Frequently Asked Questions
Last updated: 9-19-22
Who may request a flexible work arrangement?
HR107 – “Flexible Work Arrangements” is applicable to full-time and part-time staff appointments located within the United States. Staff covered by a collective bargaining agreement should refer to their contract regarding terms and conditions of employment. Regarding administrators, in general, policies affecting exempt staff guide personnel matters affecting administrators with limited exception (See HR92 for reference). The policy does not apply to faculty and postdoctoral appointments.
Do the provisions of federal employment laws such as OSHA and FMLA apply when working a FWA?
Yes. Federal laws governing employment also apply to staff working a flexible work arrangement that may or may not include working from an alternate site, regardless of work location.
Do all Penn State policies still apply to staff with a flexible work arrangement?
Yes. Staff with a flexible work arrangement are still expected to follow the policies of the university.
Do expectations of professional dress still apply when working remotely or an alternate shift?
Yes. Staff who are working remotely or an alternate shift will be held to the same standards of professional dress and professional presentation as the unit’s campus setting.
Why do all flexible work arrangements need to be entered into Workday?
All flexible work arrangements must be entered into Workday for several reasons. First, the University needs an accurate record of employee work locations to be compliant in areas such as regional tax laws and various labor laws, where applicable. In addition, documenting work arrangements also allows the University to asses and make decisions on space usage, technology needs, and other logistic items. Accurate tracking of flexible work arrangements allows us to understand how flexible work is impacting our employees - including engagement, wellness, and job satisfaction - as well as how it is enabling the University to attract, engage, and retain a diverse workforce.
Are the general conditions of employment the same for staff with FWAs?
Yes. Conditions of employment shall remain the same as for staff working the traditional hours and location of the department. Wages, benefits, and leave accrual will remain unchanged unless there is a change in employment status or total scheduled hours of work that impacts benefit eligibility. All university policies, rules, and procedures shall apply to worksites off campus, including those governing communicating internally and with the public, employee rights and responsibilities, facilities and equipment management, financial management, information resource management, purchasing of property and services, and safety. Failure to follow university policies, rules, and procedures may result in discontinuation of the FWA, and/or disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
What happens if there are emergency disruptions or inclement weather at the university office location or at my designated alternative work site, such as at home?
If the on-campus worksite is closed due to an emergency or inclement weather, the supervisor will contact the employee working off site and provide instructions about the continuation of work at the alternate site. If there is an emergency at the alternate site, such as a power outage, the employee will notify the supervisor as soon as possible. The employee may be reassigned to the primary worksite, assigned to an alternate worksite, or the employee may be required to use personal time.
What changes will be made to parking passes and fees due to the new flexible work arrangements policy?
Transportation Services has identified a shift in the amount of parking available at the University Park campus since the onset of hybrid and remote work at the University. That demand continues to change and has slowly increased since the Fall of 2021. Without knowing the long-term plans for and impacts related to remote work, Transportation Services has not made any significant changes to the parking program but have made incremental changes to get more parkers access to the core of campus and ultimately closer to their destinations. Transportation Services has also engaged various vendors to identify flexible permitting options for employees that may not be on campus on a full-time basis. The current policies and procedures for parking passes and associated fees will continue to be in effect for the foreseeable future while the University examines the appropriate measures to take moving forward. On-demand zone parking via ParkMobile is now available at select parking areas at the University Park campus, including Orange lots, and hourly parking is available at the East, HUB, Nittany, and West decks. For more information on parking, visit Penn State’s Transportation Services website or speak to your unit’s parking chair.
What are the basic requirements of an alternate work site?
The employee must establish and maintain a dedicated workspace that is quiet, clean, safe, has adequate lighting, adequate ventilation, and is free of recognized hazards. Staff are not to hold in-person meetings at the alternate worksite without advance approval from the supervisor.
Will staff be reimbursed for travel and incidental costs associated with occasional required meetings at the unit office or another work location at the direction of the supervisor if they work from home?
The travel of remote employees to their university workspace is considered to be ordinary commuting, and as such is not eligible for travel reimbursement. If a remote employee, residing 100 miles or more from their university workspace, is required to be physically present at their university workspace for certain dates or events, the unit must clearly identify what, if any, travel expenses will be reimbursed, consistent with University Policy TR02, Penn State Travel Policy. Travel expectations for remote employees should be clearly defined as a characteristic of the position and units must carefully evaluate the remote work arrangement to ensure the needs of the unit can still be met.
