What is the timeline for returning staff who are currently working remotely to the workplace?

The timeline below provides a general outline of key dates. It is the expectation that plans would phase into implementation by August 25, 2021, although some units may delay based on business needs. 

July 15, 2021

Managers that choose to establish a flexible, hybrid or remote work plan must submit a formal flexible work plan to their senior leader for approval. A plan template is available on the university’s Office of Human Resources website. You will hear more from your senior leader regarding the submission and approval process for your area. HR business partners and HR consultants also are available to provide support and guidance for any questions.

Once approved, departmental flexible work plans need to be submitted to this central repository.

*If, after careful evaluation, it is determined that a unit will be completely onsite at all times, no plans are required to be submitted.

July 15 through August 16, 2021

Managers should complete individual flexible work agreements for each employee who will be working fully remote or in a hybrid work environment according to the Flexible Work Policy. Individual flexible work agreements must be executed with the pertaining employee(s) and electronically submitted via HR Connection. The HR Connection portal will be available after July 15. These plans should be approved by the manager and stored in the employee’s personnel files.

August 16, 2021

Begin implementation of workplace reactivation plans.

*If business needs require an earlier start to implementation plans, that is permissible if approved by the unit’s senior leader. Where possible, please allow 30 days’ notice before asking employees to return to the workplace.

August 25, 2021

The majority of those returning to the workplace should be back in-person.

*If additional time is needed to fully enact return-to-work plans, that also is permissible if approved by the unit’s senior leader. We recognize that some units may be delayed based on business needs.

What should I consider when making flexible work plans?

To help inform your decision-making process and navigate this transition, you should consider the following:

Ensure Mission-Critical Needs are Met

To effectively support all mission areas, managers must ensure that sufficient staff are on-site to support the in-person needs of patients, learners and colleagues. Facilitating and supporting remote work should not compromise our overarching missions. Flexible work arrangements are not a right of employment. They are established at the discretion of the employer and are subject to change.

  • Patient-Facing Activities: Managers need to ensure that patient needs are met to maintain delivery of exceptional health care, whether in-person or remotely. Non-virtual patient-facing activities must be done in-person.
  • Learner-Facing Activities: Managers need to ensure they have sufficient and engaged program staff so that educational needs are fully supported. The needs of the learners should take priority over the preferences of the staff member. Specifically, non-virtual learner-facing activities must be done in-person.
  • Research Activities: Although many research activities lend themselves to a flexible schedule, managers need to ensure that the laboratory operations and other protocols including collaborations and supporting learners in the research space are met.
  • Customer-Facing Activities: Managers need to ensure that customer needs are met, whether in-person or remotely. Non-virtual customer-facing activities must be done in-person.

Focus on Building Community

  • Facilitating a sense of community and camaraderie is particularly important when implementing a flexible work environment; managers are encouraged to foster in-person interactions with their teams, both business and social.
  • For those managers who have team members working off-site, they are encouraged to consider defining certain days per week or month when the whole team will be onsite and able to work and collaborate together.
  • Managers should engage in regular touch base meetings with all staff; more frequent meetings may be needed with those staff members who are working a hybrid or fully remote schedule.

Reinforce Performance Management and Accountability

Measuring productivity, including performance management, is an ongoing, two-way conversation between the employee and manager, and that does not stop when one or all of a manager’s team members work a remote, hybrid or flexible schedule. Regardless of when and where employees and managers are working, regular performance conversations must occur. These conversations provide opportunities to manage team productivity and verify work is getting done. Being intentional about these conversations also helps managers learn and grow, while creating a work environment for employees to perform at their best. This ensures business objectives are achieved.

The following tools and technology solutions can help managers monitor employee performance and make data-driven decisions.

  • Team huddles
  • Microsoft Team analytics
  • Productivity and quality metrics already in place for your area
  • Additional tools for measuring project-based productivity are being evaluated. IT will work with individual areas to identify the appropriate tool.

