Telecommuting Policy

Policy number09-01
Responsible officeHuman Resources
Enforcement officialAssistant Vice President for Human Resources
ClassificationBoard of Trustees-delegated Policy
Category09. Employment: Faculty and Staff

Statement of policy

The purpose of this Policy is to provide uniform guidance for non-represented, full-time, benefits eligible staff regarding Telecommuting on a regular and/or recurring basis. Additional telecommuting opportunities and flexibilities may be available while the University continues to operate under its COVID-19 Safe Return Plan, and federal and state COVID-19 guidance, to include the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health (MiOSHA) rules.

Summary of contents/major changes

This is a new policy. This Policy outlines the University process for a non-represented, full-time, benefits eligible staff member to engage in telecommuting on a regular or recurring basis. While the University continues to operate under the COVID-19 emergency, certain portions of this policy, as indicated, will not be effective until further notice.

1. Purpose of Policy

The purpose of this Policy is to provide uniform guidance for non-represented, full-time, benefits eligible staff members regarding Telecommuting on a regular and/or recurring basis. It also communicates the University's actions with regard to its Safe Return Plan and MiOSHA’s emergency rules relating to COVID-19 and employment practices.

2. Stakeholders Most Impacted by the Policy

Non-represented, full-time, benefits eligible staff members whose job duties may be performed in whole or in part from a remote, off-campus site.  

3. Key Definitions

3.1. Ad Hoc Telecommuting:  an unplanned day or set of hours of Telecommuting for infrequent circumstances (snow day; temporary, bona fide inability to work on campus) of limited duration that result in the need to Telecommute 

3.2. Eligible Employee (Employee):  employees who are allowed to work remotely as established under federal law, state las, and the University’s Safe Return plan; [Effective Post-COVID-19: for purposes of this Policy only, a non-represented, full-time, benefits eligible staff member who has consistently had a satisfactory or exceeds satisfactory performance rating and whose work may be performed in a remote off-campus site routinely and regularly.  Eligible employees must have successfully completed probation while working at a WMU on-campus location.]

3.3. Set schedule: a prearranged schedule that specifies when an Employee will be onsite or Telecommuting

3.4. Telecommuting:  the remote performance of University work at an off-campus site on a regular or recurring basis  

3.5. Telecommuting Agreement: an Agreement signed by the Employee and their supervisor/manager and WMU Human Resources that specifies the terms and conditions of the telecommuting arrangement; throughout this Policy, references to Telecommuting Agreements are effective only post-COVID-19

3.6. Variable schedule: an occasional, prearranged day or set number of hours of telecommuting.   

4. Full Policy Details

4.1. Telecommuting is a cooperative arrangement between WMU, an eligible employee, and their supervisor/manager and may not be appropriate for some positions. Except while the University remains under the COVID-19 Safe Return Plan, state and federal COVID-19 requirements, the University’s decision whether to allow Telecommuting is based on the needs of the job, work assignments, University mission, and the requirements of the particular position. Supervisors/managers should carefully review both the advantages and the disadvantages of allowing an employee to Telecommute before entering into a Telecommuting Agreement. Throughout this Policy, references to Telecommuting Agreements throughout this Policy are effective only post-COVID-19.

4.2. Nothing in this Policy is intended to contradict state or federal COVID-19 legislation, rules or guidance.  

4.3. Telecommuting is not an organizational-wide benefit that is available to all Eligible Employees and in no way changes the standard employment policies and other terms/conditions of employment.  [Effective post-COVID-19: If there is a scheduling conflict, departmental requirements take precedence over the schedule and telecommuting arrangements specified in a Telecommuting Agreement. The supervisor/manager reserves the right to temporarily or permanently rescind the Telecommuting Agreement if there are changes in job responsibilities that might conflict with the agreement or if there are job performance concerns.  Supervisors/managers will make every effort to provide reasonable advance notice if changes to the Telecommuting Agreement are warranted.]

4.4. [Effective post-COVID-19: Trial Period 

New or reinstated Telecommuting Agreements should begin with a thirty-day trial period. At the end of the trial period the supervisor/manager and employee should meet to evaluate the Telecommuting Agreement for effectiveness and performance. At that time, a decision will be made and communicated to WMU Human Resources on whether or not to continue the Agreement.]

