Insights from the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic required a sudden shift to remote work for the majority of employees at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH). While essential workers continued to perform duties in person on campus and minimized research operations were safely restarted, many employees were fully remote for more than a year, from March 2020 through the summer of 2021.
During this time, members of the university learned many lessons about remote work. In some cases, employees experienced increased productivity and repurposed time due to lack of a commute. Others noted challenges with replicating the type of the spontaneous collaborations and interaction that can occur in a shared physical environment. Some struggled with speed of residential internet services relative to the high-speed internet available on campus.
Using a set of guiding principles, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of Human Resources has released a robust Remote Work Policy. The guiding principles — which include a vibrant campus community, equity and inclusion, and the evolving nature of work — provide a framework on which to base decisions about remote work going forward. SMPH and other schools, colleges, and divisions within the university are responsible for creating procedures by which the UW–Madison Remote Work policy is implemented, including identifying specific procedures for evaluating and approving or denying a remote work request in a manner consistent with the policy and the university’s goals of equity, inclusion, and diversity.
SMPH supports the use of appropriate flexible and remote work options for employees. We anticipate the use of multiple work modalities (on-site, hybrid, and fully-remote) in SMPH work units going forward. Some job responsibilities in SMPH are conducive to remote work, and many are most effectively performed in-person. Work arrangements must comply with and align with university policy. Under the policy, hybrid and fully remote work arrangements require approval of a remote work agreement, which is a formal, detailed document that remains on file in the employee’s personnel record. See more information about remote work agreements below in Step 4. An employee whose work cannot be performed at a location away from campus may not be eligible to work remotely. The decision about whether to enter a formal remote work agreement involves consensus between an employee and their supervisor, with agreement by their department and the Dean’s office via SMPH HR, to ensure that the proposed work arrangement is feasible, secure, reliable, effective, and meets the operational and academic goals of SMPH.
This webpage gives guidance on SMPH’s work modalities and the steps necessary for SMPH employees and supervisors to complete when requesting, entering into, and maintaining arrangements that involve remote work.
Scope of this Policy and Guidance
The UW–Madison Remote Work Policy describes employment categories to which the policy applies:
- Academic Staff
- University Staff
- Limited Employees
- Temporary Employees
- Post-Degree Training appointments
- Student Hourly employees
This policy does not apply to zero-dollar appointments.
This SMPH guidance applies to all SMPH individuals in scope for the policy who are interested in being considered for a hybrid or fully remote work set up, and their supervisors. All SMPH faculty in any track — Tenure, CT, CHS, Teaching, Research — working in the state of Wisconsin are exempt from this policy. However, faculty who supervise staff will need to engage with and be familiar with this policy as it relates to their direct reports. Additionally, faculty who wish to pursue regular remote work out of state or internationally are subject to this policy.
Questions after reading this guide?
On-Site Work Workplace Flexibility Remote Work Out of State / International Work
There is a baseline of in-person campus services that are necessary and expected at a residential institution such as UW–Madison. SMPH also recognizes the value of providing flexibility to its employees as flexibility can increase job satisfaction and reduce turnover, increase the university’s ability to attract and retain talent, and maintain or enhance productivity for some roles.
The teaching, service and research missions of UW–Madison are most efficiently realized when we work, learn and connect together in-person. On-campus interactions build connections between employees, facilitate quick exchange of information, and help integrate new staff into office culture and operations. There are many positions at the university that realistically can only be done effectively in person and would have trouble being fully remote, including many jobs that need to be conducted on -site to serve students and conduct research in specialized facilities. Employees in such roles will likely not be eligible for fully remote work and will mostly return to regular on-site work as had been the norm prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, although a hybrid modality could be applicable in some instances.
Workplace Flexibility: definition and why it matters
SMPH supports the use of appropriate flexible and remote work options for employees. To minimize confusion and align with university policy, understanding formal definition of the term “workplace flexibility” is important. Workplace flexibility refers to work that is performed at an off-campus work site on a sporadic basis and that does not follow a regular, repeated schedule. See the policy for the definition of workplace flexibility. A remote work agreement is not required for employees practicing workplace flexibility in consultation with their supervisor. Examples of workplace flexibility, provided supervisor approval is obtained, include:
- working remotely for the remainder of a day after a doctor’s appointment for physical exam or a dental cleaning
- working from home while waiting for a furnace repair service professional
- an employee working remotely during severe weather (see UW–Madison Inclement Weather Policy)
Hybrid and Fully-Remote Work
Remote work describes a work modality in which some or all work is performed at an off-campus work site, such as home or in an office space near home. This definition does not include workplace flexibilities, research trips, sabbaticals, or permanent off-campus work sites established by the university. See the policy for the definition of remote work.