Conduct Meetings Purposefully

  • Meetings should be scheduled in accordance with the university’s Safe and Healthy Buckeye Events and Gatherings Guidelines.
  • Consider the number of participants, time of day, duration of the meeting and subject matter to be discussed when determining if a meeting should be virtual, hybrid or in- person. Analysis of meeting format should be ongoing based on business needs.
  • Continue to practice proper etiquette for virtual meetings, which includes appropriate use of chat box function, cameras on, professional attire and appropriate background and setting to lead or participate in a virtual meeting.

Determine Technology Needs

Ensure all staff have the essential hardware, software and accessory equipment when working remotely or onsite. This includes providing sufficient and up-to-date technology in an office or hoteling space.

The following serve as best practices, recognizing that due to availability of space and/or resources, areas may or may not be able to implement them:

  • For those staff members who work remotely 60% of the time or more, their remote office should be equipped with a laptop, docking monitor, additional monitor, wireless keyboard and mouse, and a webcam.
  • For those staff members who work onsite 60% of the time or more, their campus office should be equipped with a laptop, docking monitor, additional monitor, wireless keyboard and mouse, and a webcam.
  • Dedicated hoteling spaces should be equipped with a docking station, two monitors, a keyboard and mouse, and webcam. Individuals utilizing these spaces will have the ability to connect a personal headset, if desired.

Assess Space and Work Environment

  • As a general guideline, staff should be equipped with one office, regardless of location. Examples of this could include:
    • For those staff members who work remotely 60% of the time or more, they will not have a dedicated workspace on campus, but will instead utilize shared and/or hoteling workspaces. Units should consider a future-state where some or all shared and/or hoteling workspaces can be reserved via an online system. Exceptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
    • For those staff members who work onsite 60% of the time or more, they will have a dedicated workspace on campus. Exceptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • Spaces may need to be reconfigured to accommodate health and safety guidelines as outlined on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website.

What are some guidelines for exploring flexible work options for work areas?

The Ohio State University has outlined several flexible work options and resources to help managers and staff navigate this decision-making process. Given the complexity of working in academic medicine, the managers may want to consider job categories and remote work thresholds to promote a flexible and engaging work environment. When considering various flexible work arrangements, there are several important considerations to keep in mind:

  • There may be job functions that are conducive to a 100% remote work model. Managers are encouraged to explore these functions, especially within the context of space needs.
    • If remote work is not possible, then managers are encouraged to consider other flexible work options. 
    • If an area cannot support ongoing flexible work options, such as location or time flexibility, intermittent flexibility is encouraged. Intermittent flexibility is considered a one-off request that does not require a flexible work agreement, but should be approved by a manager (e.g. an employee might choose to work from home one day so that a repair technician can work on the home, or a project needs completed that would be more productive to do from home).
  • As a reminder, individual flexible work agreements need to be completed, if applicable. For cases where individual flexible work agreements are appropriate, these plans should be approved by the manager and stored in the employee’s personnel files.
  • If staff prefer to work on campus, managers should aim to meet this request.
  • Managers may consider implementation of a rotational coverage pool for their area. For example, a unit could organize its office assistants into a coverage pool and implement a rotational coverage schedule to allow for stakeholder-facing support and/or required onsite work, while also allowing for more flexibility across the team.
  • All faculty and staff at the Wexner Medical Center, including some designated faculty and staff at the College of Medicine are classified as essential employees and may be required to deviate from their agreed-upon schedule and report to work on campus with little notice in the event of an emergency or unforeseen priority.
  • As a general rule, we believe it is important for employees who lead people (e.g. managers and supervisors) to be on-site. People leaders may have a hybrid schedule pursuant to the Flexible Work Policy and as approved by their manager. A number of factors will be considered, including the nature of the specific work for which each manager has responsibility over and whether their teams are on-site or remote.

What could a flexible work plan look like for my area?

A sample plan is provided below and may be a helpful guide as you consider flexible work options in your area:

flexible work plan sample

Where can I find additional support and resources?

The Ohio State University has outlined several flexible work options and resources

  • HR business partners stand ready to assist in plan development and consultation.
  • Human Resources Campus Reactivation Guidance, which includes: information and resources on flexible work, communication, work-life integration, recruiting, onboarding, managing productivity, fostering a growth mindset, team culture and engagement.
  • Additional guidelines and resources are available on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website.