4.5. Variable Telecommuting Schedule

There are various types of situations where a Variable schedule might be agreed upon.  In such situations, the supervisor and the Employee must complete a Telecommuting Agreement.

4.6. [Effective post-COVID-19: Telecommuting Agreement

4.6.1. WMU Human Resources will work with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) to develop a Telecommuting Agreement for Eligible Employees.

4.6.2. Once signed, each Agreement will remain in effect until the supervisor/manager no longer deems it necessary (subject to Section 4.8.3), or the Employee is no longer eligible.]

4.7. Equipment

4.7.1. As part of the Telecommuting Agreement, the Employee must verify that they have appropriate equipment, software and connectivity at their alternate work site to adequately complete their duties. WMU does not cover or provide for the additional cost of an off-site office, including that of additional telephone lines, telephone use charges and Internet Service Provider charges, etc.  WMU equipment is for university-related projects only.  WMU equipment may not be used for unlawful purposes or for work for other employers.  Eligible employees should not allow family members or others to use WMU equipment for other purposes.

4.7.2. WMU will not be responsible for the cost, repair or service of the Employee’s personal equipment.

4.7.3. Any hardware or software purchased by WMU remains the property of WMU and will be returned to WMU on request; products developed while telecommuting are the property of WMU.

4.7.4. The University will maintain equipment it has provided. Any University property used by the Employee remains the sole property of the University. WMU is not responsible for the temporary loss of telecommuting days due to equipment maintenance or repair.  In such cases, the telecommuter is expected to report to the office or obtain approved leave for time they are unable to work due to equipment or connectivity down-time.

4.7.5. Equipment no longer used by a telecommuter must be returned on their next day in the office.

4.7.6. Software used by a telecommuter is subject to the same WMU restrictions on duplication and unauthorized use as software used in the office. The Employee is responsible for software and configuration for work at home on non-University-owned equipment. WMU computing support staff will provide general documentation but will not troubleshoot connectivity issues on non-University equipment.

4.8. Employee Requirements and Responsibilities

4.8.1. [Effective post-COVID-19: Eligible employees whose job duties may be fulfilled from an off-campus site may request to telecommute.  Such employees must complete a Request to Telecommute form and submit the form to their immediate supervisor/manager explaining the nature and extent of the work that will be completed remotely.  If the request is approved by their immediate supervisor/manager and WMU Human Resources, the employee and the supervisor/manager will sign a Telecommuting Agreement.]

4.8.2. By signing a Telecommuting Agreement, the Employee and supervisor/manager agree to the number of hours and the time of day that the Employee will work remotely.  The Agreement includes verification that the alternate location provides a workspace that is ergonomically correct and safe and free from hazards.   It also documents the responsibilities for both parties and establishes expectations regarding work hours and performance for the Employee. [Effective post-COVID-19: Eligible employees working under a Telecommuting Agreement will come on-site for periodic meetings and interactions with the manager/supervisor or other WMU meetings or events that require physical attendance.]

4.8.3. Telecommuting employees must maintain the confidentiality or security of University information. The Employee must comply with the policies and guidelines of proper use of information technology found on the WMU Information Technology website and any other University policies or guidelines and work with their unit’s IT support to set up proper safeguards. Breaches of information security, whether by accident or design, must be reported promptly.

4.8.4. Existing University policy must be followed for the requesting and reporting of approved leaves of absence, including annual leave, sick leave, FMLA and other leave categories.

4.8.5. During established telecommuting work hours, the employee agrees that non-work responsibilities shall not compete with work responsibilities except in the case of an emergency. Telecommuters must be available for all agreed-upon hours. In case of an emergency that persists more than a day, the employee should consult with their supervisor/manager regarding the circumstances and resolution.  

4.8.6. The employee’s compensation, benefits (including Workers’ Compensation coverage), work status and work responsibilities will not change due to participation in a telecommuting arrangement. Worker’s compensation liability will be limited to work related injuries at a designated work space at the offsite location as opposed to applying to all areas of the remote site.

4.8.7. Telecommuters are responsible for all data, internet, or telephone charges, and they must have a secure and pre-approved method to access WMU’s networks remotely. 

