Telecommuting at UW Oshkosh
This page is designed to give employees and supervisors guidance and resources on telecommuting practices at UW Oshkosh. Offering the ability to telecommute can be a tool to aid in recruitment, retention and engagement.
Some employees find telecommuting to be a positive experience that promotes work-life balance and improves productivity and efficiency in their work. This voluntary telecommuting program is intended to be an innovative work option that benefits the University as well as the employee.
What is Telecommuting?
The UW System defines telecommuting as “An employment arrangement in which an employee performs their job functions from an approved alternate worksite other than the employee’s primary headquarters location (main office), one or more days per month on a standard and recurring basis.”
Telecommuting is offered at the discretion of the supervisor and is not an employee entitlement. Telecommuting is a tool that allows for flexibility in work options. It does not change the basic terms and conditions of employment. Telecommuting requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Telecommuting can look differently depending on the position, department needs and employee preferences. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to telecommuting due to the vast differences in the kind of work performed on each of our campuses.
Any discussions around telecommuting should also include discussion about:
- Needs of the department or unit
- Needs of the employee
- Employee’s work duties and the ability to measure or assess work performed
- Availability and costs of needed equipment
- Employee’s current and past job performance, as documented in performance evaluations
- Employee’s work skills, including time management, organizational skills, self-motivation, and the ability to work independently
- Assessment of other employees in the immediate work unit performing similar responsibilities
- Effect on service
- Effect on the rest of the work group, unit or department
- Other items deemed necessary and appropriate
UW System Policy
The UW System is currently developing policy about telecommuting. When it is approved, a link to that policy will be published here.
Telecommuting Options for Employees
- Intermittent Telecommuting – An unplanned period of telecommuting arising out of transient circumstances (e.g. illness, weather emergency, temporary school closure, etc.) lasting no longer than ten business days.
- Short-Term Telecommuting – A continuous period of part-time or full-time telecommuting lasting no longer than three months.
- Long-Term Telecommuting – A continuous arrangement for part-time or full–time telecommuting subject to at least annual review.
Telecommuting Request and Approval Process
Employees requesting to telecommute on an intermittent basis can receive approval through an informal agreement with their supervisor and are not required to complete a request form. Any employee that wants to request the ability to telecommute on a short-term or long-term basis is required to follow the process outlined below, even if they had a previous agreement on file using the old forms.
1. Discuss their interest with the supervisor or department chair. This discussion is an important first step in understanding if the ability to telecommute exists based on the position the employee holds. This also allows for both the employee and their supervisor or department chair to understand what the mutual needs and expectations are.
2. Employee completes the request form via the My UW System portal. Please review this tipsheet on how to complete the new form.
3. Supervisor must approve the request. Please review this tipsheet on how to approve a request using the new form.
Best Practices for Successfully Telecommuting
If your request to telecommute is approved, it is important to plan and prepare for a positive telecommuting experience. Here are some best practices when it comes to telecommuting:
Define your workspace. It can be easy to sit on the couch with your laptop and expect to get work done. Experienced telecommuters will tell you they tried that and it simply doesn’t work! We are creatures of habit and most of us are used to lounging with our laptops to read the news, watch TV, play games and chat with friends and family. Establishing a workspace, even if it is your kitchen table, gives your brain a cue that it is time for work and not play.
Master the basics.
- Add your telecommute schedule to your email signature line.
- Set up call forwarding and learn how to access your voicemail from home.
- Use Teams to stay connected to colleagues.
- Plan for a video calls/meetings by making sure you know how to turn on your computer’s camera and microphone and being aware that your colleagues may be able to see the background behind you.
Set daily goals, track them and share your progress. You may be surprised by how differently the work day passes without the comings and goings of an office to break things up or influence what you do next. Start each day of telecommuting by writing down what you need to achieve and then track your progress. Pay attention to how long tasks take you and start adjusting your daily goals to match your current rhythm.
Eliminate distractions. If home is where your heart is then telecommuting can mean pets, children or a favorite hobby are only a few feet away. Doing your best to eliminate these distractions will help your telecommuting success.
Prioritize privacy. Whether you are in your home or a common area, take five minutes to assess the privacy of your workspace. Can someone standing behind you read your computer screen? Are your windows open so your neighbor can hear your phone call? What information do you need to secure before grabbing a cup of coffee or heading to the restroom? Your personal privacy matters too, so see if there anything around you that would not want visible during a video conference with your boss.
Stay connected. Many people say they do not call or instant message colleagues who are working remotely because they don’t want to bother them. Remember, they are working, not vacationing at home! You should feel confident about calling or messaging an employee who is telecommuting anytime you would walk to their office or call them if you were working on-site.
