Remote Work Policy
Ursinus College considers an effective remote work policy an important element of our employees’ productivity, morale, and work/life balance. Ursinus College supports all employees in terms of being able to navigate work and life responsibilities. It is important for employees to feel safe, empowered and supported. In line with these values, this Policy is further intended to give flexibility to those who are navigating responsibilities for care of children, parents or other family members.
We respect our employees’ professional contributions to the college as well as their unwavering support of our students, who rely on a dedicated work force to provide the academic and residential experience they have come to expect from Ursinus. When implemented consistently, a hybrid work arrangement where employees spend most of their time on campus, but part-time in alternative locations, can improve job performances, promote administrative efficiencies, and allow for a more sustainable footprint while ensuring all faculty and staff remain steadfast in support of the college’s mission.
We have a historic legacy of providing a residential experience that is supportive, leading to an undeniable sense of community among students. That community extends to our faculty and staff, whose physical presence on campus is critical to our students’ success. This policy recognizes the importance of faculty and staff maintaining a regular presence on campus, providing opportunities to engage with students and with one another. We believe that our mission excels when faculty, staff and students are in regular communication, working together to create a thriving, dynamic, and residential community.
This policy supports that legacy. It creates opportunities for routine in-person engagement while simultaneously affording employees the opportunity to work productively part-time remotely, either from home or other off-site locations.
This policy applies to employees working at Ursinus College in its entirety. This includes all full-time and part-time staff and faculty. Guidance for faculty is provided in Section IV(F) below, while guidance for staff is found in Section VI(B). Not all positions will be eligible for remote work.
The purpose of this policy is to establish the rules and procedures under which employees will be permitted to work remotely at alternate work locations off-campus. Employees in eligible positions will generally be permitted to work remotely during the fall and spring semester, with an opportunity for greater latitude during the summer months of June and July. As outlined above, when managed well, this policy supports the continuity of the college’s operations. It can significantly contribute to the recruitment and retention of a highly qualified, contemporary workforce. We believe that permitting some remote work can improve productivity, enhance creativity, allow for greater focus and contribute to one’s wellbeing. Administratively, a hybrid arrangement with some remote work promotes administrative efficiencies such as limiting the office environmental footprint, while also reducing the need for additional parking spaces, traffic congestion, and transportation costs. Full-time remote work is not consistent with our goals of a residential experience and the maintenance of community and collaboration.
Campus workplace: an employer’s place of work where employees normally are located on-site. Most commonly this refers to the Collegeville campus.
Alternate work locations: approved locations, other than the campus workplace, where official Ursinus College business is performed. The most common alternate work location is the home of an employee, subject to the approval described in this policy.
Remote work: a work arrangement where employees enter into a formal agreement with the Ursinus College to perform their usual job duties in an alternate work location generally no more than two days (16 hours) per week during the fall and spring semesters as well as the summer months. For greater flexibility during the summer months of June and July, please refer to our Summer Flexible Schedule Policy on the HR website.
Eligible Position: a position where, based on the job description, a hybrid schedule with remote work is potentially feasible.
Remote work is a voluntary work arrangement that is appropriate for many—though not all—employees and job responsibilities. No college employee is guaranteed the opportunity for remote work, and there are certain positions with specific job functions that will not be eligible for remote work because essential duties must be performed on campus. Individual position descriptions will identify whether that is an Eligible Position. (See Section A).
Employees permitted to work in Alternative Work Locations will be expected to perform the same duties as they would on campus, with same performance expectations and other agreed-upon terms. Remote work agreements may be established for a long-term or short-term period or on an “as needed basis” for individual circumstances.
