Flexwork Basics

After teams define their hybrid/remote work models, employees who plan to work remotely have many factors to consider.

  • Technology and Equipment: Technology, accessibility, and responsiveness are critical to productivity when working remotely. Some employees may be provided basic equipment by their departments to enable telework. Pending further guidance from the University, each school will continue to manage its technology and office equipment directly, and local HR can assist employees and managers should they need to discuss different approaches or equipment that may be needed to telework successfully on a long-term basis. There are several online collaboration tools for teams to stay connected, and teams should be clear about which tools they will use and for which purposes. See the Communication Tools section for more information.
  • Information Technology Security: Whether working from home or the office, protecting Harvard’s information is the responsibility of every employee. HUIT’s security website offers guides, policies, and tools to help employees work securely everywhere. All employees must follow Harvard’s information security policy; to do that, the best place to start is the HUIT website.
  • Ergonomics: In many cases, our sudden shift to telework presented unique ergonomic challenges. Employees frequently used makeshift home workstations that didn’t support the neutral postures necessary to work in a physically safe and sustainable way. As some employees settle into their remote workspaces for the long term, or as they return to campus sharing a single workstation with another employee on alternate days, now is a good time to consider how the physical environment affects their concentration, comfort, and health. See Harvard’s Environmental Health and Safety ergonomics page for self-assessment tools to improve ergonomic habits and learn how to make simple, free, or low-cost adjustments. Some employees may be provided basic equipment by their departments to enable remote work. As previously noted, pending further guidance from the University, each school will continue to manage its technology and office equipment directly, and local HR can assist employees and managers with related concerns. Harvard’s Strategic Procurement Office has relationships with a wide array of vendors that allow employees to get the best value possible for a range of services and products, including office furniture. Employees should explore these resources, no matter where they work, to ensure safe ergonomic practices and workspaces for long and healthy careers.
  • Non-Harvard Work, Including Dependent Care, when Teleworking: When teleworking, employees are expected to attend to their Harvard work only and should not anticipate handling non-Harvard projects. In general, teleworkers should attempt to replicate the working conditions of a Harvard-provided office. Therefore, the following conditions apply University-wide:
    • Employees may not work on any non-Harvard project during paid work hours when teleworking or working remotely.
    • Employees may not care for children and/or adults when teleworking or working remotely.

    Major activities that wouldn’t be a normal part of the on-campus workday (such as full-time care for an infant, or intensive work on a personal project) are not appropriate while teleworking. On the other hand, activities that might normally be interspersed throughout the day at the office, such as brief check-ins from a caregiver or dependent, are acceptable as long as they do not interfere with expected routines and deliverables.

    During COVID times, when social structures have been so severely disrupted, these policies have been necessarily modified. The uncertainty of child care, schools, and eldercare services mean that some employees continue to balance work and family responsibilities in ways that bring these issues to the forefront to a new degree, and managers have been encouraged to work with their employees to find creative ways to accomplish job responsibilities, along with personal responsibilities, whenever possible.

    Now, as we transition back to campus under new paradigms, managers should encourage employees to understand what regular and back-up dependent-care resources are available to them (see Special Considerations for Dependent Care and Family Obligations), and empower them to explore pragmatic approaches to meeting goals and objectives when teleworking under a range of circumstances. Because it is likely that the dependent care infrastructure will not uniformly spring back to previous levels of service, ad hoc flexibility (such as splitting a schedule for a specified period of time), can serve as a potent business continuity tool to bridge the employee and the work flow until new care arrangements are put into place. Employees should initiate a conversation with their managers as soon as possible when it becomes apparent that ad hoc arrangements should be considered.

    At the same time, both managers and employees should know what leave options are available, should ad hoc arrangements become untenable (see, for example, Use of Sick Time and Dependent Care Sick Time). Framing this as a mutual responsibility to address important demands on both sides of the employer-employee equation will encourage honest and practical conversations.

    Questions about these issues should be directed to Human Resources.

  • Wellbeing: The sustainability of long-term remote and hybrid work will depend in part on employees’ wellbeing. Managers are asked to consider specific ways to support employee wellbeing when establishing their work model and check in with employees regularly. Managers are expected to be familiar with a rich array of University resources that support personal and family needs around mental health, child and adult care, resilience, finances, schooling, illness, and disability. These resources are available from a range of sources, including the Office of Work/Life and Harvard’s monthly faculty and staff wellbeing newsletter; they are referenced throughout this policy and can also be found here.
  • Remote Work Locations: Working out-of-state has been mostly prohibited in states where Harvard is not registered to conduct business. More information is coming in July about remote work and special tax considerations for employees working remotely from states outside Massachusetts and California. In the meantime, you can visit the Central Payroll website for the latest information.

Next section: Communication