Alternate Work Arrangement

Lakehead University has a commitment to supporting employees and providing opportunities for flexible and diverse work arrangements.  We are proud to share the Alternate Work Arrangement Guideline as a step to creating innovative schedules that work for our employees to promote a quality work-life balance.

The Alternate Work Arrangement Guideline is a step towards creating an Alternate Work Arrangement Policy for Lakehead University employees. We have created a Google Form for feedback that is available here as well, and we encourage all employees to provide feedback with this form in an effort to ensure we can continuously improve the guideline, answer all your questions and finally develop a comprehensive policy that works for us.  If you are interested in an Alternate Work Arrangement, please review the Guideline and the associated documents to begin the conversation with your Supervisor.

As outlined in the Guideline, the ability for Alternate Work Arrangements will not be possible for all positions across Lakehead University. The Guideline outlines several Alternate Work options, and each employee and supervisor should carefully consider each option to determine if the position can support the changes. 

Alternate Work Arrangement FAQs

Why don’t we have an Alternate Work Arrangement policy and only a guideline at this time?

The Alternate Work Arrangement guideline is a transitional program designed to give eligible Employees more flexibility during the period that the university and the world is transitioning out of the Pandemic. The University is working and consulting to find the best work model for Lakehead University as we continue to review what the Future of work will look like. All participants are encouraged to provide feedback using the online feedback form available in the human resources website as they utilise these guidelines. The feedback will be taken into consideration when the policy is developed.

Why can’t we just go back to the old way? It worked perfectly fine.

Even in the absence of a pandemic, Alternate Work Arrangements can improve talent acquisition and retention efforts, augment organizational diversity efforts, encourage respectful behavior, and help the organization's efforts to be community focussed. Organizations can experience cost savings, improved attendance and productivity, and an increase in employee engagement. Some of the advantages are:

  • Inclusion - Conferencing technology like Zoom promote collaboration across different geographical locations and make individuals feel more included when everyone is on the same platform.
  • Work/life balance. Empowering workers would enhance work/life balance, engagement, and wellness.
  • Sustainability. Reducing travel, office energy costs and paperwork would decrease the environmental footprint.
  • Retention and engagement. Flexibility would enhance the employer value proposition, talent acquisition, improving retention and supporting diversity.
What are the challenges with this initiative?
  • Possibility of employees experiencing social isolation unless deliberate efforts are made to connect.

  • Being out of the day-to-day flow of information.

  • Being away from the hub of activity in terms of office relationships, management, and team camaraderie.

  • A misperception that employees working remotely are not as available as those working on campus.

  • Distractions by the employee's spouse, children, pets, and others in the workspace.

  • A tendency to be available outside of "normal" business hours and work longer hours

From the administrative standpoint, downsides or extra effort associated with alternate work hours or remote work might include:

  • Establishing set expectations, trust and unique methods of performance evaluation and leading from a distance.

  • The need to adopt strategies and procedures attuned to management of remote workers.

  • Increased technology costs and potential security vulnerability. 

  • Dealing with employees who are disgruntled because their roles do not allow them to work remotely or have flexibility with hours.

What are the most common reasons for an Alternate Work Arrangement?

There are many reasons for Alternate Work Arrangements primarily to provide employees more flexibility and is an employee benefit. However, a unit may want to extend open hours to provide better service, allow employees to better manage personal responsibilities and schedules, reduce the number of days employees are in the office, match employee work hours to peak times, and increase opportunities for cross-training.

Are all employees eligible for an Alternate Work Arrangement?

Full time and part time employees permanent or on contract over one (1) year may apply for Alternate Work Arrangements, and members of union groups should refer to their Collective Agreements. There are certain positions that cannot accommodate an Alternate Work Arrangement. Some positions require employees to be always on campus and some positions may not have as much flexibility to accommodate changes with respect to hours. Factors to be considered by the employee and supervisor include operational needs of the department, service requirements, productivity required, work/life balance of the employee and employee productivity. Unionized employees may have specific Letter of Understanding or articles in their Collective Agreements related to these kinds of arrangements.