If staff work remotely from home or another location and sustain an injury, are they covered by workers’ compensation? Where can staff go if they have additional questions regarding work-related injuries?
Employees utilizing flexible work arrangements who sustain injuries/illnesses in the course and/or scope of their employment must follow the normal procedures for reporting the illness or injury. They are responsible for reporting the same to their supervisor and must complete a report through the University’s third-party vendor via online reporting or a phone call within 24 hours of the event. As with any employee claim for workers' compensation, it is subject to investigation prior to any determination regarding coverage and/or compensability. An employee also may be required to allow one or more representatives of the University to access the remote work location, if applicable.
If one employee has a flexible schedule, won't everyone want one?
A FWA can provide balance for staff between their work and private life while continuing to meet the University's mission. Everyone’s needs will not be the same and may even change over time as life circumstances change, making FWA a tool for employee retention. Every employee will not necessarily want to change what may be working for them and the unit. Flexibility can improve engagement and productivity, and so it can be to everyone’s benefit to find solutions that help create better balance for staff and Penn State.
Doesn’t everyone need to be in the office at the same time to promote productivity?
Technology and the culture of work have progressed to a state where email, electronic file sharing, conferencing programs, and project management solutions have changed the way we work, effectively allowing some staff to stay in touch and work simultaneously in different locations. Supervisors may establish a reasonable regular calendar for in-person staff meetings, even if staff are working different schedules or remotely.
Can an employee have more than one flexible work arrangement, and how is this documented?
Yes, an employee can have more than one flexible arrangement (e.g. hybrid arrangement and a compressed schedule). Employees with multiple arrangements should document each one separately in the Workday system.
Do part-time staff members with flexibility built into their schedules need to document their work arrangements in Workday?
Part-time staff employees who have a defined hybrid (mixture of on-site and off-site work with a reoccurring weekly schedule) or remote (off-site work) arrangement are considered to have a flexible arrangement and must document this in Workday. However, the nature of many part-time jobs allows for scheduling flexibility; this is not a “flexible work arrangement” that needs to be documented. For example, a job may require 10 hours per week, but the days or exact hours are not specific. A part-time employee working in this manner does not need to document a flexible work arrangement in Workday. These guidelines apply to all PT staff jobs, regardless of whether the position is filled by a student.
How will staff be supervised if a manager or supervisor is not always in the same workspace with staff?
Supervisors should work with staff to identify the preferred communication plan. This should include the mode and frequency of communication most appropriate to the FWA and the work. This helps to ensure supervisors and staff are checking in with each other regularly about work responsibilities and priorities as well as employee well-being and engagement. Establishing a communication plan can help to identify work performance issues or concerns as well as help maintain a sense of professional connection to the work unit.
FWA will not be suitable for every position and some work will require ongoing supervision. Positions where there are safety factors to consider or a necessity to perform work in tandem with peers in the same space for public facing duties are just some examples. Situations where there may be work performance-related concerns for staff may also prevent the ability to implement FWA. In instances where work performance is a concern, unit HR should be consulted as early as practicable for guidance if a FWA needs to be ended or adjusted.
If one employee has flexibility, but their peers do not, is it fair to the other staff that do not have a FWA? How does a supervisor ensure they treat staff equally?
When an employee is requesting an FWA, a needs assessment for all parties to the relationship must be evaluated. The mission of the unit, the supervisor’s requirements, the needs of the individual, the needs of peers, and those the employee serves all must be considered. Equity and fairness mean having an open mind to consider equally the individual interests of staff while also evaluating the mission and business needs of the unit.
Will an employee with a FWA require more effort from supervisors to manage?
An employee with a FWA do not necessarily require more effort to manage. Fundamentals for managing staff with FWA are the same for staff working on campus and include items such as defining the necessary work outcomes from staff, defining a communication plan among the team, and a clear distribution of work among the unit. Performance standards must be defined for staff working in person or with a form of FWA, and supervisors will likely use multiple strategies to communicate and monitor work. The activities associated with supervision for staff with FWA should not increase. A well-documented plan for FWA that establishes the performance standards alongside the expectations of the agreement will assist supervisors in effective management of staff working with flexibility.
How can a supervisor manage performance issues for a remote employee?
The expectation is that you will assign work to your employee and measure their success by the quality and timeliness of their work, just as you would if they were working on site. If an employee is not meeting their performance expectations, you should consult with your HRSP to make sure that you are informing the employee that there is a problem and properly document those conversations.
How do I know if an employee is working if they are not on site?
