduction of flexible work options
  • Design creative solutions for dealing with obstacles
  • Provide feedback on a draft flexible work option guide book
  • Assist in development of a proposal for flexible work options for Penn, with a plan for smooth introduction
  • Support introduction of this initiative across campus, if approved.

This task force will be convened by Marilyn Kraut, Human Resources, Worklife Programs Coordinator.

--Judith Rodin, President

Flexible Work Options: Some Examples and a Call for Input to the Task Force

Flexible Work Options: the following are definitions of flexible work options/assignments:

1. Flextime: While there are no strict rules, flexible periods typically are at either end of the day, with a designated core-time set in the middle during which all staff must be present. Flexible scheduling options include:
a. Fixed starting and quitting times that are selected periodically.
b. Starting and quitting times that vary daily.
c. Variations in the length of day with a mandatory core-time.

Note: Non-exempt staff cannot work more than 40 hours in a pay period without receiving overtime pay in accordance with federal law and University policy. Arrangements utilizing this plan must anticipate overtime costs.

2. Flexplace or Telecommuting: Flexplace or telecommuting is a work arrangement between a staff member and his/her supervisor which allows for some component of the work assignment to be done on a regular, recurring basis at an alternative location (typically the staff member's home) to the primary worksite. This is different from the common practice of professional or managerial staff to work at home to catch up on work related reading, reconcile reports, or rehearse presentations during other than traditional work hours.

Based on operational needs, this plan is most appropriate for work that has clearly defined tasks and measurable work activity. Typically, a Flexplace arrangement will specify a number of hours worked at home each week. The staff member will continue to work on-site, usually for a greater majority of the work schedule.

3. Job Sharing: is a program that allows two staff members to share the responsibilities of one full-time position, typically with a prorated salary and time-off benefits. Rather than having a part-time job, each staff member shares a specific proportion of a full-time position. Creative and innovative schedules can be designed to meet the needs of the job sharers and the department. Commitment can be 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, or any variation thereof.

4. Part Time Work Arrangements: reflect a regular hiring arrangement for between 910 and 1456 hours a year, or 17.5 and 28 hours a week, with benefits specific to this category of work.

5. Compressed Workweek: refers to a work week condensed into fewer than five work days. This option is more easily applied to non-exempt staff for whom maximum work hours are identified. [Draft note: This issue needs to be explored regarding the implementation for exempt staff, for whom there are no standard workweeks.]

Common Options include, but are not limited to:
4/8.75 Four 8.75-hour days (35 hours)
4/10 Four 10-hour days (40 hours)
3/12 Three 12-hour days (36 hours)

A popular option that would require an adjustment to Penn payroll practices is a two-week/9 day work period. FLSA regulations require payment in the pay period in which the work has been performed. At Penn, non-exempt staff are paid weekly and every other week, they would be working more than 35, 37.5 or 40 hours, creating a need for overtime pay.

Please let us know about your or your colleagues' existing arrangements such as those described above, or those that are similarly flexible. This would be greatly appreciated by the Flexible Work Option Task Force.

--Marilyn Kraut, Quality of Worklife

Program Coordinator, Human Resources

Flexible Work Option Task Force

Salim M. Alani, Director of Audit/University
Donna Arthur, Data Systems Coordinator, Law School
Jim Bean, Manager, Penn Mail Service
Amy Bosio, Associate Treasurer
Glenn Bryan, Director, City and Community Relations
Christine Davies, Adminstrative Assistant, Academic Support Programs
Brenda Fraser, Associate General Counsel
Dr. Stewart Friedman, Director, Wharton Leadership Program
Douglas Frenkel, Practice Professor of Law
Jack Heuer, Vice President, Human Resources
Marilyn Kraut, Worklife Programs Coordinator, Human Resources
Dr. Robin Leidner, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair, Sociology
Marilyn Lucas, Executive Director, Medical Center Development/Alumni Affairs
Victoria Mulhern, Director, Faculty Affairs and Administrative Director of Postdoctoral Programs, School of Medicine
Patricia Pancoast, Manager, Operational Services, SEAS
Susan Peterson-Pace, Office Coordinator, VPUL
Amy Reisch, Co-Director, Focus on Women's Health Reseearch, Medical Center
Jo Anne Saporito, Associate Director, Institute of Research in Higher Education
Dr. Susan Silverton, AADS Enid Neidle Scholar & ACE Fellow, Assistant Professor of Oral Medicine/Dental Medicine
Elaine Spiro, Senior Compensation Specialist, Human Resources
Marie Witt, Interim Vice President, Business Services

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 1, July 14, 1998