If I am currently in an Alternate Work Arrangement, do I need to formalize it through this guideline?

Yes. All Regular Alternate Work Arrangements must be formalized using the procedures outlined in the guideline. This documented procedure does not apply to ad hoc, short-term arrangements less than 1 month in duration.

What should I consider before applying for Alternate work hours or Remote work?

Best practice to follow prior to submitting a request:

  1. Review the Alternate Work Arrangement guidelines detailing the eligibility criteria, options, and considerations, and ensure you have read and understood the parameters as well as read these FAQs.
  2. Discuss your intent to request an Alternate Work Arrangement with your manager.
  3. Before you initiate your proposal, review, complete and save the Health and Safety Checklist. You will be required to attach it to your Alternate Work Arrangement proposal form.

 

Can a request for an Alternate Work Arrangement for the same position but in different departments or schools be handled differently? Can one be approved and the other denied?

Yes. Since every job, employee and situation are different; it cannot be assumed that the same decision is appropriate for two similar positions. Supervisors know the operations of their department’s best and are responsible for final decisions on how to get the work accomplished. Supervisors have the authority to say “yes” or “no” to an Alternate arrangement, or to postpone consideration of Alternate arrangements to another time. However, requests will not be unreasonably denied. This is meant to be a collaborative process while ensuring the University’s mandate of providing an exceptional experience to our students and employees is still achieved.

What is expected from me when I am working remotely?

In short, the same expectations as if you were working on campus, including being easily reached during work hours by phone and email; dressing professionally; participating in meetings; and following all applicable University policies. Please see the Alternate Work Arrangements Guideline for additional details

What should I do if my request is declined by my manager, and it does not seem to be for operational reasons?

As a first step we would encourage a dialogue with your manager to clearly understand the operational demands from their perspective. If you are not in agreement with the response, we ask you to discuss it with HR to try to find a solution.

Will the University provide me with equipment and supplies to work remotely?

If you have been provided with a university laptop computer, you can use it at an alternate workplace. You may also use office supplies purchased by the University. You are expected to provide any other non-portable equipment you may need or prefer such as office furniture, phones, supplemental monitors, printers, scanners, and internet connectivity on your own. No equipment will be purchased or provided by the University specifically to facilitate an Alternate Work Arrangement.

What happens if a meeting, training session or important event is scheduled when I am supposed to be off?

It is important to remember that the work of the university and the department must not suffer because of employees using Alternate Work Arrangements. There will be events or meetings that cannot be scheduled around your Alternate schedule. The employee and supervisor would need to discuss and determine how it will be handled. In some cases, the employee may have to come in on their regular off day and take an alternate day off instead.

My manager and I discussed a few details after I had already submitted my Alternate Work Arrangement form. Is there a way for me to change my request?

It would depend on the nature of the change to be made. If the change is minor, we encourage you to manage the change without submitting a new form. If the change is significant, we advise you to submit a new form. For example, agreeing to change remote work from one day of the week to another day does not require a new submission. However, changes such as adding a different type of arrangement or switching from a 1 day to a 2 day remote schedule should be submitted again for approval.

What if I need a day off during a scheduled remote day?

If you are sick or would like to take a personal or vacation day, you must request and receive approval as you normally would, regardless of work location. It is natural to feel you can continue to work even when sick when you are working from your designated home office however if you are unwell and unable to put in your normal quality or quantity of work, you must avail the benefit of sick leave which is meant for your wellness.

Can I request remote work to reduce childcare costs, i.e., provide my own childcare during work hours?

No. Remote work is not a replacement for appropriate childcare/ eldercare while you are working. Work must be performed during work hours from a remote location just as it would on campus.

Is it necessary to review my proposed Alternate Work Arrangement Request with my peers?

All requests for an Alternate Work Arrangement are reviewed and determined by the supervisor. However, as a part of the review process, the supervisor will consider all factors that may impact the team’s ability to perform the department’s daily objectives. While an employee’s Alternate Work Arrangement should not increase anyone else’s work, small adjustments in processes related to communication etc. may need to be discussed as a team so that the arrangement works for everyone in the team. Communication within a team may occur when an Alternate Work Arrangement is being considered by the supervisor. The process when Alternate Work Arrangements are being considered as part of an accommodation, is different and is managed separately.

