Flexible Work Overview

After a successful flexible work pilot from 2021-2022, Wake Forest will engage in a one-year continuation of the pilot for ongoing evaluation of program benefits and challenges.

Wake Forest is a residential university, with a commitment to the teacher-scholar ideal, service, and engagement. Our dedication to mission prioritizes personal interaction between students, faculty, and staff. In evaluating flexible work options, leaders should first ask what service or engagement is being offered and then how it can best be achieved. Eligibility for a flexible work arrangement is position-based, as it relates to the position responsibilities and constituent interaction. Successful flexible work arrangements center campus and team needs and are characterized by frequent, effective communication and performance management.

While a majority of roles on campus require an in-person presence for service and engagement, some staff roles may be suited for flexible location and schedule consideration. Wake Forest, like most universities, is composed of divisions whose stakeholders and service models are distinctive. Opportunities for flexible work may vary by division, unit, or department and will be determined and executed under a distributed leadership model.

The following guidance provides a consistent approach and application for a continuation of the University’s 2021-2022 one-year pilot through summer 2023.

For Leaders

Leaders may use the following framework to develop a flexible work philosophy that supports the University’s mission and aligns with the unique offerings of the areas under their supervision. Units can use this framework to provide teams and individuals with guidance on the type of flexible work they may be eligible to request. Below is the decision cascade for developing this guidance:

  • University Commitment to Mission: Wake Forest is a primarily residential university, with a commitment to service and engagement. Our dedication to mission prioritizes personal interaction between students, faculty, and staff.
  • Cabinet/Dean Level Divisional Work Philosophy: Each cabinet and dean-level division supports the mission of the University in unique ways. Divisions should identify their stakeholders, examine their commitments to service and engagement, and articulate best work practices to create a philosophy of work that supports our shared commitment to mission.
  • Unit Level Models: Given the division’s work philosophy, each unit within it can create a model that outlines opportunities, parameters, and boundaries for flexible work options that support holistic team needs. Supervisors should engage in regular conversations with employees and teams about performance and engagement.

Tips for developing Unit Level Models

Departmental managers are responsible for outlining the opportunities, parameters, and boundaries for flexible work, based on the unique service and engagement offerings of the unit. We encourage leaders to engage teams in dialogue. Consider asking the following questions:

  • What are the synchronous in-person service and engagement needs of our stakeholders?
  • How does our current work day schedule meet the needs of our constituents?
  • What kind of support does the team need to meet their individual performance goals?
  • How can team members collaborate to meet unit goals? 
  • How does the team prioritize and honor time to complete tasks?
  • How often does the team need to meet in-person? 

For Individuals

Individuals may request a flexible work arrangement within their department model that continues to support the University’s mission and divisional framework. A successful flexible work arrangement would be underpinned by the following outcomes. 

  • Leverages the best of virtual and in-person engagement
  • Enhanced, consistent, and effective operational support and customer service  
  • Cost-savings or cost neutrality 

Requests for a flexible work arrangement require the supervisor’s approval based on the department’s and division’s operational needs and support of the University’s mission. Human Resources is available to assist departments in developing and assessing proposals if needed. Current employees and new hires who plan to work outside of North Carolina must receive approval from WFU Payroll before engaging in out-of-state work.

Flexible Location Considerations

A flexible location allows colleagues to perform work remotely for part or all of the work week on a consistent basis. Colleagues may perform their work from home or another location that is conducive to productivity. Employees may, on occasion, be required to come into the office for an in-person meeting on days they are scheduled to work remotely. Current employees and new hires who plan to work outside of North Carolina must receive approval from WFU Payroll before engaging in out-of-state work.

The employee is required to have the appropriate physical environment, equipment and supplies, and technology to adequately support the flexible location option.

  • Physical Environment

    Staff must have a location free from hazards where they can consistently and productively perform their work..

  • Equipment and Supplies

    The University will not provide staff with any additional office equipment such as desks, chairs, lamps, etc. for a remote office location. Staff are also responsible for the purchase of any needed duplicate computer peripherals (desk, chair, monitor, keyboard, camera, etc.) for a remote office space and reliable internet/telephone connectivity.

  • Technology

    Staff may use their current university technology such as computers, chargers, monitors, docking stations, etc. in their remote working environment if desired. The university will not, however, subsidize the purchase of additional technology, nor purchase replacement equipment beyond the normal scheduled laptop rotation.

  • Commuting Expenses

    Staff are responsible for any expenses incurred during any commute to and from campus.

Note: Flexible location arrangements must comply with federal, state, and municipal laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

Flexible Schedule Considerations

A flexible schedule may allow colleagues flexibility in the times during which their work is performed. This may include flexibility in arrival and departure times, with core hours coinciding with times when all colleagues are on-site, or a condensed work schedule. A condensed schedule allows an employee to work their typical 5-day workweek in 4 days or 2 workweeks in 9 days.

Coordinating flexible schedules for the entire team can offer improved work area coverage and extended service hours. Leaders may want to explore this option for the entire team and identify core hours during which all team members are present for meetings and other synchronous in-person collaboration needs.

Note: Non-exempt staff may be eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Supervisors must carefully monitor the implementation of 2 workweek / 9 day non-exempt schedules to ensure unnecessary overtime is avoided.

Advantages and Challenges of Flexible Work

Prior to requesting a flexible work arrangement, colleagues should consider the following advantages and challenges of these options.

  • Advantages
    • Reduces or limits commute time by limiting the number of days an individual needs to commute or allows them to commute at more convenient times.
    • Potential for more productivity due to fewer interruptions either working remotely or during times when fewer team members are in the office.
    • Flexible work options can increase attendance and reduce tardiness.
    • Flexible schedules can offer improved work area coverage and extended service hours.
  • Challenges
    • Fewer opportunities for face-to-face communication with team members.
    • Requires a high level of trust and clear alignment of expectations.
    • Technology support may not be available for colleagues during non-working hours or to those working remotely.
    • Feelings of inequity amongst team members with varying schedules.
    • Coordinating team schedules to allow for effective collaboration.
    • Longer work days and remote work can be exhausting and isolating.