Workplace Flexibility: Telecommuting

The following guidelines are presented to assist in developing employee telecommuting arrangements that are equitable, clearly understood, and to the mutual benefit of the unit/department and employee. Employees are expected to follow these principles in proposing telecommuting arrangements; supervisors/unit/department heads are expected to follow these principles in approving telecommuting arrangements.

Definition and Purpose
Telecommuting is an arrangement by which an employee regularly works at a remote worksite (such as home, library, or business center) for a specified portion of the workweek.

Telecommuting is intended to create flexible conditions that help employees integrate their work and personal lives more effectively and better manage issues such as commuting, caregiving, continuing education, and community service.  Successful telecommuting arrangements serve the needs both of individual employees and their unit/departments.  The focus of the arrangement is on job performance and meeting operational needs.  A written agreement clarifying both parties’ expectations is required.  See Telecommuting Agreement.

Time spent traveling to the primary worksite to attend meetings or otherwise respond to work requirements during work hours in which the employee is telecommuting are counted as hours of work for nonexempt employees.

Occasional work off-site, including work while traveling on University business, does not constitute telecommuting.

Request and Approval
The employee initiates a request to telecommute by submitting a proposal to his/her supervisor and/or unit/department head.  See Checklist for Developing a Workplace Flexibility Agreement.

Supervisors and/or unit/department heads have the authority to approve flextime arrangements.

Flextime arrangement shall be initiated on a trial basis, and may be discontinued at any time at the request of either the employee or supervisor/department head.  The unit/department reserves the right to suspend immediately the arrangement in case of unanticipated circumstances regarding employee performance or operational needs.

If the employee and supervisor/department head agree to a telecommuting arrangement, they must complete a formal, written agreement. See Telecommuting Agreement.  Agreements shall be time-specific with a date for review and reconsideration.  Modifications and/or renewals shall be appropriately documented.  The original shall be maintained in the employee’s personnel file, with copies for the employee and supervisor/department head.

The University recognizes many valid reasons why an employee may request telecommuting, such as professional development, community service, family responsibilities, individual work styles, health, and well-being.  Supervisors/department heads are encouraged to give serious consideration to all requests, but shall give the highest priority to the effective functioning of the unit/department.  Operational needs, staffing patterns, space considerations, and health and safety issues may preclude granting a request for telecommuting.

The employee must be willing and able to forego telecommuting and work at the primary worksite as requested by the supervisor/department head for operational needs.

In the event that more employees request telecommuting arrangements than a unit/department can reasonably manage, the supervisor/department head shall respond to requests that are consistent with these guidelines in ways that are equitable to all employees and in the best interest of the University. Among the measures that might be adopted are rotating turns between employees, blacking out certain days, limiting the number of work hours allowed to be performed through telecommuting.  For other considerations see Checklist for Developing a Workplace Flexibility Agreement.

Nature of Work

  • The work should involve clearly defined tasks and well understood outcomes. The focus in telecommuting arrangements must be on measurable results. The supervisor/department head shall communicate in advance what assignments are appropriate to be performed at the telecommuting site.  The employee shall check in with the supervisor/department head by phone or e-mail at the beginning and ending of each telecommuting work day and shall notify the supervisor/department head when leaving the remote worksite during regular working hours.
  • Jobs that entail working alone or working with equipment which can be kept at the alternate worksite are often suitable for telecommuting. Examples: writer, editor, analyst, word processor, programmer [provided onsite backup is available].
  • Jobs that require physical presence or constant interaction with clients and co-workers to perform effectively are normally not suitable for telecommuting. Examples may include: receptionist, mail processor, administrative assistant, and instructor.
  • The employee shall be available to travel when his or her work requires, including to the primary worksite when necessary, regardless of the telecommuting schedule.
  • Telecommuting by the employee should not negatively affect the workload or productivity of coworkers either by shifting burdens or creating delays and additional steps in the work flow.  The supervisor/department head should ensure that other employees in the unit/department understand how and why each Workplace Flexibility functions.