Employees in Eligible Positions will not always be approved for remote work. Some will not meet minimum qualifications (See Section B). In other cases, the College may decide remote work is not feasible, or that it cannot be offered every week. There are several factors that will be considered when exploring this option. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with supervisor and division leaders. Important considerations include 1) an evaluation of the likelihood of the employee succeeding in a remote work arrangement, and 2) an evaluation of the supervisor’s ability to manage remote workers. (See Section B below.) Remote work may also be considered on a case-by-case basis as a reasonable accommodation as provided by the Reasonable Accommodations Policy for qualified employees with disabilities.
Employees who are approved for remote work will be required to sign a Remote Work Agreement with Ursinus College. An employee’s classification, compensation, and benefits will not change when the employee is approved for remote work.
While remote work will usually be voluntary, at the request of the employee, Ursinus College may establish remote work as a condition of employment, based on the college’s business needs. In such cases, this requirement should be included when the position is advertised and in correspondence offering employment.
A. Eligible Positions
Supervisors, in consultation with the office of human resources, will analyze the nature of each position and how that position’s work is performed before determining which positions are appropriate to designate as Eligible Positions. Several factors should be considered in determining the feasibility of remote work, including Ursinus’s ability to supervise the employee adequately and whether any duties require use of certain equipment, tools or hardware that cannot be replicated at home. Other critical considerations include whether:
- there is a need for face-to-face interaction that cannot effectively be replicated virtually or through technology;
- coordinating work among employees, or whether in-person interaction with those outside the college is necessary;
- the position in question requires the employee to have immediate access to documents or other information located only in the campus workplace;
- the remote work arrangement will negatively impact student service, quality, or college operations, or increase the workload of other employees;
- the position can be structured to be performed independently of others with minimal need for support and little face-to-face interaction; and
- performance can be measured by quantitative and/or qualitative results and standards—not the actual time spent performing a job.
Typically, a position being designated as an Eligible Position for remote work indicates that partial (and not full-time) remote work is feasible. The office of human resources, in consultation with the departments, will also identify broad categories of positions that are not eligible for remote work; these positions are critical to the operation of the college and may require that a dependable on-campus presence is necessary to perform the role.
B. Minimum Conditions
If an employee in an eligible position requests approval for remote work, the supervisor, in consultation with the office of human resources, will determine whether the employee meets the following minimum conditions to be considered:
- The employee has no active formal disciplinary actions on file for the current or immediately preceding review period;
- The employee has a demonstrated ability to work independently and is self-motivated and flexible; and
- The employee has received at least a satisfactory evaluation in the previous evaluation cycle.
C. Remote Work Determination Agreement
Employees in Eligible Positions who meet minimum conditions should make a request to their supervisor, including any request for specific scheduling preferences. The supervisor, in consultation with division leaders, will determine whether remote work will be offered, and under what schedule. Remote work will generally be for no more than two days per week and would typically be taken in full day increments. Supervisors have the discretion to allow remote work in increments of 2-4 hours, so long as the total does not exceed 16 hours.
Supervisors must ensure that remote work decisions are made for appropriate, job-related, non-discriminatory reasons. Supervisors must administer this policy consistently with the College EEO policy, and are expected to treat all Eligible employees fairly, and without favoritism. Supervisors may be required to document why they have denied all or part of an employee’s request for job-related reasons.
D. General Expectations and Conditions of all Remote Work
- Compliance with Policies. Employees must agree to comply with Ursinus College rules, policies, practices, and instructions and understand that violation of such may result in the termination of the remote work arrangement and/or disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. Employees who remote work will be subject to the same policies as other employees, including policies relating to information security and data protection. (See item 7 below.)
- Hours of Work. The goal of this policy is to create even better work/life balance for our employees. The total number of hours work employees are expected to work should not increase nor decrease, regardless of work location. Ursinus College also expects the same level of productivity from remote work employees that is expected from employees at the campus workplace; the converse is true as well. Remote work employees who are not exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act will be required to record all hours worked in a manner designated by Ursinus. Under existing policies, no overtime is permitted without the advance approval of the supervisor.