4.8.8. The Telecommuter is responsible for maintaining availability, levels of production, and quality of work at the same standard while telecommuting as they would be on-site. [Effective post-COVID-19: Inadequate availability, reduced work production and/or poor or reduced work quality may be cause for modifications or termination of the Telecommuting Arrangement. In such instances, the University may require the Employee to immediately return to onsite work.]

4.9. University Supervisor/Manager Requirements and Responsibilities

4.9.1. The supervisor/manager shall communicate in advance what assignments or tasks are appropriate to be performed at the telecommuting site, and what assessment techniques will be used to measure success in meeting performance standards. 

4.9.2. Supervisors must maintain operations in accordance with WMU Human Resources Policies and Procedures including having offices staffed as required.  

4.9.3. Supervisors/managers must approve any changes to the telecommuter’s work schedule and document the changes in the Telecommuting Agreement. Each supervisor/manager retains the right to require a telecommuter to return to the University work site should the work situation or the Employee’s performance warrant such an action or the job duties/responsibilities change in a manner that would not work with the existing Telecommuting Agreement.

4.9.4. Supervisors/managers may require telecommuters to be on campus certain hours/days and may require telecommuters to perform job duties during specific hours.

4.9.5. Supervisors/managers will review telecommuting requests on a case­by­case basis. Length of assignment for each request will be individually assessed. 

4.10 Implementation:  Except as otherwise stated, this Policy will be effective as stated.  Employees may begin submitting Request to Telecommute Forms effective March 1, 2021, using the forms posted on WMU Human Resources’ website.  WMU Human Resources and the supervisor/manager will retain all copies of Telecommuting Agreements consistent with the University’s document retention guidelines.

4.11 Communication:  The Office of Marketing and Strategic Communication will publicize and communicate this Policy.

4.12 Exceptions: 

4.12.1   Ad Hoc Telecommuting and work from home outside of normal business hours do not need prior written approval as described in this Policy.  

4.12.2   Salaried non-exempt employees must follow the HR Policy and Procedure Manual’s overtime policy which requires that nonexempt/hourly employees receive pre-authorization for any overtime hours.  See https://wmich.edu/hr/manual-hours

4.12.3   This Policy does not apply to bargaining unit employees.

5. Accountability

Failure to follow this Policy and any associated procedures may subject WMU employees to rescission of individual Telecommuting Agreements.  

6. Related Procedures and Guidelines

See Human Resources Employee Handbook Section 7 for guidelines related to essential hours of operation 

[Effective post-COVID-19:  Request to Telecommute Form]

[Effective post-COVID-19: Telecommuting Agreement]

7. Additional Information

Information regarding computer and data safety and security may be found on the Office of Information Technology’s website under Rules, Guidelines and Procedures and the Help Hub

Portions of this Policy have a delayed effective date due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting fluid employment arrangements. All employees and supervisors are encouraged to put Telecommuting Agreements in place as soon as reasonably possible.

Employees may not be disciplined, removed or otherwise retaliated against for speaking out when they believe the University is not complying with COVID-related federal and state laws and administrative rules.

8. FAQs Effective post-COVID-19:

8.1. I am a Supervisor. Am I allowed to Telecommute?

Yes. So long as you have gotten approval from your supervisor and signed a Telecommuting Agreement.

8.2. If I am getting an appliance delivered and have to be home for a few hours for one day, do I have to sign a Telecommuting Agreement. 

No, but you must obtain supervisor approval. However, you still must take personal leave for time during which you are not working.

8.3. If I had a signed Telecommuting Agreement, but I got one “needs improvement” on my most recent performance evaluation, can my supervisor discontinue my Agreement?

Yes. However, if you meet the performance criteria on your next review, you may request to telecommute again.

8.4. If I am new to the University or to my position, am I eligible to telecommute?

No. You must successfully complete your probationary period before you become an Eligible Employee.

History

Effective date of current versionNovember 16, 2020
Date first adoptedJuly 1, 2020
Revision history
Monday, November 16, 2020 - 12:00 Revised based on campus feedback and to comply with COVID-19 guidance and best practices.
Proposed date of next reviewJuly 1, 2023

Authorization

Certified by

Warren Hills
Assistant Vice President for Human Resources

At the direction of

Jan Van Der Kley
Vice President of Business and Finance