Remote Work

Updated:

July 28, 2021


Remote Work

This page provides employees and supervisors guidance and resources on remote work practices at UWM. Working remotely (also known as telecommuting or telework) is subject to UW System and UW-Milwaukee telecommuting policies.

UW System Administrative Policy SYS 1228: Telecommuting

UWM Interim Telecommuting Policy (SAAP 7-17)

UWM Telecommuting Guideline

UWM Emergency Operations Center COVID-19 Operations Planning Report
May 24, 2021

UWM Interim COVID Related Health & Safety Rules (SAAP 10-12)


Remote Work Information Sessions for Supervisors

The Department of Human Resources hosted two information sessions for UWM supervisors to prepare for a return to campus in late summer/early fall.

Remote Work Information Session for Supervisors, June 10, 2021Remote Work Information Session for Supervisors, June 10, 2021

Remote Work Information Session for Supervisors, June 22, 2021Remote Work Information Session for Supervisors, June 22, 2021



1. Faculty/Instructional Academic Staff with a desire to Teach Remotely

While some online courses and programs will continue to expand into the future, UWM has also heard from many students that they have difficulties with online learning, or do not feel that they are receiving the full value of what UWM can offer in an online mode.

In order to meet the UW System request to return to 75% face-to-face instruction in the Fall of 2021, and to best serve our students post-pandemic, instructors will generally not be able to continue to teach entirely remotely, simply for convenience or a reluctance to return to on-campus work, any more so than was the case pre-COVID. Instructional staff with a desire to change the modality of a course(s) should speak with leadership in their school/college about this request. Completing a request to work remotely using the form/process described below is not an appropriate manner of changing course delivery modality.

The approval process described on this webpage for working remotely, including the completion of an electronic request to work remotely form, is not required of faculty, instructional academic staff, graduate assistants, teaching assistants, and research associates/assistants, as long as they will be working in the State of Wisconsin. They are required to complete the electronic request to work remotely if they will be working outside the State of Wisconsin, including internationally. These employees have always worked from varied locations as they engage in teaching, research and service.


2. Non-instructional Employees with a Desire to Work Remotely

Some non-instructional staff have been working remotely partially or fully during the pandemic and may have a desire to continue with some remote work post-pandemic. It is anticipated working fully remotely will be unusual and generally not permitted for most positions. The fact that many positions transitioned to majority or fully remote during the pandemic does not create a presumption that majority for fully remote work will continue as the pandemic abates. Partial remote work may be more permissible post-pandemic.

Evidence suggests working remotely includes the following benefits:

  • Establishing/continuing UWM as a preferred employer
  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Increased employee retention
  • Enhanced utilization of space

At the same time, working remotely can create issues and concerns as well, including:

  • Fewer opportunities for development of interpersonal relationships and informal networking in the workplace
  • Loss of informal opportunities for collaboration and innovation
  • Decreased observational learning among employees, i.e., the ability to quickly share something learned with one’s colleagues
  • Loss of critical mass of support employees onsite to help create a lively and dynamic on-campus environment

Working remotely, even partially, is intended to be an innovative work option that benefits the University as well as the employee. Offering the ability to work remotely can be a tool to aid in recruitment, retention and engagement.

(Some of the cited benefits and issues of concern were provided by the Educational Advisory Board in various publications and podcasts from April, 2021.)


3. What is Working Remotely?

The UW System and UWM define working remotely (also known as telecommuting or telework) 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…, one or more days per month on a standard and recurring basis.”

Working remotely is offered at the discretion of the supervisor and is not an employee entitlement. Working remotely is a tool that allows for flexibility in work options. It does not change the basic terms and conditions of employment. Requests to work remotely will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

You can access UWM’s Interim Telecommuting Policy below:

UWM Interim Telecommuting Policy (SAAP 7-17)


4. Important Considerations for Supervisors

Working remotely can look differently depending on the position, department needs and employee preferences. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to working remotely due to the differences in the kind of work performed on each of our campuses.

In balancing the benefits and concerns associated with remote work moving out of the pandemic and going forward, supervisors should do the following:

For positions that are conducive to working remotely, affirmatively gather and understand the requests and preferences of employees.

Consider each employee’s requests and preferences against these criteria:

  • Can the duties and responsibilities of the employee be performed remotely?
  • Are departmental operational needs able to be met if the employee is permitted to work remotely?
  • Will the needs of stakeholders, especially students, be met if remote work is granted?
  • How will the ability to foster community and interpersonal relationships be maintained if remote work is granted?
  • How will sharing of information/learning be accomplished if remote work is granted?
  • Has the employee consistently demonstrated an ability to accept the responsibility of working in a remote way? Supervisors are encouraged to lead with trust, i.e., start with the idea that your employees want to do their best and approach decisions and interactions that way, giving the employee the benefit of the doubt.
  • Will the supervisor be able to adequately supervise the remote work?
  • What is the anticipated work schedule of the individual requesting remote work and does that schedule align with the needs of the department?
  • What are the supervisor’s expectations for being able to reach the employee at a given time during the established work schedule?
  • Are employees being given fair and equitable consideration under the above criteria, without discrimination or favoritism? (Denying a poorer performing employee’s request to work from home, if supervision will not be sufficient remotely, is not considered favoritism or unfair. Nor is denying working remotely for employees whose job responsibilities cannot be adequately performed from home.)
  • What is the cost and availability of any needed equipment for the employee to work remotely?

