Guidelines for Managing and Working Flexibly

The University is a decentralized organization with diverse work environments. There is no one-size-fits-all flexible work arrangement for every situation. However, many Penn environments can utilize at least one flexible work arrangement successfully if the job, person, environment, and work situation are appropriate and recommended protocols are followed. These protocols, described below, are gleaned from best practices in corporate and academic environments where flexible work options have been in operation for many years.

For managing flexibly and working flexibly:

  • Flexible work options have been in place at Penn for some time, either as a temporary, informal arrangement or for the long term. For any flexible work arrangement to succeed, it must support the organization's goals, including cost-effectiveness and customer service.
  • 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.
  • The supervisor 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. Note: The provisions of Policy #620: Staff Grievance Procedure do not apply to decisions regarding flexible work options.
  • The individual's work style and history must support the demands of the arrangement.
  • Special arrangements for communication and accountability must be established.
  • An effort should be made to maintain a collegial environment, through special opportunities for unit members to have shared hours and constructive interactions.
  • Written plans must be developed for the flexible work arrangement to document the understanding between all involved parties.
  • A pilot timeframe is often helpful for trying out a flexible work arrangement prior to making a long term commitment.
  • The staff member and manager/supervisor should collaborate on a communication plan that includes provisions for communication with internal or external stakeholders, and meeting coordination.
  • All participants must be prepared to return to pre-flexibility arrangements if the situation requires.

Some additional tips for working flexibly:

  • Take initiative to be present at key meetings.
  • Be flexible; supervisors/colleagues won't always be able to work around your schedule.
  • Establish standard and routine "office hours" approved by your supervisor, and clearly communicate them so that others in the office can contact you during those hours.
  • Ask for ongoing feedback from your supervisor for at least the pilot portion of your arrangement on how it is working.
  • Update your voicemail greeting to provide callers with information on how they may reach you, who to contact in an emergency, and when they may anticipate your returned call.