Policies & Contracts

220 - Alternative Work Arrangements

Subject: Alternative Work Arrangements

Section: U220

Date: April, 2021



To provide guidance to units that wish to establish alternative work arrangements for staff employees whose work can be performed outside a University office and/or traditional work schedule for part or all the workweek. This policy is not meant to address one-off requests from employees to work remotely for a brief period of one week or less.


While the University of Chicago values the benefits of working in an in-person collaborative environment, the University recognizes there may be situations when alternative work arrangements are appropriate as they can improve productivity and job performance as well as promote administrative efficiencies (e.g., reducing office and parking space), reduce traffic congestion and transportation costs, support continuity of operations plans, and sustain the recruitment and retention of a highly qualified workforce by enhancing work/life balance. Alternative work arrangements offer alternative approaches to getting work done through nontraditional work hours, locations, and/or job structures.  Requests for alternative work arrangements may be made by individual employees, who should first discuss the option with their supervisor, or unit leadership.

Alternative work arrangements are appropriate for some employees and some jobs but not all employees and all positions. No University employee is entitled to or guaranteed the opportunity to remote work as an in-person presence is an essential job duty that cannot be accommodated via an alternate work arrangement. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. Employees who are on alternative work arrangements, like all employees, are expected to be cooperative and willing to adapt to meet the unit’s needs, including management and colleagues work schedules.

Typical alternative work options include flextime, remote work, compressed work schedules, part-time, and job-sharing assignments. The requests may cover entire units, specific job titles, individuals, or multiple employees. These arrangements must support the University’s mission, unit goals, and address matters such as:

  • Whether the request is reasonable given the employee’s role and essential job function;
  • How the requested arrangement(s) compares to others within the department and to traditional work arrangements with regard to the equitable treatment of employees;
  • The management plan(s) of employee(s) impacted by the request;
  • The management plan(s) for employee(s) within the unit not impacted by the request;
  • Legal, data security and other compliance considerations;
  • How the arrangement(s) impacts the unit’s budget;
  • How the unit’s physical space is impacted by the arrangement(s).

In general, alternative work arrangements are time-delimited to respond to a particular short-term situation. If remote work is planned that is expected to continue beyond 90 days, in addition to arrangements between supervisors and employees covered here, unit leaders need to have their plans for such arrangements reviewed and approved by University leadership. Unit leaders can contact HR or the Office of the Provost (remote@uchicago.edu) for process and proposal template documents. This policy does not change or amend the process for requesting reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees requesting an ADA reasonable accommodation should contact their unit HR or Employee and Labor Relations.


1. Employees working an alternative work arrangement remain obligated to comply with all University rules, policies, and procedures.

2. Typical alternative work arrangements include:

a. Flextime: is the most requested and easiest to manage option. Flextime offers flexibility in arrival, departure, and/or lunch times, typically with a designated core midday schedule during which employees are customarily at the work site.

b. Remote Work: often referred to as telecommuting assignment, allows for the job to be performed off-site, on a regular, recurring basis. Remote work assignments may be comprised of working full-time from home or working in the office one or more days per week.

c. Compressed Work Schedule: traditional 37.5- to 40-hour workweek is condensed into fewer than 5 days of work. Common compressed work schedules for the traditional workweeks include: four 10-hour days for a 40-hour week; or three 10-hour days and one 7.5-hour day for a 37.5-hour workweek.

d. Part-time work: is a regular arrangement for workweek of 34 hours or fewer. Part-time work is different from a temporary work assignment, which is where an employee is expected to have a temporary, nonrecurring relationship to the workplace. Regular part-time employees who work 20 hours per week or more are eligible for benefits. A reduction in hours will result in a corresponding adjustment of compensation and could result in a change in benefits eligibility.

e. Job sharing: allows two staff employees to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Each staff member shares a specific proportion of a full-time position. Alternative schedules can be designed to meet the needs of the job sharers and the unit. Normally, employees sharing one job would be considered regular part-time employees.