- Employee’s Schedule. A remote work agreement does not change an employee’s schedule. For hourly workers, supervisors have the discretion, as they would have on campus, to permit employees to have flexibility in their hours during a workweek, so long as all duties are completed.
- Schedules are not guaranteed. Supervisors may need to change or reduce scheduled remote hours when necessary for operations. For example, supervisors may require employees to report to the campus workplace as needed for work-related meetings or other events. There may also be days that are traditionally important to the college in which faculty/staff attendance is expected, and which may supersede a scheduled day away from the office. Because employees may make other plans around through remote schedule, supervisors should give as much notice as possible of any change.
- Full-time and attention. While this policy is intended to provide flexibility as outlined in the introduction on page 1, remote work cannot serve as a substitute for dependent care during work hours.
- Other Leaves. Because employees must be performing their duties while working remotely, employees cannot use remote work in place of sick leave, Family and Medical Leave, Medical Leave of Absence, Workers’ Compensation leave, or other types of leave. However, Ursinus College may determine whether it is appropriate to offer remote work as an opportunity for partial or full return to work based on the college’s return-to-work policies following an injury or illness, consistent with this policy.
Liability. Ursinus College assumes no responsibility for injuries occurring in the employee’s alternate work location outside the agreed upon remote work hours or for injuries that occur during working hours, but do not arise out of and in the course of employment. Ursinus also assumes no liability for damages to employee’s real or personal property resulting from participation in the remote work program.
Workers’ compensation coverage is limited to designated work areas in employees’ homes or alternate work locations. Employees agree to practice the same safety habits they would use at the college and to maintain safe conditions in their alternate work locations. Employees must follow normal procedures for reporting illness or injury.
Equipment and Materials. Normally, Ursinus College will provide equipment and materials needed by employees to effectively perform their duties on campus; however, the college will not duplicate resources between the campus workplace and the alternate work location.
Remote work employees may use Ursinus-owned equipment only for legitimate college purposes. Remote work employees are responsible for protecting college-owned equipment from theft, damage and unauthorized use. Ursinus will maintain, service and repair college-owned equipment used in the normal course of employment. The college will stipulate who is responsible for transporting and installing equipment, and for returning it to campus for repairs or service. The remote work agreement may also permit employees to use their own equipment, provided the use of such equipment has been approved by the Chief Information Officer or designee.
When employees are authorized to use their own equipment, Ursinus College is not responsible for the cost, repair or service of the employee’s personal equipment, unless otherwise expressly agreed to in advance in the remote work agreement.
- Costs of Remote Workplaces. Ursinus College is not obligated to assume responsibility for operating costs, home maintenance, or other costs incurred by employees in the use of their homes or other locations as a remote work alternate work location. Employees are expected, at their own expense, to have and maintain reliable high-speed internet necessary to access the College’s network.
- Approval of Remote Locations. The College reserves the right to refuse to approve remote work for locations that might impose additional burdens (such as tax or other liabilities).
College Information. Employees must safeguard Ursinus College information used or accessed while remotely working, in accordance with the Responsible Use of Technology Resources, the Policy and Confidentiality Agreement, as well as other applicable information technology policies. As a condition of the remote work agreement employees must take additional training provided by the College on security and technology practices when working remotely.
Ursinus College must grant permission according to college procedures for employees to work on restricted access information or material, as defined by the college, at alternate work locations. Remote work employees must agree to follow college-approved security procedures in order to ensure confidentiality and security of data.
- Training for Managers and Supervisors. Ursinus College encourages the successful and appropriate use of remote work within the college by providing training to supervisors and managers through the annual performance management review process.
Exceptions. Supervisors who wish to make exceptions to any of the provisions of this Policy must have the prior approval of their division and Human Resources.
E. Remote Work Agreement
Creation of Remote Work Agreements. Permission for remote work must be documented as approved through a remote work agreement. The remote work agreement establishes the specific conditions that apply to each employee working in alternate locations. The remote work agreement must be approved by the employee’s supervisor, the division or department leader, and the Office of Human Resources. The agreement form is accessible here.
