Guidelines for Flexible Work Options at Penn

Why Are Flexible Work Options Important?

Flexible Work Options (FWOs) respond to significant changes at work and at home. Educational and research environments have not been immune to these changes. We feel their influence more strongly at Penn now than ever before.

Examples of these changes are:

  • Women with young children are the fastest growing segment of the work force. Men are more involved in family and home care responsibilities. 85% of all workers have family care responsibilities.
  • Our society is aging. 25% of all workers have elder care responsibilities.
  • More focus is being placed on work and personal goals and responsibilities.

Flexible work options respond to these issues by supporting efforts to manage the demands of work, personal commitments and individual needs.

How Do We Know They Work?

National surveys repeatedly show that workers seek flexibility as the key response to the competing demands of work and personal responsibilities. Many corporations with formal flexible work programs have reported increased productivity and reduced absenteeism and turnover. A recent research study found that the number one work factor correlating with workforce commitment was management's recognition of the importance of personal and family life and support for these obligations. This commitment directly affected productivity and retention.

How Are Flexible Work Options Being Introduced?

This week, the Division of Human Resources is posting on their web site,, detailed information on flexible work

options, including examples of flexible work and suggested step-by-step instructions for implementation. This month, all faculty and staff will receive an introductory guidebook on flexible work options via intramural mail.

The following training sessions are being offered by the Division of Human Resources Office of Training to help staff understand and utilize FWOs.

* Managing A Flexible Workforce--for first-line supervisors and middle and upper management. This will offer preparation for introducing and utilizing FWOs to benefit the goals of the organization, and provide insights into the subtleties of managing flexible work arrangements.

* Flexible Work Arrangement Proposals--offers staff an opportunity to assess the appropriateness of flexible work arrangements considering work style, work responsibilities and the needs of the organization; and coaching on how to develop a flexible work options proposal that outlines how it will work and how the organization will benefit.

These trainings are available the following dates and times:

 Date  Supervisors  Staff
 January 29  9-11:30 a.m.  11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
 February 5  9-11:30 a.m.  11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
 February 8  9-11:30 a.m.  11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
 February 19  9-11:30 a.m.  11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
 March 1  9-11:30 a.m.  11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Please see to register for these sessions.

 Note: Staff members covered in collective bargaining units are governed by the terms and conditions of the respective collective bargaining agreements.

What Are Flexible Work Options?

FWOs offer alternatives to getting work done through non-traditional work hours, locations and/or job structures. They offer creative approaches for completing work while promoting balance between work and personal commitments. The decision to implement a flexible work arrangement rests with the first line supervisor and School/Center leadership, who must approve the plan and be prepared to manage the work under the conditions of the arrangement.

Typical FWO arrangements:

Flextime: The most requested, easiest to manage and the most affordable FWO, Flextime offers flexibility in the beginning, middle or end of the day. Typically, there is a designated time during which all staff are present, referred to as the core time.

Flexplace: This arrangement allows for a portion of the job to be performed off-site, on a regular, recurring basis, usually at the worker's home.

Many assignments are not suitable for a Flexplace arrangement, either because of the type of work to be done, the need for frequent supervision, the lack of necessary technology at home, or the need to be a presence in the office. In addition, studies have found that some individuals do not like the isolation of a Flexplace arrangement.

Flexplace does not connote the professional or management practice of working at home after hours to work on reports or presentations or to catch up on reading.

For University purposes, Flexplace is not intended to represent an off-site work arrangement implemented by the organization to meet organizational goals. This is referred to as a telecommuting arrangement. It requires use of equipment and technology and most or all of the work is performed away from the office.

 Note: When Flexplace and telecommuting arrangements require use of computing technology from an off-site office, it will be necessary to arrange through the School/Center/ Department/Office specific and detailed arrangements for support of the technology, as well as appropriate access to PennNet. Consideration should also be given to possible working hours and the comparable availability of various administrative systems.

Additionally, it is important for managers and staff to be aware of the costs that will be incurred for establishing appropriate hardware, software, and connectivity; costs that will be incurred operating and maintaining that setup; and costs of providing support for that setup.

Use of University equipment, products and materials involves responsibility for University property, guided by the following policies:
 Policy # 002  Safeguarding University Assets
 Policy # 003  Uses of University Resources
 Policy # 009  Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources
 Policy # 624  Return of Property

For a sample Flexplace agreement, refer to the Division of Human Resources Quality of Worklife Programs web site,, or call 8-0380.

Compressed Work Schedules: A traditional 35-40 hour work week is condensed into fewer than five days of work. This option is more easily applied to non-exempt (weekly paid) staff for whom work hours are tracked. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires weekly paid staff to receive time and a half pay for work over forty (40) hours in a week.

Part-time work is a regular hiring arrangement for between 17.5 and 28 hours a week. Part-time workers are differentiated from temporary workers, who are employed for fewer than 1000 hours in a fiscal year with an expectation of a short term relationship with the University.

Job sharing allows two staff members to share the responsibilities of one full-time position, typically with a prorated salary and paid time off. A job share arrangement is different from a part-time position which has a workload that can be managed within 17.5 to 28 hours a week. Innovative schedules can be designed to meet the needs of the job sharers and the office.

Note: If one position is scheduled for less than 17.5 hours a week, it becomes temporary and cannot retain regular part-time status.

Guidelines For Successful Flexible Work Arrangements

  1. The arrangement must support the organization's goals, including cost-effectiveness and customer service.
  2. The assignment must be appropriate for the flexible work arrangement and equipment, systems or materials must be available during non-traditional hours or outside of the workplace.
  3. The supervisor and School/Center leadership must approve the plan and be prepared to manage the work under the conditions of the arrangement. Each school and center will determine the appropriate individual(s) to approve these arrangements in addition to the immediate supervisor. The provisions of Policy #620: Staff Grievance Procedure, do not apply to decisions regarding flexible work options.
  4. The individual's work style and history must support the demands of the arrangement.
  5. Special arrangements for communication and accountability must be established.
  6. An effort should be made to maintain a collegial environment, through special opportunities for unit members to have shared hours and constructive interactions.
  7. Written plans must be developed or the flexible work arrangement to document the understanding between all involved parties.
  8. A pilot time frame is often helpful for trying out a flexible work arrangement prior to making a long term commitment to it by either party (management or staff member).
  9. All must be prepared to return to pre-flexibility arrangements if the situation requires.

For additional information on flexible work options, please see the Division of Human Resources Quality of Worklife Programs web site:

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 16, January 12, 1999