3. Employees may submit written alternative work arrangement requests to the supervisor for consideration. If accepted, the supervisor, unit HR Partner, and the employee will create an alternative work arrangement agreement. Units may submit a request for an alternative work arrangement for one or more employee to the unit leadership and HR Partner for review. This includes review of offer letters with alternative work provisions prior to submitting the letter to candidates.

a. An alternative work arrangement agreement should provide details of the arrangement, including job responsibilities (time commitments, availability, performance expectations), management plans for the employee(s), and/or conditions of employment (i.e., compensation, benefits, work location, work schedule, and/or duration of the arrangement), and should include an acknowledgement that the remotely working employee must comply with all applicable University HR, financial, and other administrative policies.

b. Additionally, the agreement should include provisions requiring employees to attend specific meetings in-person and/or temporarily end their alternative work arrangement and return to in-person work to complete specific assignments or during previously scheduled busy periods for the unit. This decision is at the discretion of the unit.

c. If, at any time a flexible work arrangement no longer serves the employee's purposes or the needs of the University, the arrangement may be discontinued.

d. The agreement should include a provision for the modification or termination of the agreement should either the University or the employee need to change it. The agreement must be clear that employees may be required to end their alternative work assignment. At least two calendar weeks' notice of modification or termination will be given to the employee, unless such notice is impractical.

e. In the case of a remote work arrangement, the agreement should also include clear delineation of responsibility for telephone costs, supplies, computer set-up and maintenance, security of any University-owned equipment that would be used away from University premises (including responsibility for loss), and any additional applicable items. Employees working remotely are expected to familiarize themselves and comply with applicable IT policies including those related to protection of confidential data (IT Policies).

f. Employees working a remote assignment must inform their unit HR of any changes to their remote location. This may require the employee to update the address of their remote location in Workday. Any tax consequences created by an employee’s remote location are the responsibility of the employee.

g. Individuals supported by externally-sponsored funding sources (including Federal and non-Federal grants and contracts) must take particular care to clarify work contributions and current work location(s). 

h. Work-related injuries, accidents, and illnesses must be reported promptly to the employee’s supervisor. Workers’ compensation applies to injury or illness that arises out of and in the course of employment, whether the injury occurs at the regular work location or the approved alternative work location, and claims are analyzed on a case-by-case basis to determine if workers’ compensation benefits apply. The employee agrees to hold the University harmless for injury to others at the remote work site.

i. The University assumes no liability for accidents and injuries at the employee’s home or other remote work location outside of work hours. Employees should review their insurance policies to ensure they have proper coverage.

j. Before starting a remote work assignment, employees should conduct a self-audit of their alternative workspace using the attached checklist as guidance. Maintaining a safe home office is the teleworker's responsibility. The University does not inspect, consult on, and/or approve home offices.

k. Requests for long-term (greater than 90 days) remote work assignments must be approved by the Remote Work Review Panel. Unit HR can assist in completing the necessary proposal forms.

l. Remote employees who are not exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act will be required to accurately record all hours worked. Hours worked in excess of those scheduled per day and per workweek require the advance approval of the employee’s supervisor. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in the immediate termination of the remote work agreement.

4. After approval by the Remote Work Review Panel, a pilot should be conducted to evaluate a requested alternative work arrangement before a longer-term commitment is made by either the University or the employee.

a. The supervisor and employee should meet periodically during the pilot period (for example, every two weeks) to discuss the arrangement, and to make adjustments as needed.

b. The pilot should be reviewed after a period of 3 - 6 months to make appropriate adjustments and to determine whether the alternative work arrangement should be continued on a long-term basis.

5. A copy of the approved alternative work arrangement agreements should be sent to the unit HR Partner.

6. In allowing alternative work arrangements, the University will abide by all federal, state, and local wage and hour laws.  

7. An employee working in an alternative work arrangement remains an at-will employee, meaning the employee or the University can terminate employment at any time and for any reason, with or without advance notice. If, for any reason, the alternative work arrangement is terminated, and the employee decides not to return to the former traditional work schedule/arrangement and leaves the position, the employee will be considered to have resigned.



Employees represented by a union may be governed by the appropriate bargaining unit agreement.