The Lehigh Staff Flexplace Policy and its accompanying Flexplace Agreement Request form have now been finalized and are available for use via the Human Resources website.
Staff and managers may begin the process of creating flexplace arrangements. These arrangements will take effect on August, 2, 2021. If a staff member does not have a flexplace arrangement in place at that time, they should resume working in the location in which they worked prior to the March 2020 campus closure.
Since the beginning of this process, we have stated that not all positions at Lehigh will be eligible for flexplace agreements due to the nature of work at a residential university. Although our staff have performed admirably under the circumstances we found ourselves in during the pandemic, all of our students will be returning to campus full time in August. Providing our expected high-quality level of service to our students will require a robust presence of employees on campus.
Key Components of the Flexplace Policy and Process
We encourage everyone to read the full policy, however, we want to bring to your attention several specific aspects of the policy and the process through which a staff member may request an arrangement.
- A written proposal is required to clarify expectations and arrangements between the employee and supervisor. All staff seeking a flexplace arrangement must use the Flexplace Arrangement Request Form, available on the Human Resources (HR) website.
- The final decision to allow a Flexplace arrangement resides with the university.
- Remote work may only be performed in states approved by the university. A list of these states is available on the HR website.
- As changes in work needs and circumstances occur often, flexplace arrangements should be reviewed and updated regularly. The policy recommends that an employee’s flexplace arrangement be discussed at their quarterly performance meeting with their supervisor, and documented at least annually.
- As with any staff member at Lehigh, those granted a flexplace arrangement must maintain a level of performance consistent with expectations in all accountabilities for their position and must observe all university policies, rules and regulations regarding data privacy and security. Please review the LTS Standards for Flexplace Work Arrangements.
- To ensure our tradition of a vibrant on-campus community and excellent service for our students, Lehigh University expects that all offices will be open during normal university business hours. Special arrangements may be made for offices of one to three employees.
- No flexplace arrangements may exceed three (3) days of remote work per week for any staff member. More restrictive guidelines may be established within colleges, stems or departments.
- A formal flexplace arrangement is not needed for the occasional, “one-off” request to work remotely for a day. Such requests must still receive the approval of the supervisor ahead of time.
Resources for Supervisors
As many of our Lehigh work teams become a hybrid of on-campus and remote, the role of a supervisor will need to evolve. To help prepare those who manage staff for this transition, Human Resources will be providing tools and guidance.
A new workshop -- Leading in a Flexplace Environment -- focuses on best practices for leading and engaging employees in this new work model. Supervisors will have the opportunity to network with colleagues at Lehigh to discuss challenges and learn more about what strategies have worked well for them. Several sessions of Leading in a Flexplace Environment have been scheduled in July and August. Supervisors can register for a session by following this link to the PageUp Learning Library.
In addition, supervisors can take advantage of a range of resources curated by HR here.
The Staff Flexplace Policy will be joined by a Staff Remote Work Policy later this summer. The Remote Work Policy will govern fully remote work arrangements.
Moving forward, to ensure the consistent implementation of the policy across the university, supervisors, with the direction of their senior leaders, will be reviewing position descriptions (PDs) within the context of their teams to determine whether flexplace or fully remote work arrangements are feasible for the position. These determinations will then be added to PDs.
A cross-campus committee with expertise in employee relations, information technology and security, and employment law worked to develop this policy. The draft policy benefited from review and valuable insights from the Employee Relations Advisory Committee (ERAC) and the Faculty Senate. More than 80 employees provided thoughtful feedback to the draft policy. These responses, which were reviewed by the committee, contributed to several changes that were made to the final policy.
The Staff Flexplace Policy recognizes the shifting culture of workplaces in our society while also acknowledging the importance of the residential academic experience that makes Lehigh a vibrant and special place. This new policy will be reviewed frequently and updated as needed. The ultimate goal of the new policy is that Lehigh’s post-pandemic workplace will offer staff the flexibility they seek and strengthen the community we strive to be.
ERAC Town Hall
The Employee Relations Advisory Committee recently held a town hall about the new policy featuring Associate Vice President for Human Resources Chris Halladay and Chief Information Security Officer Eric Zematis. Chris and Eric answered numerous questions about the policy during the one-hour event. You can watch a replay here.