Work at Home

Working at home, often called telecommuting, is a work alternative agreed upon between the staff member and supervisor, subject to approval of the department head and area vice president, intended to improve work quality and increase productivity. Without evidence of potential to improve work quality and increase productivity, telecommuting arrangements will not be approved. Telecommuting is a management option, not a staff benefit. It usually does not change the staff member's terms and conditions of employment, including salary, benefits, and responsibilities.

Although telecommuting reduces commuting time and time spent preparing to go to work, it cannot replace dependent care. Staff members working at home must make or maintain caregiver arrangements for children, parents, or others.

Telecommuting arrangements will be assessed on a regular basis to determine whether the expected increases in work quality and productivity have, in fact, materialized. If they have not, the telecommuting arrangement will be discontinued. The staff member, supervisor, department head or vice president may end the telecommuting arrangement at any time.

Establishing a Telecommuting Arrangement

Only staff members in regular, full-time positions who have completed the initial evaluation period may be considered for a work at home arrangement. Working at home is not an entitlement for the staff member who wishes to telecommute. The first consideration is the nature of the position, which must be such that face-to-face interaction is minimal or can be scheduled to permit telecommuting. Such tasks as writing, editing, reading, dictating, telephoning, sending/receiving email, data analysis, research, computer programming, word processing and data entry may lend themselves to telecommuting.

Next, the supervisor must consider the performance characteristics demonstrated by the staff member. Performance criteria to be considered in determining whether or not a telecommuting arrangement is appropriate include, but are not limited to, expertise in job; knowledge of the university's policies and procedures; conscientiousness about work time and productivity; results; self-motivation; ability to set priorities and deadlines; effective communication skills; ability to adapt to changing routines and environments; ability to work well alone for long stretches of time; limited need for feedback; willingness to ask for feedback if necessary.

A telecommuting agreement must be completed by the staff member who is a candidate for working at home, to include a description of the ways in which a telecommuting arrangement might improve work quality and increase productivity, contribute to the mission, goals, and objectives of the work unit, and generally benefit the university. A telecommuting agreement must be approved by the staff member's supervisor, department head, and the area vice president. If the arrangement is approved, both the staff member and the supervisor must plan, with coworkers as appropriate, how work flow issues (e.g., callers, mail, meetings) will be addressed while the staff member is telecommuting.

Staff members with approved telecommuting arrangements will normally work at home up to two (2) days a week. A staff member working at home will have regularly-scheduled working hours agreed upon with the supervisor, during which hours the staff member will be accessible to the telephone. Staff members must record actual hours worked while telecommuting.

As is the case when working on campus, staff members working at home must keep their supervisors informed of progress on assignments, including any problems they may experience while telecommuting. Methods of planning work, reviewing work results, and appraising the staff member's performance might include:

  • Sending email to the supervisor with the day's work plan on the day before telecommuting followed by a list of accomplishments the day after
  • Discussing plans for the telecommuting day with the supervisor, then debriefing the following day.
  • Scheduling telephone "meetings" with the supervisor on the telecommuting day.
  • Using any other communication method specifically agreed to at the beginning of or during the arrangement.

Failure to comply with the provisions of a telecommuting agreement may result in termination of the agreement and/or corrective action.

Telecommuting Equipment and Services

The staff member working at home will have access to supplies in the same fashion as when he or she is working on campus. It is unlikely that the university will be able to provide computing equipment and services for staff members working at home. If it is possible to provide equipment, it will be limited to such items as telephone instruments, communications lines for telephones, fax machines, personal computers, modems. No office furniture will be provided. Staff members must sign an agreement to replace equipment or repay the university (by means of a payroll deduction when possible) if equipment is damaged or stolen under circumstances within the staff member's control.

The staff member may, with the supervisor's approval, elect to use personal computer equipment of his or her own. If this option is chosen, the university may require the staff member to bring the personal computer in for evaluation, configuration, and software loading. A minimum configuration standard will be established by the Technology Service Desk as a condition of support for the staff member's personal computer equipment. While working at home performing university functions on non-university equipment, the staff member will be provided with the necessary university-standard software at no charge. Software use must conform to the university's software standards and applicable licensing agreements throughout the period of telecommuting. Software changes must be approved in advance by TS.

If the staff member wishes to dial into the university's network, the necessary software will be provided at no charge. The telecommunications software provided may periodically be updated. When this occurs, the staff member will be contacted by TS to arrange for the software upgrade at a mutually-convenient time and place.

The university will be responsible for the repair and maintenance of equipment provided by the university. Surge and telephone line protection approved by TS must be used with any university-owned computer and modem made available to the staff member. The staff member will be responsible for:

  • any intentional damage to the equipment;
  • damage resulting from gross negligence by the staff member, any member of the staff member's family, or any visitor to the staff member's residence; and
  • damage resulting from a power surge if no surge protector is used, or if the surge protector had previously been rendered inoperative by a power surge or spike.

Damage or theft of university-owned equipment that occurs outside the staff member's control would likely not be covered through university insurance because of a high insurance deductible. In the event of loss, department heads are responsible for pursuing replacement cost funding for uninsured losses. A computer may or may not be replaced through a department budget or through special funding, depending on individual loss circumstances, availability of funds and the severity of need for computer replacement.

University-provided equipment is not intended for personal or family use.

The university is not responsible for damage or loss to staff member-owned equipment. Staff members should check their homeowner's or renter's insurance policy for incidental office coverage. Copies of documents verifying coverage must be provided to the staff member's supervisor to be forwarded to the university's risk manager, the Director of Business Services.

The staff member is responsible for establishing and maintaining an adequate work space. The university may inspect the staff member's work space to insure that it is safe and ergonomically appropriate.

The university will reimburse the staff member on a case-by-case basis for job-related long distance telephone expenses incurred by the staff member at home. The staff member must present an itemized copy of the telephone bill to the supervisor for reimbursement. The university will not contribute to the staff member's regular telephone service for local calls.