Resources: Flexibility in the Workplace
Pre-planning on the part of the supervisor can both meet the required staffing needs of the unit, and the scheduling needs of the employee by using alternative scheduling arrangements or flexible work schedules.
Since flexibility in the workplace has evolved from a need for employees to balance quality of life issues, the challenge for leadership is to balance these needs with critical staffing requirements of the unit. According to the Department of Labor (2001 information), approximately 29 percent of full-time employees have some type of flexible working hours.
Further, administering time and one-half overtime compensation in times of high volume work is costly to units with tight budgetary constraints.
Here are some suggestions how to creatively accomplish productivity standards with flexibility: There are many types of flexible arrangements. These include:
- Flexible work schedules
- Non-traditional workweeks/compressed work weeks
- Split schedules
- Telecommuting from home or remote locations
With some creativity and a keen eye on the Standard Practice Guide for overtime obligations or special premiums, there are opportunities when work can be scheduled with a mutual benefit. As a reminder, by policy and regulations (Fair Labor Standards Act), overtime for non-exempt employees must be paid for work performed over 40 hours in a week. The week standard is midnight between Saturday and Sunday of the calendar week.
Flexible Work Schedules
Flexible schedules can reflect many different types of arrangements. Starting and stopping times can vary within a “core business hours” schedule when all employees in a unit are expected to be at work. An example of this schedule…Core business hours are 9:00 to 4:00. Some full time employees have a choice in a two-hour period for starting work. The employee, with a 30-minute lunch break, could work from 7:00 to 3:30, 7:30 to 4:00, 8:00 to 4:30 or 8:30 to 5:00. If the lunch break were 60 minutes, time would be adjusted to accommodate the additional 30 minutes.
If your unit could accommodate a swing arrangement, (employee discretion of flexibility in starting and stopping by the day), as long as the employee works the required amount of hours, then personal obligations can be scheduled on off hours. One caution, this arrangement is difficult to administer but provides the most flexibility for the employee. Generally, with this type of scheduling, there is agreement in advance of regular starting and stopping times.
Non-Traditional Work Weeks/Compressed Work Weeks
A compressed workweek is a standard workweek that is compressed into fewer than five days. One common schedule is four – ten hour schedules per week (4-10s). By scheduling 4-10s with staff working on different days per week such as schedules that include Mondays or Fridays off, work that extends into the evening hours can be done without the need for overtime coverage. Of course, the occasional need arises but on a routine basis, this type of a schedule can be beneficial and responsive to both unit and employee needs.
Other types of schedules can be arranged such as nine-hour days on Monday through Thursday and four hours on Friday. This schedule has been successfully managed in many units throughout the summer months to provide a longer weekend. Longer periods of coverage exist with this schedule for most of the week.
It is recommended that the workweek revert to the traditional five-day schedule during weeks that include holidays so the appropriate amount of holiday pay is calculated.
If you have a need to schedule work later in the day and have a down time earlier in the day, you should consider a split schedule. This type of schedule is a work day that “is scheduled in two segments divided by a period exceeding one hour”, “the second segment will be considered a new starting time…” (SPG 201.55) You may need to provide a premium of $.70 per hour in this case. This type of schedule could be your remedy to paying overtime for work beyond the end of the traditional quitting time without the expensive one and one half times the regular rate of pay.
Telecommuting from Home or Remote Locations
There are instances of formalized telecommuting arrangements at the University. Some employees work from a remote location on one or more days per week, some arrangements have employees telecommuting full time, and some occasionally telecommute from time to time.
Telecommuting is not encouraged for non-exempt employees. Should this type of formalized scheduling arrangement occur, significant confidence and trust must exist between the manager and employee along with careful assignment and documentation of actual working hours.
Some important principles apply to all types of telecommuting whether formalized by specific agreement or occasional. While employees are working for the University whether on premises or not, they are covered under Risk Management policies. Due to the fact that supervision is difficult from a remote location and an overriding principle is trust, work offsite should not be arranged for employees with performance deficiencies. While work is being performed off-site, the employee must commit to accomplishing the work without demands that take priority such as caring for children while performing work.
For further information concerning flexibility in the workplace, refer to the Standard Practice Guides:
(these links will open in a new window)
Further information is available at the University Human Resources website, Staff Human Resource Services, or the Work/Life Resource Center website. There are many examples that can be shared with you of successful alternative scheduling techniques.
Mobile Devices Guidelines
The single most important issue is to classify your employees correctly – Exempt or Non-exempt. Campus units (excluding the EVP Medical Affairs – Med School/Hospital) can contact email@example.com for assistance in determining exemption status. EVPMA units can contact UMHS-Compensation@med.umich.edu
Any reorganization/reclassification that results in employees going from non-exempt to exempt must be approved by the firstname.lastname@example.org.
The work environment has changed dramatically with the emergence of mobile devices allowing staff to work almost any time. For non-exempt staffs who, on a “regular” basis, respond to emails/calls outside of normal work hours or while on lunch breaks, that time is calculated for overtime purposes.
If a non-exempt person responds to emails/calls “very occasionally” then court cases have considered that to be “de-minimis” and therefore not calculated for overtime purposes.
“[D]e minimis” time, includes “insubstantial or insignificant periods of time beyond the scheduled working hours, which cannot as a practical administrative matter be precisely recorded for payroll purposes, may be disregarded” and only applies “where there are uncertain and indefinite periods of time involved of a few seconds or minutes duration, and where the failure to count such time is due to considerations justified by industrial realities.”
As a supervisor, you must inform staff(s) not to respond to emails/calls outside of normal work hours even though it is convenient or enhances customer service. Permitting or "suffering" a person to regularly use their mobile devices outside normal working hours can result in overtime at time and one-half for anything exceeding 40 hours in a work week.