What happens if an Employee who is working an Alternate Work Arrangement wants to return to their previous schedule?

The Employee should discuss this with their supervisor at least 30 days prior to the date they wish to resume the previous schedule. The supervisor may or may not be able to approve the request, depending on the needs of the unit.

What happens if an employee with an Alternate Work Arrangement transfers to another department?

There is no automatic continuation of the arrangement. The Employee must submit a new Alternate Work Arrangement Proposal for the new Supervisor and position.

Who initiates a request or takes primary responsibility for completing a proposal for an Alternate Work Arrangement?

Alternate work options are primarily introduced in a work environment by an Employee who determines that they would like to have an Alternate Work Arrangement as a benefit. However, supervisors may also suggest Alternate Work Arrangements for some or all Employees in certain circumstances. The Employee and the supervisor are encouraged to discuss their needs and to work together to develop the best possible arrangements for their unit.

If a paid holiday falls on a day on which an Employee is not normally scheduled to work, can the Employee take off one of their regularly scheduled days that week?

Yes. If an Employee’s regular schedule does not fall on the day of a paid holiday, they will be entitled to bank time or take one day in lieu of the holiday.

How do you supervise Employees working at home?

If Employees work at home as an established Alternate Work Arrangement, then supervisors should set up a structured system for management. The emphasis will focus on the completion of tasks. Performance measures should be agreed and then monitored. Agreement on performance goals and communication expectations is especially important for those working remotely. These discussions on expectations should happen before an Alternate Work Arrangement is put into place.

If Alternate Work Arrangements are available to all Employees, how will supervisors manage all the requests and ensure adequate coverage?

Traditional schedules meet the needs of many Employees. Employees who do request Alternate Work Arrangements most often ask for slight changes in their daily arrival and departure times, changes that pose the least challenge for a Employee's supervisor and co-workers. If there are multiple requests, Supervisors may seek guidance from Human Resources.

If a supervisor receives multiple requests that all cannot be accommodated, how do they rate the needs of the requesters to decide which requests to approve?

Reasons for the requests should not be used as the only factor in making a decision. If the Employees’' requests are similar in terms of their ability to continue to meet job requirements, seniority and performance may be factors in determining which request to approve. The supervisor may ask the Employees for input into a solution that would enable the Employees to meet their individual needs as well as the needs of the unit. Supervisors may seek guidance from Human Resources.

What if an operational issue requires an employee to work outside their hours?

The intent of this program is to provide flexibility in the way we (all employees) deliver on our accountabilities. Occasionally employees are required to work hours outside of their regular schedule and that does not change when they are working under any of the Alternate Work Arrangements. Employees are still accountable for meeting their objectives and managing time off accordingly.

We have several employees with Alternate Work Arrangements in my office, but I am worried that coverage is going to be a problem during busy times of the year. Is there anything I can do?

Many departments have peak times when everyone needs to be in the office during regular business hours. Supervisors can require that Alternate Work Arrangements be suspended during these times. This can be incorporated into the Agreement document when the Alternate Work Arrangement is agreed and approved.

Once an Alternate Work Arrangement has been approved, how can it be introduced smoothly into the work group to address perceptions of fairness or redistribution of work?

It is necessary to make sure everyone is Informed or consulted as appropriate when new working arrangements are introduced. Part of good teamwork is to ensure employees are treated consistently and that they are not overloaded with work as the result of an Alternate Work Arrangement by another employee. Where there is a worry that colleagues may find the Alternate Work Arrangements unfair, supervisors, at the planning stage, should meet with the work group/department to define work parameters and develop a system to manage the work group/department's work schedule. For example, it would be useful to agree to procedures for the following:

  • Methods of briefing staff - e.g., on new tasks, progress, continuing tasks
  • Methods of dealing with forwarding - e.g., calls from the office, urgent correspondence, other correspondence
  • Assessing performance - how and when this will be done
  • Scheduling meetings - how and when will they be scheduled and how meetings will be conducted. For example, will it be required for the flexing employee to meet in person or is a conference call acceptable.
  • Discussing any changes relating to the Alternate Work Arrangement - how and when these will be dealt with.
How should a supervisor manage a situation where it may be appropriate to approve one person's request for flexibility and deny the request of another?

