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OHIO FlexWork

Ohio University is embracing a model for the workplace that enables flexibility, adapts to evolving team and university needs, optimizes collaborative work while respecting the need for focused individual effort, and seamlessly integrates our virtual and physical environments. Leveraging early adopters, the purpose of this project is to develop innovative and financially sustainable workplace models that can be readily scaled across the OHIO system. In addition to creating designed space prototypes, the models will include a process for moving through essential discussions and decisions as a team to enable a Flexwork model that works for you.

College, department, and administrative unit leaders are encouraged to approach planning flexible work arrangements with the following principles and guidelines in mind. Plans should set up employees to achieve the successful outcomes of their work. University Planning and University Human Resources can provide counsel to leaders and supervisors in decision making.

Learn more about the success measures, implementation process, and working groups on the About OHIO FlexWork page.

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Managing Flex Arrangements: Resources, Tech Guides, and Tools

The University recognizes the positive impact flexibility in the workplace has on recruitment, retention, morale, engagement, and productivity. Given the mutually beneficial impact to both employees and the institution, supervisors and department/planning unit heads are strongly encouraged to utilize flex agreements as outlined below wherever possible.

In support of such agreements, supervisors are encouraged to use this website as a toolkit for success. Below, please find relevant official OHIO policies, guidelines from UHR, agreement forms, and additional helpful tools.

For questions, please contact your HR Liaison.

Recommendations and Guidelines

Compliance

State and Local Income Tax

Given the University’s requirement to appropriately tax each individual employee and our institutional direction towards a more flexible workforce, the University will implement state and municipal tax withholding for each location in which the University has employees located, including remote workers, on campus employees, and employees with split work locations. Employees working in campus locations will have withholding for that municipality. Employees working remotely will have state and local withholding for their home/work location. All employees are expected to keep their arrangements up to date using the FlexWork Tracker within My Personal Information (MPI).

State Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment varies from state to state. The University has unemployment insurance set up for each state in which we have a staffing presence. For more information, please contact University Human Resources at uhr@ohio.edu.

Worker's Compensation

Ohio University is committed to making the workplace safe and healthy for all employees, including those working remotely. As with unemployment, Workers’ Compensation varies from state to state. Generally, to be covered under Workers’ Compensation, the employee must sustain illness or injury occurring from and during the scope of their employment. Each Workers’ Compensation situation is unique and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For more information, please contact University Human Resources at uhr@ohio.edu.

Employee and Family Medical Leave

While the University complies with all applicable Ohio and federal leave laws, several states have different requirements for leaves. For more information, please contact University Human Resources at uhr@ohio.edu.

Additional Variances by State

There are several other legal variances from state to state, including payroll compliance, health care benefits, COBRA laws, hiring regulations, and hour regulations. Ohio University is committed to abiding by all state laws for all employees. For more information or if you have specific questions, please contact University Human Resources at uhr@ohio.edu.

Home Office and Commuting Related Expenses

Issuing office furniture, computers, and other equipment is up to the discretion of your unit. Please contact your supervisor for more information.

The following items are not considered taxable income for remote/hybrid employees:

  • Reimbursements for the business portion of internet and phone service
  • Reimbursements of out-of-pocket costs associated with shipping, standard postage, and printing
  • Reimbursements for business and office supplies

The use of business or office supplies must be reasonable and necessary to complete job functions. For more information, please contact your supervisor.

All employees should be good stewards of the University’s resources and be mindful of the costs associated with travel and supplies used to conduct university business.

Employees working from their alternate work location, per a  Flex Work Agreement (using the flex work tracker), are not considered to be on travel status and therefore, not permitted reimbursement of travel or meal-related expenses covered under Policy 41.121 Reimbursement for Official Travel and Entertainment.

Travel between your traditional university work location (also known as primary campus location) and your alternate work location (ex., your home) is considered normal commute and is not reimbursable (this includes mileage, parking, tolls, and other normal commute-related expenses). This applies even on days you may be scheduled to work at one location but required to work from the other location for any reason. 