A remote work agreement is an agreement that describes the terms and conditions of an employee’s remote work arrangement, including a description of the alternative off-site work proportionate to their time on-site, information about maintaining communication and work engagement, and necessary equipment and services. A remote work agreement is necessary for all work arrangements involving remote work (i.e., for hybrid and fully remote work modalities).
To support operations and maintain the highest quality job function and services while meeting the needs of SMPH employees, the Dean’s office and SMPH HR recommend that when remote work is requested, supervisors evaluate whether remote work is feasible given individual employee job responsibilities.
Out of State and International Remote Work
Please see the campus policy for more information on these remote work modalities. All employees including faculty are subject to the remote work policy if they plan to pursue remote work out of state or internationally on a regular, ongoing basis. The remote work agreements for these modalities are complex and will require multiple levels of approval.
If an employee will be engaging in international remote work, their department chair or department administrator, or equivalent roles if your appointment is outside of an academic department, must submit a business necessity approval form in advance of the employee entering into a remote work agreement to work internationally. See more information here.
SMPH Evaluation and Approval Process for Work Modalities that Incorporate Remote Work
Pre-Step: Review Step 1: Consider Step 2: Evaluate Step 3: Discuss Step 4: Request Step 5: Implement
If a work unit is considering hybrid or fully remote work modalities, use the following process to evaluate and approve the appropriate remote work arrangement:
Pre-Step: Review the UW-Madison Remote Work Policy.
Supervisors and employees should thoroughly review the UW-Madison Remote Work Policy prior to beginning the evaluation and approval process for remote work agreements.
Step 1: Consider the work unit/department as a whole and which positions and tasks are conducive to hybrid or fully remote work.
If remote work is likely to be used in an SMPH unit, the supervisor should consider the following for their unit:
- A plan for the work unit, including the use of multiple work modalities and how they might be coordinated moving forward. Elements to consider in creating the unit plan:
- Mission of the unit/department
- Equity (giving equal remote work consideration to all individuals with the same or similar duties)
- Employee wellbeing
- Employee safety
- Unit/department organizational culture
- Collaboration within the team, and between the team and other units
- Scheduling and employee availability
- Equipment, supplies, and tools
- On-site space utilization
- Recognition of iterative nature of workforce planning and management of remote work agreements
- The job functions of employees in the work unit and how job tasks might be completed in a remote environment.
Step 2: Evaluate the suitability of remote work for a particular employee.
An interested employee should let their supervisor know they would like to be considered for remote work and both parties should evaluate the suitability of a remote work arrangement.
Both employee and supervisor should engage in evaluation of the suitability of remote work:
- The employee should conduct a self-assessment of the suitability of their job for remote work. While not required, this assessment tool can help employees think about their job in the context of remote work.
SMPH Remote Work Suitability Assessment for Employees
- The supervisor should assess whether the individual employee’s job functions and job responsibilities can be successfully conducted remotely. While not required, this assessment tool is aimed at helping supervisors contemplate an employee’s role in the context of remote work.
SMPH Remote Work Suitability Assessment for Supervisors
Supervisors and employees should reflect on the results of their individual assessments and meet to discuss the proposed arrangement. These assessments are only tools to assist discussion, they are not formal requests for remote work arrangements. Formal requests for remote work arrangements will be submitted in Step 4.
Step 3: Discuss the proposed work arrangement involving remote work.
The supervisor and employee should use their individual assessment results to guide the discussion. The discussion should also include the following items:
- Employee remote work location
- Possible remote work locations: State of Wisconsin, Out-of-State (US), and International.
- Note for employees proposing remote work arrangements outside of the State of Wisconsin (US and international): These remote work arrangements will require additional considerations and review in order to be approved. See the UW–Madison Remote Work Policy. Due to the additional requirements involving multiple levels of review, including department chairs, there is a longer timeline for approval of out-of-state and international work arrangements.
- Work hours/schedule
- Frequency of remote work (g., three days on-site, two days remote)
- Presence in virtual and on-site meetings
- Work and performance expectations
- Metrics of monitoring work performance
- Remote work environment
- Remote work environments should simulate office-like conditions where an individual can ensure productivity levels similar to working on campus. Employees working in a remote environment should be free from regular distractions to their work responsibilities. When discussing confidential matters (e.g., protected health information (PHI), contracts) in virtual meetings, employees should ensure that their immediate remote work environment is separated from non-business activities and individuals and that they are properly safeguarding confidential information, including internal, sensitive, and restricted data. An employee must ensure that their remote workspace has the privacy, physical and technical security, appropriate equipment, software, and internet access to adequately perform their work responsibilities.
