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New policy establishes consistency for alternate work arrangements

Staff Council co-authored process put into place this summer

By Cynthia Pasquale

Rachel Fraser has a new appreciation for Thursdays. On those days, the placement coordinator for the Urban Community Teacher Education Program at the University of Colorado Denver works from home.

The first day working in her home office was "amazing," she said. "I love being able to get up with enough time to eat breakfast, walk my dog and be at the computer by 8:30. And I wanted to keep working, so I worked an extra hour. I got more work done without all the distractions of the office."

Fraser is one of many classified or professional exempt employees who has taken advantage of an alternate work arrangement policy that went into effect July 1.

Previously, implementation of flex schedules and alternative work arrangements was inconsistent. In some cases, departments within the university exercised informal arrangements, or some requests for schedule changes were turned down because supervisors believed work flexibility was not appropriate. In 2008, the University of Colorado Staff Council began working with human resources to develop a more formal work arrangement process. The council co-authored the final policy that is just over a month old.


Links that will provide guidance in entering into an alternate work arrangement can be found on the Human Resources website, but are also listed below:

Alternate work schedule guidelines
Work-at-home procedures
Work-at-home approval form
Frequently asked questions on alternate work arrangements


Fraser, a CU employee since 2002, often works independently, and she often spends some Thursdays visiting participating schools. So by avoiding the office, she has trimmed her commute.

"My motivating factor was that I need a lot of uninterrupted thought time," she said. "At the office, I was always putting on headphones. And I don't have to spend so much time in the car, polluting."

On the Denver campus, employees might be encouraged to consider alternative work arrangements to help with space issues, said E. Jill Pollock, senior associate vice president and chief human resources officer. But, she said, the university's top priority is helping employees achieve a better work/life balance.

Because each campus establishes guidelines to fit its needs, the university has not tracked the number of employees who are participating, nor does it plan to formally evaluate the policy.

On the Boulder campus, alternative work guidelines have been in place for years, said Candace Bowen, executive director of human resources. She said the guidance helps supervisors and employees determine whether an alternative arrangement is a feasible option.

"It depends on the type of job, the nature of the work and the size of the unit," she said. "It's been very helpful for a lot of employees. They see it as a benefit of working here and people have not taken advantage of the arrangement. It's helped our recruitment and retention and has increased job satisfaction."

The arrangements also have benefited the university. Bowen said the campus has engaged in more cross-training, enabling some employees to move into other jobs should the need arise.

Gloria Timmons, director of Employment Services on the Boulder campus, used to work an alternate schedule before moving into her current position.

"It gives employees more flexibility," Timmons said. "You can make appointments on the flex days and save leave or sick time. My team values that a great deal."

Most of the arrangements in Timmons' unit are 9-80 schedules, where an employee works nine-hour days and takes one day off every other week.

"I had young children at the time, so I had one extra day I could spend with them or volunteer," she said. "It's one of the perks that keeps employees engaged."

But she also said the nine-hour work days can be stressful.

"You are at work nine and a half hours, with a 30-minute lunch break, and no matter how productive you are, you reach a point late in the day when you slow down. I know when I returned to an eight-hour schedule, I was almost relieved."

Alternative work arrangements do have some requirements, depending on the campus or the department. In Timmons' department, employees can only take flex days on Mondays or Fridays, and if meetings or special assignments fall on those days, employees are required to work.

In Fraser's case, her work will be evaluated every few months to ensure quality and productivity.

"I might try for more days at home later. I didn't want to ask for the moon. I wanted to get the star first."

State tallies pros, cons of flexible scheduling

The state of Colorado encourages alternative work options, including Flexplace, which allows employees to work at a place other than the specified office location. According to a document prepared by the division of human resources in the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration, allowing flexible scheduling:

  1. Increases worker efficiency and productivity.
  2. Allows for continuity of operations when offices are closed because of weather or emergencies.
  3. Saves $2 for every $1 spent on the arrangement. (About $3,000 per teleworker can be saved annually related to reduction in office space, equipment and employee parking.)
  4. Attracts and retains employees.
  5. Improves management skills.
  6. Improves quality of life.
  7. Reduces employee absenteeism (up to 60 percent) and turnover (up to 20 percent).
  8. Improves air quality and energy conservation and reduces traffic congestion.
  9. Increases employment opportunities for those with a disability.
  10. Reduces travel time, saving teleworkers an average of 52.9 minutes each day.
  11. Reduces costs spent on clothing, dry cleaning, gasoline, parking, etc.
  12. Offers greater flexibility in work/life balance.
  13. Increases job satisfaction.

Common pitfalls of Flexplan:

  1. Organizational culture: managers fear losing control and must learn to evaluate productivity based on results or outcomes
  2. Co-workers don't know when telecommuters will be in the office
  3. Co-workers are reluctant to call telecommuters and telecommuters are reluctant to take a break for fear supervisors might think they are not "working." (It is common for a teleworker to work 1-3 additional hours per day because of "fear.")
  4. Flexplace is not a substitute for daycare nor will it solve relationship problems.
  5. Empoyees may fear or experience isolation.
  6. The alternative office may be inadequate.
  7. Information may not be secure.


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