Flexwork Frameworks and Definitions

Flexwork refers to flexible work arrangements that vary from the standard in-the-office, nine-to-five approach. They typically include flexibility of place and/or time. A shared understanding of key terms and their definitions is critical since misunderstandings can lead to confusion, conflict, or missed opportunities.

As we emerge from several intense phases of the pandemic, Harvard will continue to support effective flexwork arrangements. Units and teams should always be guided by the nature of the work and are encouraged to focus their attention around one of several frameworks for structuring flexibility. The most common has come to be known as a “hybrid” work arrangement, in which teams combine on-campus work with continued telework or fully remote work. These frameworks are described below.

The University also acknowledges that teams may have developed their own approaches to flexwork, born out of necessity during the circumstances of 2020. Even if approaches developed during the pandemic appear to be working well, managers and staff are asked to look critically at their practices. Any consideration of remote or hybrid work must first be aligned with the University’s teaching and research missions and closely coordinated with schools’ and departments’ specific needs and goals. The nature of the work should be the primary guide for when and where work is carried out, and mangers should also look through multiples lenses and consider several factors: core activities should be fairly distributed; all team members should have access to an equitable process for determining participation in flexwork; and both long-term sustainability and employee wellbeing are recognized as critical factors for success. Multiple tools and resources are available to managers and team members to help determine the best approach and implementation practices.

Flexwork Frameworks

Where
When
How

Where

The range of formal frameworks to choose from may be determined at the school, department, or unit-level. Some choices, such as geographic location of work, will be determined by University policy. Guidance on this issue is evolving, and a new policy on out-of-state workers is forthcoming. Questions about out-of-state work should be directed to local HR.

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.

All formal approaches generally use three constructions which rely on transparency and strong communication practices with team members, managers, and stakeholders:

  • Fully On-site: Working on-campus for all working hours, with flexibility in schedules as appropriate. Fully on-site can be further defined as:
    • Always at the Formally Designated Workplace — Expected to be on-campus for all working hours
       
  • Partially Remote (Telework): Working some number of days in an on-campus environment. Sometimes referred to as a “hybrid” model or framework, partially remote can be further defined as:
    • Anchor/Flex — Anchor day(s) is/are designated for everyone on a team to be on-campus and can flex the rest of the week (location is principally determined by the employee, within context established by the University and the unit)
    • Fixed in/out — Assigned a number of days per month or quarter on campus and the remainder remotely
    • Flex around core obligations — Individuals flex their location around their need to be on-campus and based on the work they are expected to carry out
  • Primarily Remote (Remote Work): Individuals are expected to work off-campus (at home or elsewhere) for all working hours. Remote work can also be further defined as:
    • Seasonal — Remote 10 to 11 months of the year, expected on-campus one or two months
    • Periodic — Majority remote, but expected on-campus at designated intervals (e.g., once per month or once per quarter)
    • Fully fluid — Working location is principally the employee’s decision, within Harvard’s specific constraints and requirements regarding remote work (such as working out of state).

Whatever the approach, all units should remember that informal or occasional flexibility remains a potent tool to support individuals and teams when unanticipated circumstances intrude on business operations, personal obligations, and wellbeing.

When

  • Regular Work Hours: Team members work regularly scheduled hours aligned with their department
     
  • Flextime: Employees work a standard full-time or part-time workweek with start and end times that differ from the regularly scheduled workday. Flextime may include:
    • Split Schedule – Employee works a full 7, 7.5, or 8-hour day in two or more periods. (e.g., 6AM -10AM, and 4PM - 8PM)
       
  • Compressed Workweek: Full-time employees compress a full-time workload to complete all job responsibilities into fewer than five days per week (usually completing one week’s work in four days, known as a “4/5” schedule) or in fewer than ten days over two weeks (usually completing two weeks’ work in nine days, or “9/10”). Compressed workweeks, in any configuration, bring special challenges. In the context of a team, compressed workweeks offer both puzzles (how to ensure coverage and equitable workloads) and opportunities (extended coverage if compressed weeks are appropriately sequenced). To learn more about how compressed weeks can work for exempt employees, please visit the communication section's discussion of team expectations.

How

  • Reduced Hours: A form of part-time work in which an employee reduces the number of hours of employment from their regular full-time or part-time schedule, either working some portion of every day or fewer than five days per week, with reduced job responsibilities. Salary and some benefits are pro-rated.
     
  • Job Sharing: A form of regular part-time work in which two employees share the responsibilities of one full-time position (FTE) with salary and some benefits shared/pro-rated. The division of hours and responsibilities between job-sharing partners can vary.

Note:

Employees may propose combining arrangements, for example: working from home full-time (remote work) and adjusting their hours to differ from standard schedules such as 6AM – 2PM (flextime). Moreover, all employees will be permitted to request informal or occasional flexwork options; managers are expected to approve these ad hoc arrangements when they are feasible from a work perspective, and decline them when they are not.

Next section: Making it Work, Measuring Success