If you are on approved travel status (i.e. on a business trip or attending an off-site meeting or conference), travel should be calculated from your currently scheduled work location (traditional or alternate). If leaving from your alternative work location (ex., home) you should deduct your commuter miles (as these are not reimbursable). This is the most economical method as it pertains to mileage reimbursement.

Technology

Technology has made work accessible from anywhere so we must optimize our departments for sharing and collaboration. When selecting technology choices for FlexWork, departments should focus on collaboration and sharing. Providing your employees with a place to communicate and share ideas creates a hub for collaboration and sharing that allows our teams to focus on achieving results. Additionally, departments should choose technology that enhances flexibility. Flexible technology choices allow for a mobile workforce that can perform effectively when working remote or at their workplace.  

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) recommends the following technology for departments embracing FlexWork.

Devices

In a flexible workplace, the laptop becomes the device of choice. They are portable, affordable, reliable, powerful, and robust. The Bobcat Depot offers a variety of screen sizes and keyboard layouts giving you options for different types of workers and their differing requirements. Establishing a technology standard to use laptops as the primary device provides the department with flexibility to design innovative shared spaces and team members the ability to work from anywhere.

Collaboration

While Microsoft Teams is great for personal communication, you can also create a team for your department that improves collaboration and communication by offering a departmental controlled space to chat, share documents, and conference with video and audio capabilities. The Teams Whiteboard application allows for remote brainstorming through a shared whiteboard that works with a pen or mouse-enabled device. Creating social channels in your team lets people chat and replicates the watercooler chat that is vital for developing professional networks and shared interests. Additionally, can be utilized as shared workspaces for email, files, and events that can further Microsoft Groups enhance communication and collaboration.

Phones

Employees can access their business phones while working remotely. OIT’s website has helpful resources and instructions for team members that require a telephone to perform their job duties. Employees can also consider utilizing the Calls application within Microsoft Teams.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

OHIO’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows for fast, secure, off-campus access to online resources such as remote desktop, remote printing, or shared network storage that normally would require you to be connected to the on-campus network. The VPN creates an encrypted "tunnel" that protects your network traffic from being captured by unauthorized individuals.

Security

Every employee is responsible for protecting the electronic resources and data they use to fulfill their job duties. A flexible workplace allows our teams to work in areas outside of our traditional work locations and team members should consider the risk before accessing sensitive data in those environments. The Information Security Office offers a guide to best security practices for your team while working remotely.

Space Design

A FlexWork model considers components of when employees work and where employees work. In addition to working off campus, FlexWork could include access to University flexspace or flexible spaces within a designated unit. University flexspaces are designated areas on campus that are made up of private, semi-private, and open work stations for University employees to utilize. Some work stations are reservable, while others are designated for drop-in use.

View FlexWork Locations

Space Access

Employees should think of University flexspace as their own space, and ease of access is central to ensuring space can serve Ohio University’s workforce. Work stations and collaboration spaces are available to schedule up to three months in advance, and staff may book recurring sessions in a specific space through the University’s new scheduling software tool, EMS. Approximately 75% of individual work stations will be reservable, while the remaining 25% will be first-come, first-served, drop-in work space.  

Additionally, employees can schedule multiple rooms concurrently. For instance, if an employee plans to spend the full day on campus, they could reserve a work station for the full day, while also reserving collaboration space for meetings throughout the day.

Caregiving Considerations

Employees are expected to conduct their work in a safe and productive environment that allows them to maintain focus. Employees are expected to keep the same level of job duties when utilizing a FlexWork arrangement as when they perform work in the office. To do this, we recommend that all employees establish a schedule with their family that includes when they are available and unavailable during work hours. Employees are expected to make appropriate childcare and other caregiving arrangements to ensure the safety and well-being of their family when focusing on work duties.  

However, we recognize that childcare, school, and other caregiving arrangements are unique to each family. While FlexWork is not a substitute for making appropriate caregiving arrangements during work hours, units should attempt to afford employees the flexibility to meet intermittent caregiving needs, such as illness, snow days, etc.