You should assign appropriate work to the staff you supervise. You can measure their success by the quality of their work. If an employee is expected to be available during core hours, and issues arise where they are not available, that should be addressed with the employee.
May staff request to work flexibly from a home address outside of Pennsylvania?
Staff may submit a request to their supervisor to work flexibly outside of Pennsylvania and are advised to do so prior to moving to a different state. The request to work in another state is subject to review and approval like any flexible work arrangement request, but there are tax implications and legal considerations that must be reviewed before approval can be granted. Staff with a flexible work arrangement who move to another state without notifying their employer, or fail to maintain an accurate home address, risk a denial or discontinuation of the flexible work arrangement.
If my employee shares plans to relocate, will they need to submit a new request?
Not necessarily. If your employee notifies you that they are moving, please remind them to update their information at accounts.psu.edu. If they are relocating to a different state, you will need to notify your Human Resources Consultant so that consultation with LER can take place regarding the planned state of residence and whether the continuation of the existing FWA is appropriate. The current arrangement will need to be ended and a new request submitted if the arrangement’s type (e.g. remote vs. hybrid) changes.
What is the process for remote workers to return all equipment when they transfer jobs or separate from the University?
Units should establish a regular process for the return of equipment that makes sense for the nature of the operations and the distance of the remote employee. In some cases, it may be reasonable to ask the employee to deliver the equipment personally to a designated location. In other circumstances it may make more sense for a long-distance employee to be provided a shipping reimbursement or a postage paid package to return the equipment to a designated address.
What is the process for requesting a flexible work arrangement?
The request and approval web page outlines the process for requesting flexible work arrangements. Employees should begin by reviewing the University’s guiding principles and the employee flexible work decision guide. If their request aligns with these statements, they should discuss their request with their manager first. Managers will inform requesters of any unit-wide restrictions on flexible work and will review requests with applicable parties, including unit HR representatives and additional unit approvers, if applicable, and will report back to the requester. If the supervisor approves the arrangement, the employee can submit their flexible work request in Workday.
Do I need to document my ongoing flexible work arrangement in Workday if my manager already approved it?
Yes, all flexible work arrangements must be documented in Workday, including ongoing arrangements that have already been approved.
How do I start a conversation with my manager/supervisor regarding a request for FWA? What’s the process for a request?
Each unit has their own internal process and procedures to handle a request for FWA. This may include an initial verbal conversation and/or an email to the supervisor regarding feasibility of the request. The final step for all unit FWAs includes entering details of the request of Workday for documentation.
Flexibility in the structure and delivery of work is a partnership that requires trust. Supervisors and unit leadership must balance the needs of their workforce alongside the work they are responsible for performing, and FWA requests should be given reasonable consideration. When making a request for FWA, staff should be prepared to discuss the ways the work will get done, the proposed schedule, methods of communication, any potential impact on the work itself or the work unit, and any requested equipment. Staff must continue the same level of service to the unit’s mission, goals, and customer service requirements while working a FWA. Ultimately, it is the decision of the unit if the requested FWA will be approved but laying out the details of your request well will help approvers make the most informed decision.
If I have an HR concern while working a flexible work arrangement, who do I reach out to for help?
An employee working a flexible work arrangement should follow the same process to discuss or report a workplace concern as they would in the office. That maybe reaching out to their Unit HR by email, Microsoft Teams, or phone when the employee is working remotely, or request an in-person meeting when the employee is on campus.
Staff should start with speaking to their supervisor regarding their concerns, but if they prefer, they may reach out to unit HR directly.
HR Shared Services is also a resource to you for a variety of answers to questions ranging from employee benefits to workplace concerns. They will respond to or route questions to the appropriate area that is best equipped assist you. HR Shared Services can be reached Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm at 814-865-1473.
Whom do I talk to if I have concerns about my FWA or the determination made regarding my request for FWA?
As with any employment-related issue, an employee may start by raising the concern to their supervisor but may also reach out directly to unit HR to discuss modifications and determinations. Determinations regarding FWA requests for staff are not eligible to be grieved under HR79 - “The Staff Grievance Process.
Why do some units or departments support flexible work arrangements and others do not?
The new flexible work arrangements policy provides guidance for flexible work possibilities and allows units to apply them in a way that both meets business needs and considers staff work/life balance. Staff members can also review the policy to learn more about flexible work, but decisions on who is able to work flexibly and in what format (hybrid, remote, alternate schedule, etc.) is ultimately made by unit leaders, in conversation with supervisors and HR Strategic Partners.