Consider how meetings will be conducted if one or more employees are working remotely:

  • The exchange of ideas, well placed questions, and contributions from everyone are characteristics of good meetings. How will the supervisor ensure those characteristics are accomplished if some of the meeting participants are remote?
  • The need to maintain social distancing may limit capacities to accommodate in-person administrative meetings.
  • UWM currently lacks requisite hardware and/or network capacities in many meeting spaces to accommodate web conference/Microsoft Teams meetings, ad hoc and otherwise.
  • Supervisors are encouraged to have all meeting participants, including those physically present, enter the meeting via Microsoft Teams and run the meeting as a Microsoft Teams meeting.

Consider other Norms Regarding Remote Work:

  • What is the expectation of employees working remotely interacting with colleagues regarding the use of the camera (i.e., camera on, camera off, optional)?
  • What is the expectation of employees working remotely in meetings regarding the chat box (i.e., anything goes, business related contributions only, etc.)?
  • What is the expectation of employees working remotely in meetings regarding the “raise hand” function (i.e., raise hand in order to participate, not use the raise hand function, something in between)?

What is the expectation of employees working remotely regarding attire (i.e., business attire only, casual attire is ok, attire should be determined by the employee’s calendar on a given day, something else)?


5. Remote Work Options for Employees

  1. Intermittent Remote Work: An unplanned period of remote work arising out of transient circumstances (e.g. illness, weather emergency, temporary school closure, etc.) lasting no longer than ten business days. This requires supervisor approval but does not require the completion of a formal, documented request for remote work.
  2. Short-Term Remote Work: A continuous period of part-time or full-time telecommuting lasting no longer than three months. This requires supervisor approval and the completion of a formal, documented request for remote work if the remote work period will exceed 14 calendar days.
  3. Long-Term Remote Work: A continuous arrangement for part-time or full­ time telecommuting subject to at least annual review. This requires supervisor approval and the completion of a formal, documented request for remote work.

6. Steps to Complete a Remote Work Request and Approval Process

Any non-instructional employee that wants to request the ability to work remotely long-term is required to follow the process outlined below, even if they had a previous agreement with their supervisor.

  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. These discussions should take place during the first two weeks of June 2021.

  2. Employee completes the request form via the My UW System portal.

    Employees, please review this tip sheet on how to complete the new form. The request should not be completed until after step one (above) is completed. Requests for remote work should be completed by June 18, 2021.

    UW System Telecommuting Agreement

  3. Supervisor must make a decision on the request.

    Supervisors, please review this tip sheet on how to approve a request using the new form. Supervisors should make a decision on remote work requests by June 25, 2021.

    UW System Telecommuting Agreement-Approver

  4. Approved requests will be reviewed by the relevant Vice Chancellor or designee.
  5. Submission of Fall plans to Deans/Division Heads.

    Every department within a school/college/division should inform their dean or division head regarding the Fall departmental working location plan, no later than July 1, 2021. Deans and division heads are ultimately responsible to ensure that departments are implementing the following in their schools, colleges, and divisions, with any exceptions to be approved in advance by the dean or division head:

    1. All student needs for face-to-face interaction are met at least to the same extent or greater than staffing permitted pre-COVID, unless the school/college/division head expressly approves a change in face-to-face services.
    2. Administrative offices are generally open to visitors or others during normal business hours.
    3. Reception desks are staffed to welcome visitors to the maximum extent possible during normal business hours.
    4. Most employees will be required to work at least partially in an on-site location. Full-time remote work requests will be scrutinized and expected to be approved in rare, extraordinary or temporary situations.

7. Best Practices for Employees Working Remotely

If your request to work remotely is approved, it is important to plan and prepare for a positive work 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

  • Consider adding your telecommute schedule to your email signature.
  • Use Microsoft Teams to stay connected to colleagues.
  • Plan for 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.
  • Follow the norms established by your department regarding use of your camera, the chat box, etc.

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 people to break things up or influence what you do next. Consider starting each day of remote work 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

Working from home can mean pets, children or a favorite hobby are only a few feet away. Doing your best to eliminate these distractions will help your 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 is anything around you that you would not want visible during a video conference.

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 working remotely anytime you would walk to their workspace or call them if they were working on-site.

Dress for Work

Just like sitting on the couch can make us feel a little too relaxed, wearing attire inappropriate for work makes it hard to get into work mode. Adhere to the cultural norm of attire for your department. Getting “ready for work” is a daily ritual that many working remotely swear by.

Links to External Resources:

Online Learning Modules Through Kepro, UWM’s EAP provider.

(New users will need to create an account. The company code is: SOWI.)