Dress for work. Just like sitting on the couch can make us feel a little too relaxed, wearing pajamas all day makes it hard to get into work mode. Dressing casually is definitely a perk of working at home but getting “ready for work” is a daily ritual that many telecommuters swear by.
Links to External Resources:
- Ergonomics for Telecommuters (UW Madison)
- How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote (Harvard Business Review)
- How to Deal with Remote Conflict (Harvard Business Review)
- Online learning modules through KEPRO, UWO’s EAP vendor. New users will need to create an account. The company code is: SOWI.
- These Strategies Will Help You End the Workday When You Work From Home (Thrive Global)
Managing the Remote Worker
The key to successfully supervising remote employees starts with the same fundamentals of good supervision, but the way in which you do it looks different.
- Set clear expectations. Be sure to lay out clear expectations around job performance and responsiveness. Employees should fully understand what is expected of them when they telework. Outline communication and system tools and expectations to deliver on work and projects in the same way that you require when the employee is onsite. Ask the employee to reflect what they understand as telework expectations to ensure your agreement and alignment.
- Communicate regularly. Effective teleworker management requires strong communication and collaboration practices. Set guidelines regarding response times, shared calendars and documents, and preferred communication methods for various situations. You don’t want to micromanage teleworkers, but you do want to be available and supportive, track progress, and keep them in the loop. The same goes for employees working in the office—make sure they are available to collaborate and communicate with teleworkers as needed.
- Reflect and adjust. Over time, you are likely to face challenges related to managing teleworkers. It is important to build in time to have open and honest discussions with employees regarding telework and work performance. Solution-oriented discussions can help ensure the sustained success of telework programs and arrangements.
- Lead with trust. Start with the idea that your employees want to do their best and approach every decision and interaction that way. Make yourself available and communicate availability to your team as they need. Follow up on questions, even if there isn’t an answer yet.
- Add fun! Remember to add some fun and social activity. Usually when we are working in the same place, there is opportunity to talk about things other than work. Don’t forget that when working remotely. Some ideas to consider:
- Virtual lunches – eat lunch together using video chat as an opportunity to get together and talk about non-work-related things.
- Start a fun group chat – talk about family and pets, share memes, or anything else work-appropriate but not work-related.
- Create a virtual water cooler site.
- Maintain or start newsletters sharing team information within team or unit.
- Send snail mail – write a note to someone.
Links to External Resources:
- Top 15 Tips To Effectively Manage Remote Employees – Forbes Coaches Council
- Stop Managing Your Remote Workers As If They Work Onsite – Hubspot
- 6 Ways to Foster Inclusion Among Remote Workers – SHRM
- Sustaining and strengthening inclusion in our new remote environment – McKinsey
Technology While Telecommuting
Effectively and compliantly utilizing technology while telecommuting will be critical for employees to successfully telecommute. Employees should review the Working Remotely page of the IT website and reach out to the Help Desk with any questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible to telecommute?
The following criteria must be met in order to be eligible to telecommute:
- Only employees whose job duties can be fulfilled from a remote location are eligible for a telecommuting agreement.
- Telecommuting is only available if the work unit and institution have the ability to monitor or measure the work product produced by the employee during the period of telecommuting.
- Telecommuting is only available to employees who have all tools required for their job available to them at the remote location, as determined by the employee’s supervisor. Working space, insurance, utilities and other services for the remote workspace must be provided by the employee at their own expense as a condition of the telecommuting agreement.
- Prior to beginning a telecommuting arrangement, the employee must certify to the employer that their remote workspace meets minimum safety requirements
Can my supervisor decide to cancel or modify my telecommuting agreement?
Yes, supervisors have the ability to cancel or modify arrangements. Changes may be initiated due to changes in operational need, staffing changes, performance concerns or other factors. When a change is needed, the supervisor should give the employee as must notice as possible in order to allow for appropriate planning by the employee.
Can employees telecommute from outside of the state?
Employees are generally expected to work within the state of Wisconsin. Employees may have a work location outside of Wisconsin when required by the job or in limited circumstances where employees receive advance approval to work out-of-state.
A department must first have approval from their division leadership and Human Resources before hiring or allowing an existing employee to regularly perform their assigned duties from an out-of-state location.
Important considerations, and sometimes limitations, exist when considering out-of-state employment such as:
- Worker’s compensation
- Unemployment insurance
- Out-of-state tax withholding
- Health insurance & benefit impacts
Are faculty and instructional academic staff (IAS) required to complete the telecommuting form?
No, faculty and IAS are not required to complete a telecommuting request form. The nature of their work is one that provides a flexible environment, including the classroom, campus office, laboratory and home office.