Recommendations for Supervisors

We recognize that transitioning to a FlexWork model might seem daunting for some unit leaders. As part of the Flexible Workplace Project, a group of employees from various departments across campus mobilized to form a Workforce Management Team. This team worked to address the impact that FlexWork has on people and our HR management processes, practices, and policies. Supervisors are encouraged to read the resources available on HR’s FlexWork webpage, which provide many practical recommendations for how to implement a flexible workplace model. For more information about supervising in a flexible work environment, please contact University Human Resources at uhr@ohio.edu.

FAQs

What is a Flexible Workplace?

A flexible workplace can mean many different plans depending on the role and function of the unit and individuals who make up its work force.  

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, some elements of a flexible plan may include: 

  • Flexible schedule 
  • Remote workspace 
  • Shared workspaces that focus on collaborative or creative interaction 
  • Reservable space at various locations on our campuses 
  • Rotating or variable schedules  

A flexible workplace plan will vary based on how employees interact with the campuses they serve. For example, some offices that are primarily “back office” may be able to operate effectively with employees who are partially or fully remote. Other offices that are “front-facing” for student, colleagues, or the public, may be effective with modified remote schedule.  

 Some important terms related to flexible workplace plans:   

  • Remote Work - the practice of an employee working at their home, or in some other place that is not an organization's usual place of business. 
  • On-Site – The practice of employee working at the organization’s usual place of business.  The employee may have a permanent work location, or a flexible work location made available to the department and schedulable by the employee. 
  • Hybrid Work - The practice of an employee practicing a combination of remote and on-site work as needed to perform the expectations of their job duties. 
  • Core Hours - Period of hours each day/week when department must be staffed at an appropriate level. 
  • Peak Periods - Cyclical times of the year when business activity or work volume is high during which the department must be staffed on site at specified level.  Employees may be required to work on campus for their regular schedule. * 
Why is OHIO initiating the Flexible Workplace Project (FWP)?

Traditionally Ohio University has been an on-site employer with our faculty and staff coming to their place of employment to perform their job duties. The COVID-19 pandemic required us to migrate most of our workforce to remote work to reduce the risk to our fellow Bobcats, the university invested in the tools and technologies to foster collaboration in our new remote workplace.

The Flexible Workplace project’s goal is to provide the institution with a set of policies and guidelines that will allow a manager to offer their employees a flexible work location as permitted by an employee’s job duties. This project began as a small pilot of offices but following the rapid shift to more remote work necessitated by the pandemic, the university decided to study, design, and implement a project for the entire university. 

Some goals of the FWP: 

  • To meet changing needs of university and to support the interest of individual employees in a more flexible work environment 
  • Recruit and retain employees in areas of expertise that are in high demand or may be difficult to recruit locally 
  • To develop collaborative and creative environments that provide resources and workspaces that allow more flexibility than a standard private, shared office space, or conference rooms
  • To reduce the university footprint by optimizing use of space 
Who is eligible to participate?

All administrative and academic units are encouraged to explore whether some aspect of flexible workplace is applicable and appropriate for that unit. While some functions may only be completed in a campus location due to the type of work performed, the facilities or equipment needed, or the type of service provided, there may be some duties that may be performed on flexible schedules or with a flexible space arrangement. If you are interested in exploring a FW arrangement for yourself or your unit, please speak to your supervisor about your interests and ideas.  

Employees must continue to meet the requirements of the position and the needs of the office or department. Employees working on-site or remote must be accountable for their performance regardless of the location or schedule worked. 

All campuses may participate in FWP.

When will the FWP be complete?

The FWP, which launched in January 2021, is on track to completion in fall semester 2021, with each of the work groups meeting goal of updating policies, implementing technologies to support flexible work arrangements, and creation of this “one-stop” informational webpage.  OHIO FlexWork will continue to be part of the university commitment to reasonable flexibility for employees and achievement of a reduced physical footprint for OHIO’s campuses. OHIO FlexWork will continue to evolve, learning from early adopter implementations to improve outcomes for employees and planning units. 

Early adopter offices began moving into new workspaces in summer 2021 and will continue to transition through the end of 2021. Second wave and subsequent adopters will work with the University on their FWP plans. 

