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Telecommuting

A.  General   

Department heads may approve telecommuting arrangements as an alternative work arrangement for individual employees where it is in the best interest of the University and the employee. The arrangements should be assessed prior to approval to ensure that operational needs and impact are taken into account. The following guidelines are outlined to help managers, supervisors and employees develop telecommuting arrangements that are equitable, clearly understood by all parties and ensure minimal disruption to the organization. Managers, supervisors and employees are expected to follow these principles in establishing and approving telecommuting arrangements.

B.  Definition

Telecommuting is a work arrangement in which an employee regularly performs work at an alternative or an off-campus site for a specified portion of the workweek. Occasional or temporary work off-site, including for example work while traveling on University business, does not constitute telecommuting and does not require the formal arrangement described in these guidelines.

C.  Authority

Department heads have the authority to approve or deny telecommuting arrangements. Department heads are encouraged to give serious consideration to all reasonable requests, but shall give the highest priority to the effective functioning of the division or department.

D.  Guidelines

The primary criterion for determining approval of telecommuting for any employee is whether or not the arrangement meets the business needs of the department. Eligibility may vary for different types of work arrangements and may depend on the nature of particular jobs, especially those required to deliver direct customer service, manage or direct groups of employees, or provide business-critical support at the primary work location. Telecommuting is normally reserved for employees in exempt positions, since non-exempt positions require careful tracking of time worked to ensure that overtime policies are properly observed. Telecommuting is more challenging for non-exempt employees due to record keeping requirements that require recording of each workday showing when the employee begins and ends the workday as well as meal and break periods.

All proposals should be treated equitably, regardless of the employee’s reason for making the request. The following guidelines are applicable:

  • In any work arrangement, employees will be expected to meet the same performance standards as otherwise required, and supervisors/managers will be expected to use the same performance review criteria that were previously applicable. 
  • To be eligible for telecommuting, an employee will need to have passed the probationary period and have demonstrated satisfactory performance.
  • Employees who propose a telecommuting arrangement should ensure a safe and suitable workspace that is appropriately confidential and free of distractions and interruptions that may interfere with work. Where applicable, telecommuters will need to find ways to maintain a distinct separation between work activities and personal activities.
  • All telecommuting work arrangements are subject to ongoing review and may be terminated at any time, with at least a 30-day notice period provided by either party, based on business and operational considerations. In circumstances where a 30-day notice is not practical because of department operational demands, the department head may adjust the notice period. 
  • The University owns any/all software, data, reports, text and graphics created as a result of work-related activities.
  • All terms and conditions of employment with the University (e.g. duties, responsibilities, benefits, salary, etc.) remain unchanged as a result of the telecommuting arrangement. 

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E.  Procedures

Request and Review Process
Decisions regarding the appropriateness of a telecommuting arrangement are made on a case-by-case basis. Operational and business needs are a priority in the consideration and evaluation of an employee proposal.

a)  Steps for the Employee to Follow:

  1. It is important to consider how the arrangement may impact your work and the work of your colleagues.
  2. Once you have considered the issues, prepare a written proposal and fill out the Telecommuting Agreement Form to present to your supervisor/manager.
  3. Schedule an appointment with your supervisor to talk about it.
  4. It is recommended that an initial trial period (usually 3–6 months) be utilized.
  5. Create a contingency plan to respond to unexpected circumstances or changes that may affect your flexible work arrangement.

b)  Steps for the Supervisor/Manager to Follow

  1.  Respond to each proposal in a timely manner, to keep the employee informed of its status.
  2. Consider each proposal for a Telecommuting work arrangement on its own merits, and give equal consideration to all requests. If you have questions, ask for assistance or guidance from your designated HR Consultant.
  3. Consult your department head and/or others as required to ensure consistency within your office or department and to gain approval for the proposal.
  4. Keep focused on the organizational benefits derived by supporting the proposal that potentially include reduced absenteeism and turnover and increased productivity and commitment.
  5. If the request is unacceptable, be supportive and, if practical, suggest alternatives.
  6. Encourage the employee to revise the proposal as appropriate.
  7. If the request is denied, clarify with the employee why you cannot approve it.
  8. If the request is ready to be approved, both you and the employee should sign the Telecommuting Agreement form and the Authorization to Use University Property at an Off-Campus Location to seek the Department Head’s approval.
  9. Once the Telecommuting Agreement form is approved and signed by the Department Head, determine milestones for checking progress and measuring success.
  10. The approved Telecommute Agreement and Authorization to Use University Property at an Off-Campus Location needs to be sent to Human Resources at hr@ucmerced.edu.
  11. An initial trial period of 3-6 months is recommended; however, at the discretion of department management, a shorter evaluation period may occur based upon departmental conditions.
  12. Meet regularly with the employee to review the success of the arrangement, especially within the initial trial period. Discuss and re-approve the arrangement at the conclusion of the trial period and then annually.
  13. Employees must meet all safety requirements at the telecommute location as requested/required by the University.

c)  Department Tracking Requirements
Departments must maintain a current list of individuals with an approved telecommuting agreement. 

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d)  Modification/Termination of an Approved Telecommuting Agreement
Since a Telecommuting Agreement is a business decision, it can be modified or terminated if necessary, with appropriate notice. Some examples follow that could trigger a modification or termination of a flexible work arrangement:

  • Business needs are no longer being met.
  • Job or job requirements change.
  • Performance rating falls below an acceptable level.
  • Current coverage or staffing needs change.
  • Unexpected staff shortage develops.
  • Valid negative client or co-worker feedback is received.

As circumstances, business needs, and job requirements evolve over time, adjustments and modifications may become necessary. As with any other work arrangement, telecommuting arrangements should not be considered permanent. Both supervisors/managers and employees must be responsive to change and should monitor the arrangement to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the department. In some situations, it may be necessary to discontinue the original plan or seek an alternative. The process used in revising or ending a work arrangement should be just as carefully thought through as when initiating one.

If either the supervisor/manager or the employee determines that the telecommuting arrangement needs to be modified or terminated, at least 30 days’ notice should be provided whenever possible in advance of ending or changing the arrangement.

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