A remote work agreement will be prepared and signed by all parties and a one-month trial period will commence from the date of signing. During the one-month trial period, the remote work arrangement will be evaluated and discussed between the supervisor and the employee working remotely to determine if the arrangement is successful and meeting the needs of the department.
The agreement typically will be for one academic year, with a renewable term, but an agreement may be made for a shorter term. Renewal is not guaranteed; the remote e work arrangement, employee performance and other circumstances will be considered by the supervisor in determining whether to renew the agreement.
On occasion, a department may also determine that employees may need to work at alternate worksites for a short period of time to accommodate unusual circumstances, such as a brief office closing for renovations or relocation. In such cases, the formal remote work agreement is not required, but should be documented for department files by memorandum or email, specifying work expectations and duration.
a. Modification or Termination of the Remote Work Agreement. The supervisor, in consultation with Human Resources, may modify or terminate the remote work agreement early (before the end of the specified term) for performance concerns, changing operational needs, or any other non-discriminatory reason. The employee may also terminate the remote work agreement at any time, unless it was a condition of employment. Any termination typically will be made with at least two weeks’ advance notice.
Traditionally faculty have carried out their work with varied schedules at the central workplace and at alternate locations. Under past practice it is in the discretion of the academic Chairs, Deans or Vice President of Academic Affairs to establish expectations for when faculty must be on campus for courses, office hours or other purposes. This practice has included asking colleagues to substitute, or to cancel class meetings, when faculty members have been unable to be physically present for professional or personal reasons; our increasing familiarity and comfort with remote technology naturally allows additional tools to deal with these unavoidable conflicts.
In the case of classes, remote approaches should be used rarely. The expectation is that faculty will meet their classes in person in all but the occasional aforementioned circumstances. Faculty should also offer at least some student (“office”) hours in person. Normally, a formal remote work agreement will not be required for faculty unless a faculty member is either assigned at an alternate location (i.e., not the standard assigned office on campus), or the faculty member is performing all or most duties at an alternative location. For this situation, faculty will need to work with the Dean of the College to design the remote work agreement similar to those described in section IV(E) to meet the needs of their departments and students; in general, such arrangements will only be made for a limited period of time under unusual and documented circumstances.
However, unless the applicable supervisors have approved otherwise, faculty members working at alternative locations are subject to the following provisions of this policy: subsections IV(D)(3) through (11).
An employee who disagrees with a denial of a request to remote work or any other action relating to this policy is encouraged to discuss the concern with his or her supervisor. If an employee still believes that their supervisor’s decision violates the policy, or the supervisor is interpreting or administering the policy in an arbitrary or unreasonable way, they can request a review by the office of Human Resources (for staff), or the Vice president for Academic Affairs (for faculty).
After the employee has exhausted these internal reviews, and the employee believes that the decision violated the College’s EEO Policy, the employee has a right to file a complaint under that policy.
VI. Authority and Amendment; Implementation
A. Authority and Amendment. This policy is approved by the President and the President has delegated to the Associate Vice President of Human Resources the authority to make minor or technical revisions or amendments to this policy with the approval of Senior Leadership.
- Determination of Position Eligibility. Supervisors should begin identifying positions as eligible or ineligible for remote work upon publication of this policy.
- Pre-existing Remote Work Arrangements. For any employee working remotely as of or prior to the effective date of this Policy, the supervisor shall consult with Human Resources to determine the appropriate approach considering the specifics of the arrangement. For an employee with an existing, documented remote work agreement with a one-year term, typically the arrangement will be reviewed under this Policy shortly prior to the expiration of the term so that an updated agreement may be signed, if appropriate.
VII. Related Policies, Procedures and Documents
Employee Reasonable Accommodation Policy and Procedure (for qualified employees with a disability to request remote work as an accommodation)