Managing Alternative Work Arrangements - University of Houston
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Alternative work arrangements can lead to greater work-life balance, which in turn may lead to greater employee satisfaction, fewer unscheduled absences, increased retention, enhanced individual performance, and increased business productivity. Our HR Business Partner team has created training and resources to help leaders understand how to manage employees with alternative work arrangements. If you have any questions regarding managing employees with alternative work arrangements, we encourage you to contact your HR Business Partner.

6 Tips to Manage Employees during alternative work arrangements

  • Establish Structured Daily Check-ins

    Establish a daily check-in with your employees so they can have a forum to consult with you, ask questions, and express any concerns they have regarding working alternative work arrangements. The daily check-in can be in the form of a one-on-one or team conference call or video depending on if your employees work more independently from each other or if their work is highly collaborative.
  • Set Rules for Engagement

    • Set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of the various communications within your team. For example, “We use videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings but we use IM when something is urgent.”
    • Keep an eye on communication among team members, as appropriate, to ensure that they are sharing information as needed.
  • Offer Encouragement and Support

    • Acknowledge, listen, and empathize with employee concerns.
    • If an employee is clearly struggling but not communicating, ask general questions such as “How is this alternative work arrangement working out for you so far?” 
    • Once you ask the question, be sure to listen carefully to the response, and briefly restate it back to the employee, to ensure that you understood correctly.
    • Let the employee’s concerns be the focus of this conversation.
  • Trust Your Team and Avoid Micromanaging

    • Trust your employees to act independently, responsibly, and professionally. Agree on specific, measurable things that should be completed and delivered every week. 
    • Although it can be tempting to check in constantly to make sure employees are on task while they're working from home, micromanaging your team will only make them feel like you don't trust them. This can also have an impact on the engagement and morale of your employees.
  • Communication is Key

    • Keep the lines of communication open, honest and broad. 
    • Use the right tool for individual or team communication to help ensure employee engagement. This may include Teams, Zoom, and/or Skype.
    • Call your employees. There are certain situations when a direct conversation is the most practical mode for moving a task or project forward.
  • Maintain Your Productivity Mindset

    It is imperative that you help employees maintain a productivity mindset. Continue to hold employees accountable and manage productivity by creating expectations and maintaining open lines of communication.

FAQs on Managing Your Staff While Working an Alternative work Arrangement

  • How do I manage my staff effectively while working an alternative work arrangement?

    The key is to set clear expectations for productivity, communicate often with employees by having daily/weekly check-in meetings, and have trust in your team.  It is also recommended to provide encouragement, offer support, and avoid micromanaging unless it’s in a positive manner.

  • Are employees required to take a lunch break while working an alternative work arrangement?

    The policies related to lunch breaks still apply.  Per MAPP 02.04.02 Hours of Work policy, each full-time employee is provided a meal break near the middle of the work day.  The time for meal breaks may be scheduled by management in the department with appropriate regard for workload. The meal period should not exceed 60 minutes.  However, meal breaks of different lengths may be approved where departmental work schedules require it and daily schedules are adjusted accordingly.  Employees are not paid for meal breaks.

  • Can managers contact employees working an alternative work arrangement outside of normal work hours?

    Managers are encouraged to be mindful of their employees’ work-life balance and regular work schedules.  Contacting employees outside of normal work hours may be compensable time, specifically for non-exempt (hourly) employees, under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Prior to contacting employees, it is best to determine if it is truly necessary on a case by case basis and not make it a standard practice.

  • What approaches can supervisors take to follow up on performance challenges with a staff member?

    Supervisors are encouraged to have communications with the employee regarding the challenges and collaborate with the employee on how overcome such challenges.  This may include establishing short-term goals and setting up follow up dates to ensure the staff member has met the expectations of those goals.

  • I have previously been managing performance issues from my employee. Now that he/she is working remotely, the performance issues have worsened. What can I do?

    You are encouraged to manage employees by following the progressive discipline protocols in collaboration with HR.  Please refer to MAPP 02.04.03 Discipline and Dismissal of Staff Employees which outlines the disciplinary process. You may also consider discontinuing the alternative work arrangement.

  • Are managers allowed to discipline employees while working an alternative work arrangement?

    Yes, progressive discipline can still occur while working an alternative work arrangement. We are still able to address performance/misconduct issues that may arise.

  • How do I administer progressive discipline while working an alternative work arrangement?

    In order to administer a formal reprimand, complete the Formal Employee Conference Record and submit to your HR Business Partner for review and approval before issuing to staff member.  Upon approval, you can administer the document via telephone or video conference. 

  • How do I obtain signatures, including employee acknowledgement, on the Formal Employee Conference Record?

    In order to obtain signatures, both parties can print, sign, and return via scan (if capable). Alternatively, digital signatures are acceptable or email acknowledging documents will suffice.

  • Do I have to document all my conversations with my staff while working an alternative work arrangement?

    While it is not required to document all conversations, it may assist you with managing expectations and performance, including deadlines, projects assigned, etc. If you are discussing performance or discipline issues, it is advisable to document your conversations. A follow up email to the employee including details of the conversation is advised.