- Equipment needs (see the Equipment section of this guidance for more information about recommended allocation of resources for employees working remotely)
- Unit/department plan for remote work
- Employee and supervisor responsibilities outlined in UW–Madison Remote Work Policy
Step 3 is essentially “prework” that can be used for the completion and approval of the remote work agreement submission outlined in Step 4. The employee and supervisor can use this checklist to track relevant information.
Download the Checklist for Remote Work Agreement Discussion (PDF)
Step 4: Complete and submit the remote work agreement for approval.
Taking the information decided during the supervisor/employee discussion, the employee will initiate the remote work agreement approval process. Remote work agreements will be approved by an employee’s supervisor and any other necessary approvers and submitted to the Dean’s office via SMPH HR.
You will find the Remote Work Agreement in MyUW at https://my.wisc.edu, under Personal Information > Update My Personal Information.
Access instructions and resources for submitting a remote work agreement
For international remote work agreements, there is a pre-step to completing an agreement. Per UW–Madison’s policy on Remote Work, possible international remote work arrangements must be reviewed and approved by the SMPH Dean’s Office to determine if there is a justified business necessity before an international remote work agreement can be entered. A business necessity request must be requested by a department chair or department administrator, or equivalent roles if your appointment is outside of an academic department. Find more information here.
Step 5: Implement remote work agreement and continue to review and adjust work arrangements.
Once a remote work agreement has been implemented, it is important to ensure the work modality arrangements stay on track. Means of doing so include:
- Regular check points (e.g., bi-weekly employee/supervisor one-on-one meetings)
- Performance evaluation meetings (e.g., mid-point conversation, summary evaluation)
- Remote work agreements should be reviewed and updated at a minimum annually.
- Remote work agreements must designate the employee’s onsite and remote work locations effective throughout the remote work period. Any changes in remote work location during a remote work agreement require the approval of a new remote work agreement.
Remote work agreements can be updated or canceled as warranted due to changes in factors such as evolving work responsibilities, availability of equipment, and business needs. Some updates may require the approval of a new remote work agreement.
Review of Expiring Remote Work Agreements
Pre-step: Check expiration Step 1: Review expiring agreement Step 2: Submit new agreement
Pre-Step: How to check when a Remote Work Agreement expires
If you have been working under a Remote Work Agreement that will soon expire, you must initiate a new Remote Work Agreement to cover the next reporting period. You cannot update an existing agreement with a new start date. You will not receive a notification that your agreement is expiring, so you should check the expiration date of your agreement if it is nearing one year since your agreement was submitted. You may hear from your HR Business Partner, department leadership, or supervisor if you have a remote work agreement that will expire soon.
To check when your Remote Work Agreement expires, follow these steps:
- Go to my.wisc.edu.
- Click “Personal Information.”
- Click “Update my personal information.”
- Click on “Remote Work Agreement” located at the bottom of the Menu bar on the left.
- Select “View a Remote Work Agreement” at the bottom of the Menu bar on the left.
- Enter your last name in the “Last Name” field and hit “Search.” (If only a single form is available, it will open. If multiple forms are available a list will show. Select the correct agreement.)
- Find the expiration date of your Remote Work Agreement listed as “Agreement End/Review Date.” It is located under “Agreement Start Date.”
Step 1: Reviewing expiring Remote Work Agreements
Remote work agreements should be reviewed and evaluated by supervisors throughout the term of the agreement. When an agreement is expiring it is essential that the arrangement is evaluated. Supervisors should consider whether the expiring remote work arrangement is still feasible and working well or if other arrangements may be necessary by evaluating the following factors:
- Job responsibilities (e.g., jobs that require physical presence for effective performance are not suitable for remote work);
- The effective functioning of the overall unit (e.g., trainees may need in-person assistance; flow of information may be shared more quickly among those physically present; etc.);
- Potential cost savings to the university, S/C/D, and department;
- The needs and preferences of the employee;
- Employee performance;
- Equipment needs, workspace design considerations, office space, and scheduling issues; and
- Adverse impact between employees with similar job responsibilities in the work unit (prevent inequities).
After evaluating these factors, supervisors will communicate to their employee(s) regarding future work arrangements. This conversation should include all items in Step 3 above.
Step 2: Submitting a new Remote Work Agreement
If your Remote Work Agreement is expiring and your supervisor has approved it to continue, you must initiate a new Remote Work Agreement to cover the next reporting period. You cannot update an existing agreement with a new start date. Employees are encouraged to use the Employee Checklist for Completing a Remote Work Agreement.