It is important to remember that flexible work may not be compatible with some staff roles.
Does my manager/supervisor need to approve my request for FWA? Are there others who need to approve my request?
Yes, managers/supervisors always need to approve FWA requests. The supervisor and unit HR are included in the approval process, and additional approvers in the employee's management chain can be added to the process at the discretion of the unit. Consultation and review prior to final approval may also occur with any applicable areas of business and consultations may be facilitated by unit HR. Policy HR107 provides information regarding the approval process for requests.
If I have a FWA that includes working from home and I want to move, do I need to inform my supervisor before moving to a new home?
Staff who are planning to move should inform their manager of their plans. In addition, anytime a home address changes, it is extremely important that this information be updated at accounts.psu.edu for mailing and tax purposes. Penn State will not be responsible for any incorrect tax withholding based on inaccurate information, so it is critical that the home address is accurate in order to be taxed appropriately. Visit the Penn State accounts website to update addresses. If a flexible work arrangement changes due to relocation, a new arrangement must be requested and documented in Workday.
When do I need to request a FWA if the flexibility I seek is temporary?
All requests for flexible work arrangements, including short-term requests, must be documented in Workday. Short-term requests should include a planned end date for the arrangement.
What type of data will be collected as part of the new policy?
All staff members with a flexible work arrangement will need to document their particular arrangement in Workday, including the type of arrangement, their work location, and their schedule.
What resources are available to staff to learn more about the new flexible work arrangements policy?
The flexible work webpages on the HR website will house all the necessary information on flexible work arrangements.
The site is still under development. HR will continue to add more information as it becomes available.
Workspace and Technology FAQs
What technology resources/supplies and support can staff expect due to the new flexible work arrangements policy?
All Penn State staff will continue to be issued a computer and mouse that meet Penn State security requirements. More information on resources and supplies can be found on the FWA training and resources page. Supplies and other resources staff may need for remote work will be managed by supervisors and managers.
Who is responsible for office set-ups at home locations or other remote workspaces?
When not working in University space, employees are responsible for providing a safe and healthy environment that meets their work needs, including appropriate privacy, security, environmental conditions (ex. temperature, lighting).
Are there resources available to employees to guide creation of a safe and healthy remote workspace?
As with all computer and workspace arrangements, workspaces will be expected to follow Penn State's ergonomic guidelines. To assist remote and hybrid employees, Information and resources are available from Environmental Health and Safety (https://ehs.psu.edu/ergonomics/overview)
Will the University pay or reimburse expenses for internet service?
No, employees working in remote setting are responsible for sufficient internet speeds to meet the communication and work responsibilities of their job responsibilities.
Will the University pay or reimburse expenses for phone service?
No, reimbursement will not be provided for landlines. Units are encouraged to utilize communications tools such as Microsoft Teams (internal communications) and Cisco Jabber (internal
and external communications). Provision of cell phones for business exclusive needs will be consistent with policy FN21 Non-Office Telecommunications Services (https://policy.psu.edu/policies/fn21).
Will the University pay or reimburse expenses for remote workspace expenses like electricity use?
No reimbursement will be provided for electricity, other utilities, or non-University-owned or leased office space operational or maintenance needs.
Will the University provide office furniture for remote location?
No. Desks, chairs, file cabinets, and other furniture for remote locations are the responsibility of the employee.
How can I get office supplies, such as pens, notepads, paper clips, folders. etc. when working remote?
Hybrid workers and proximate remote workers are expected to be able to pick up supplies at their unit’s on-campus location for business use. Fully remote workers can request supplies through their unit as needed via Penn State’s General Stores. No direct reimbursement to employees will be provided.
Will I be provided duplicate computer technology for both on-campus and remote locations if working in a hybrid or other flexible arrangement?
Employees will be provided one set of computer technology consistent with an on-campus work set-up that can be located in their on-campus or home workspace. Typical technology packages include:
- Laptop with integrated camera (or desktop instead, if needed)
- Docking Station
- Monitor(s) consistent with full in-person workstation provision
- Headset with microphone (if needed)
- Webcam (if needed for desktop computer configuration)
Printer and scanners are NOT to be provided except in case of a critical business need. Processes should be utilized or developed to eliminate the need for paper documents and transactions (MS Teams, Adobe Signature, etc.). Evaluations have shown that most signature processes can utilize e-signature or do not actually need signature (ex. email confirmation sufficient for internal approvals).