Eligibility of Employee

  • Telecommuting is not appropriate for all positions, or in all settings, or for all employees.
  • Telecommuting during the probationary period is not advisable because of the need to clarify job responsibilities, establish relationships with co-workers and clients, and assess suitability for continued employment.
  • Employees who have problems with punctuality, attendance, and/or performance, or who require close supervision, are not good candidates.  Additional indicators of suitability are the employee’s comfort level with physical isolation from other employees, ability to work independently, and ability to establish an alternate worksite that is safe (for them and/or university equipment and files) and free from distractions.

The employee and supervisor/department head shall complete a Telecommuting Agreement.  Changes in work schedule and/or remote worksite shall not be made without prior discussion and a revision to the agreement.  In the case of represented employees, the supervisor/department head shall obtain review and approval of the proposed agreement from an Employee/Labor Relations Specialist to assure compliance with UC/Union Collective Bargaining Agreements and/or Fair Labor Standards Act.

  • The employee shall work the hours agreed upon and obtain approval from the supervisor/department head in advance of working any overtime.
  • The supervisor/department head shall maintain open communication, ensure that the employee’s hours of work do not fall below the normal workweek hours, and discuss with the employee any concerns as they arise.
  • The supervisor/department head shall consult as needed with Risk Management Services regarding questions of property and liability. 

The employee must ensure that University equipment and records in her/his possession are used for University business, maintained in safe and secure conditions, and available to the unit/department when requested. 

The employee is expected to provide an adequate remote worksite with internet access.   Refer to Environmental Health & Safety for information regarding ergonomics. 

With 24-hour minimum notice, the supervisor/department head may visit the employee’s remote worksite to determine its adequacy, and to inspect or retrieve University-owned equipment and supplies.

University equipment in the employee’s remote worksite is subject to the same inventory control and disposal procedures as that in the primary worksite. University property used at the employee’s remote worksite should be inventoried and signed out pursuant to local procedures.

If the property is stolen or damaged while offsite, the primary insurance coverage will be that of the employee, with the University’s being in excess thereof.  The supervisor/department head should advise the employee that working from home may affect their homeowner’s insurance coverage.  The employee should review their policy and discuss any concerns with their carrier.

The employee is responsible for bringing equipment to the primary worksite for inspection, maintenance and repair. The unit/department will repair and replace University equipment unless it is lost, damaged, or stolen through the employee’s clear negligence or abuse.

A University e-mail account shall be used only for University business conducted during telecommuting hours.  Sensitive data must be afforded the same degree of security and confidentiality as when working at the primary worksite. 


Third Party
There is no public liability for an employee working from their home, provided they are not using the premises to engage the public.

Mitigation Measure:  The employee should not receive visitors on work-related matters at the remote worksite while telecommuting.

The employee’s personal auto liability coverage is primary and must comply with UC Policy G-28 Travel Reimbursement on regulations governing travel. 

Mitigation Measure:  The supervisor/department head should advise the employee that using his/her vehicle for University business may affect their auto insurance coverage.  The employee should review their policy and discuss any concerns with their carrier.

Workers’ Compensation
Work-related injuries incurred at the remote worksite, during agreed upon working hours, are covered by Workers’ Compensation and should be reported promptly to the supervisor/department head. 

Mitigation Measure:  The supervisor/department head should advise the employee that such reports of injuries will be handled in the same manner as reports of injuries at the primary worksite.

Protection of the University’s Intellectual Property
The University may risk a loss of intellectual property and/or risk infringing on the privacy rights of others if workers disclose information they should not as a result of the informal setting.

Mitigation measure:  The supervisor/department head should ensure that the unit/department's policies regarding proprietary and personal information cover remote worksites and should advise the employee about the risks of inadvertent disclosure of unit/department or personal information, the value of that information, and the consequences of disclosure. 

The University may be liable for sex discrimination if a unit/department acts on sex stereotypes about who would be most qualified to telecommute.   Also, unit/departments should be careful not to decide telecommuting arrangements based upon an employee's disability.

Mitigation measure:   Supervisors/unit/department heads should be educated on the importance of not making assumptions about employees who request telecommuting.  Telecommuting requests should apply consistent criteria for approval.

Electronic privacy concerns
An employee's expectation of privacy in the workplace -- e.g. email, phone calls -- may increase when working remotely.  This is not a huge concern given the expansive privacy rights and incidental use afforded by UC policy.

Mitigation measure:  Unit/departments should put into writing what the employees' expectation of privacy should be.