To submit a new Remote Work Agreement, follow these steps:
- Go to my.wisc.edu.
- Click “Personal Information.”
- Click “Update my personal information.”
- Click on “Remote Work Agreement” located at the bottom of the Menu bar on the left.
- Begin on the “Remote Work Landing Page” (university logo at top). Review the contents of this page.
- Click “Add a Remote Work Agreement” on the left Menu bar.
- Enter the required information and submit the agreement for approval.
- As you are completing the agreement, the system may pause to process your prior inputs. You’ll see a blue moving ring when this happens. Wait before continuing to enter information when that happens.
- Timeout Warning: The agreement “times out” if there is no activity in the agreement for more than 30 minutes. Click Save at the bottom of the agreement if you need to step away.
- When you save the agreement, you can return to it by selecting Update a Remote Work Agreement from the navigation menu. It will open to your existing agreement if you only have one; otherwise, you’ll choose from multiple agreements that you have started.
Review of Denial, Modification, or Revocation of Remote Work Arrangements
A remote work agreement may be denied, modified, or revoked. The supervisor must discuss the reasons for the denial, modification or revocation with the employee and provide a reasonable notice period before the revocation or modification goes into effect. Denials, modifications, and revocations of remote work agreements may be reviewed. (See sections III.6 and X of the UW–Madison Remote Work Policy).
If an SMPH employee requests a remote work arrangement and the request is denied at any level of the approval process, or if a supervisor modifies or revokes an established remote work agreement, the employee may request a review of the decision by the SMPH Dean’s Office using the following process:
- Requests for review should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the subject line “Review Request.”
- Components of review requests:
- The employee should outline the details of the denial, modification, or revocation decision, including the supervisor’s stated reasons for the denial, modification, or revocation
- In cases of revocation or modification of an approved remote work agreement, the employee should cite the notice period provided before the revocation or modification goes into effect.
- The employee should submit their request within 7 working days of the employee being notified of the denial, modification, or revocation.
- The SMPH Dean’s Office will issue a decision within 7 working days of the employee’s submission of the request for review or prior to the revocation or modification effective date, whichever is sooner.
- The timelines outlined here may be extended by mutual agreement.
- The decision from the SMPH Dean’s Office is final and cannot be appealed.
The SMPH department must decide what university equipment will be provided to the remote employee within these parameters. See section V of the UW–Madison Remote Work Policy for further reference on equipment, materials, and supplies.
- SMPH departments will provide only the equipment that is necessary and appropriate to enable remote employees to perform the functions of their positions in the remote location. SMPH departments will not fully replicate space and equipment at on-campus and off-campus workspaces unless there is significant business need. Any reimbursable expenditures will be identified in remote work agreements.
- SMPH departments and remote employees can utilize the following resources to provide the most appropriate IT equipment to meet university standards for the particular remote work arrangement and to ensure that the remote employee is informed about the broadband and other resources needed to perform all of the essential functions of the position from off-campus locations. Tech Resources for Working & Learning Remotely
- Remote employees should use only SMPH-owned IT devices that have been reviewed by departmental IT support staff for compliance with IT policies and standards including UW–Madison Endpoint Management and Security Policy and UW–Madison IT Asset Reporting Policy. If SMPH-owned IT devices are not available, users must exclusively use remote access tools approved by the SMPH department.
- Remote employees are responsible for ensuring that their data plan from their internet service provider is adequate to support remote work and for any cost incurred for that data plan. Unless required by law, SMPH will likely not provide or reimburse a phone (landline or cell) or data plan.
- SMPH departments will make the determination, in consultation with employees who are less than 100% remote, whether the SMPH-provided equipment will be located at their on- or off-campus location.
- Employees who wish to supplement their secondary workspace may make personally funded purchases not eligible for reimbursement from their SMPH department. The remote employee should consult with their SMPH departmental IT staff before making a purchase to ensure compatibility with SMPH provided resources.
- Remote employees should consider including business service warranties in their personal purchases such that, in the event of a failure, the equipment will be serviced within one business day so that university work can continue with minimal disruption.
- Specialized or high-value equipment may not be appropriate for a remote work arrangement.
- SMPH departments must comply with IT asset inventory requirements laid out in the UW–Madison IT Asset Reporting Policy for any IT equipment that is removed from the campus location.
- The SMPH department must plan for servicing, repair, and replacement of university-owned equipment.
- SMPH departmental leaders will make arrangements for the return of equipment upon the separation of a remote employee.