 

 

Where will I find flexible spaces on OHIO’s campuses?

Types of flexible spaces that are currently being designed: 

  • Hub Space (dedicated to specific units) 
  • Flexible reservable space (open to all university employees)  

Flexible Workspace is located in three buildings on the Athens campus:

  • The Ridges Buildings 13, 14, 18, located on the Ridges Green, will be open to reserve space beginning in mid July 2021. This work space is located on the second floor and includes over 50 work stations, in both private, semi-private and open work configurations, as well as numerous conference and collaboration rooms. 
  • Grosvenor West, located on West Green,  will be opening in September 2021. This work space is located on the first floor, and will include private and open work stations, as well as small conference rooms. 
  • Grosvenor Hall, located on West Green, will have a number of conference rooms that will be available to be scheduled on the second, third and forth floors. 
  • Lindley Hall, located on the College Green, will have work space available to reserve on the first floor beginning in September. Space will include approximately 10 private work stations and small collaboration rooms, as well as 1 conference room.  

In addition to the above list of flexible workspaces, many departments have additional 'hub' space that is dedicated to a specific unit or department. Many hub spaces include additional drop-in or reservable work stations, conference or collaboration rooms that are available for use by specific user groups.  

How can I get up-to-date information about the FWP?

If you are in the Early Adopter or second wave/cohort Group:

  • Talk to your supervisor about your unit’s progress in the project 

If you are interested in learning more about how to join a future phase of Flexible Workplace Project: 

  • Talk to supervisor about your unit’s options for flexible workplace planning  
  • Inquire with Flexible Workplace Project leads (Shawna Bolin Wolfe and Christopher Ament) 
How is the Flexible Workplace Project different than pandemic-related return to campus?

Flexible Workplace Project is a long-term initiative that seeks to leverage workplace flexibility for engagement and productivity.  Return to Campus is a short-term plan to safely re-densify campus with evolving public health guidance and COVID-19 safety protocols.  

In March 2020, Ohio University abruptly shifted to nearly fully remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health directives designed to reduce the spread of the virus. While some employees, due to the nature of their duties, have not worked remotely, many offices and work areas have remained fully or partially remote.  With the wide availability of vaccines and plans for ongoing testing, tracing and quarantine as needed, Ohio University will resume a more normal campus experience for fall 2021. Therefore, more employees, both faculty and staff, will resume duties on our campuses.  

All units are currently considering how they will return to campus. As the campus community has learned from our experiences this past year, we have understood the numerous advantages of remote work:  meetings via Teams or Zoom allow full participation and inclusion for faculty and staff from various locations, student services such as advising are convenient for students, student support staff, and faculty. Virtual office hours are also popular with students. Therefore, we seek to discern what pandemic-related remote practices are also best practices for convenient and engaged interactions. Some of these decisions will be made in the near term as part of fall planning for return to campus. Some of these decisions will be part of a formal Flexible Workplace plan that impacts office space and individual work arrangements.  

 The Flexible Workplace Project is a planful approach to future work environments. FWP seeks longer-term ways to optimize space and talent. Leadership and supervisors who are part of the Early Adopter cohort have worked with University Planning to evaluate the duties and responsibilities of individual employees and the needs of students and colleagues they serve or with whom they partner to optimize the workspaces they will inhabit.  

Some “Early Adopters” will return in the new “Flexible Workplace Model,” as they have studied, reviewed management needs, and completed space projects to enable this change. If your unit has not yet been through the Flexible Workplace Model Strategy and you are preparing for the pandemic-related return to campus, please contact your supervisor to review plans. In addition, if your unit is interested in participating in the Flexible Workplace Model, talk to your supervisor or unit leader about initiating a planning discussion with University Planning.  

Will flexible workplace be available for faculty?

The FWP is currently focused on administrative units and offices. Departments, schools and programs that are interested in exploring opportunities may reach out to co-leads Chris Ament and Shawna Wolfe.

Additional Resources

Employees – Interested in flex arrangements

Employees – Currently utilizing flex arrangements

Managers – Initiating flex arrangements for employees

Managers – Managing under flex arrangements