All decisions should be focused on organizational needs and objective criteria related to employee need, service delivery requirements, work performance, job demands etc. A consistent approach to analyzing the situation should be applied. Then, it is important to communicate to each requestor the decision and its rationale. Human Resources can help you develop objective criteria to use and a strategy for communicating your decision.

Some of my employees who do not have an Alternate Work Arrangement seem to be jealous of those who do. Any suggestions?

All Alternate Work Arrangements should provide a benefit to the office/department. As a supervisor, you need to be able to share those benefits with the other employees. You must also be able to show how the work being done is integral to the operations of the department. Alternate Work Arrangements should not be seen as a way to get out of work responsibilities. The flexplace employee should be viewed as an important part of the work group and should be part of regular meetings and gatherings. While all Alternate Work Arrangement options may not be feasible for all employees, most employees that the policy applies to may be able to avail of at least one of the options.

What happens if we are asked to do someone else’s job so that they can have Alternate Work Arrangements?

No one is expected to do work outside their job description to support another employee’s arrangements. Please speak with your supervisor in the first instance and HR if you have questions or concerns about this.

What is the difference between Ad hoc and Regular Alternate Work Arrangements?

Alternate Work arrangements, especially occasional remote work or slight changes in hours of work has become a widely accepted practice, in workplaces where the work or service can go on unaffected. Lakehead University’s Guidelines outlines two processes, Ad-Hoc and Regular:

  • Ad-hoc: When an Employee requests an AlternateWork Arrangement on a one-off or occasional basis, which does not form part of their regular work schedule and is based on a particular short-term circumstance or work requirement. For the purposes of this guideline, this is an arrangement of one (1) month or less.
  • Regular: When an Employee requests an Alternate Work Arrangement on a regular basis, for a set period, as part of their regular work schedule. Any arrangement that continues beyond one (1) month is considered Regular and is required to follow the request and approval process described in this guideline.
If an Employee does not take breaks or a lunch period, can they leave early?

Typically, breaks or lunch may not be accumulated by the Employee nor used to leave work early or come in late. Break and lunch times are in place to support health and wellness, meet employment standards, and are not intended to be used to shorten the workday. Nevertheless, while supervisors and employees are encouraged to take regular breaks and not shorten these for Alternate Work Arrangements, they may be done when it is an Ad hoc arrangement.

What if there are performance concerns with an Employee requesting?

Approval of participation is at the discretion of the direct Supervisor. Supervisors are responsible for considering all requests on a case-by-case basis. Supervisors should consider the following and consult with HR:

Performance:

  • Have performance issues or development areas been identified and subject to monitoring that may not be possible with a change in schedule?
  • Does the Employee have the organizational skills and ability to accomplish tasks independently?

Is the Employee:

  • Able to maintain self-discipline and work with minimum supervision?
  • Available during the agreed upon work hours?
  • Committed to participating in ongoing monitoring?
What if an existing arrangement is not working?

Alternate Work Arrangements should be reviewed periodically to ensure the arrangement is successful. If the arrangement is not working, the supervisor and employee should discuss and determine why that is the case and try to find a solution.

What guidelines exist for Employees working off-site who handle confidential information?

Employees must ensure they maintain confidentiality of Lakehead University information and abide by all Lakehead University IT policies and procedures. Employees working off campus must secure and protect Lakehead University information in electronic and physical formats and store documents in an appropriate location not accessible to family members or visitors.

Who keeps the Alternate Arrangement Request Forms?

All Alternate Work Arrangement (Regular) forms will be managed through the online request form. The employee, supervisor, and the Office of Human Resources will retain records.