8. Conducting Meetings in a Hybrid Work Environment

With the understanding that departments might have some of their workforce working remotely at any given time, each supervisor must consider how meetings will be conducted. When meetings will include individuals working both in-person and remotely, supervisors should ensure that people working remotely can participate meaningfully. This may mean that meetings are convened with in-person attendees at their own computers or located in a room that allows for virtual participation by remote attendees. UWM’s University Information Technology Services advises that, assuming a hybrid workforce (fully on-campus, fully remote, and partially remote), many post-pandemic administrative meetings will be hosted on Microsoft Teams and be joined by UWM staff members. These employees may be working remotely or working at their campus office locations and not joining the meeting at dedicated meeting spaces.

Source: 2021 EOC report

  1. Hybrid Meetings
  2. Harvard Business Review on Virtual Meetings
  3. General Best Practices on Virtual Meetings
  4. Virtual Meeting Resources
  5. Hybrid Work – Recent Publications

9. 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 telecommuting. 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 telecommuting 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 telecommuting and work performance. Solution-oriented discussions can help ensure the sustained success of telecommuting 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 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 your team or unit.
  • Send Snail Mail – Write a note to someone.

Links to External Resources:


10. Technology While Working Remotely

Effectively and compliantly utilizing technology while telecommuting will be critical for employees to successfully telecommute. Employees should review UWM’s Campus Technology Working Remotely webpage and reach out to the Help Desk with any questions.


11. Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who is eligible to work remotely?

    The following criteria must be met in order to be eligible to telecommute:

    1. Only employees whose job duties can be fulfilled from a remote location are eligible for a telecommuting agreement.
    2. Working remotely is only available if the work can be effectively supervised.
    3. 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.
    4. Prior to beginning a telecommuting arrangement, the employee must certify to the employer that their remote workspace meets minimum safety requirements.
  2. Are faculty, instructional academic staff (IAS), graduate assistants, teaching assistants, and research associates/assistants required to complete the telecommuting form?

    Generally no, these employees 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. If a faculty member or IAS wishes to move the modality of instruction for a course(s) to online, they should discuss this with leadership within their school/college.

    These employees who will be working outside the State of Wisconsin, including internally, are required to complete an electronic request form.

    UW System Telecommuting Agreement

  3. What are some of the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely?

    Evidence suggests working remotely includes the following benefits:

    • Establishing/continuing UWM as a preferred employer
    • Increased productivity
    • Decreased absenteeism
    • Increased employee retention
    • Enhanced utilization of space
  4. Why doesn’t UWM authorize anyone who wants to work remotely to do so?

    Working remotely can look differently depending on the position, department needs and employee preferences. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to working remotely due to the differences in the kind of work performed on each of our campuses. Requests to work remotely will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    In order to meet the UW System request to return to 75% face-to-face instruction in the Fall of 2021, and to best serve our students post-pandemic, instructors will generally not be able to continue to teach entirely remotely, simply for convenience or a reluctance to return to on-campus work, any more so than was the case pre-COVID.

  5. Who decides if my request for remote work is approved?

    In most cases, it will be the supervisor of the position. There may be some instances where divisional approval is required.

  6. What kinds of things will my supervisor consider when making a decision regarding my remote work request?
    • Can the duties and responsibilities of the employee be performed remotely?
    • Are departmental operational needs able to be met if the employee is permitted to work remotely?
    • Will the needs of stakeholders, especially students, be met if remote work is granted?
    • How will the ability to foster community and interpersonal relationships be maintained if remote work is granted?
    • How will sharing of information/learning be accomplished if remote work is granted?
    • Has the employee consistently demonstrated an ability to accept the responsibility of working in a remote way? Supervisors are encouraged to lead with trust, i.e., consider this criterion from a trust-based perspective, i.e., start with the idea that your employees want to do their best and approach decisions and interactions that way, giving the employee the benefit of the doubt.
    • Will the supervisor be able to adequately supervise the remote work?
    • What is the anticipated work schedule of the individual requesting remote work and does that schedule align with the needs of the department?
    • What are the supervisor’s expectations for being able to reach the employee at a given time during the established work schedule?
    • Are employees being given fair and equitable consideration under the above criteria, without discrimination or favoritism? (Denying a poorer performing employee’s request to work from home, if supervision will not be sufficient remotely, is not considered favoritism or unfair. Nor is denying working remotely for employees whose job responsibilities cannot be adequately performed from home.)
    • What is the cost and availability of any needed equipment for the employee to work remotely?
  7. 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 much notice as possible in order to allow for appropriate planning by the employee. Generally, 30 calendar days is considered minimum notice.

  8. Can an employee choose to end their telecommuting agreement if they wish?

    Yes, an employee can choose to end their telecommuting agreement and return to working on-site. However, up to 30 calendar days may be needed to accommodate the request and if health and safety guidelines established by UWM or local health department officials do not permit the requests of employees who wish to be on-site to be approved, some remote work may be necessary.

  9. How long does a telecommuting agreement last?

    A continuous arrangement for part-time or full­ time telecommuting is subject to at least annual review. This requires supervisor approval and the completion of a formal, documented request for remote work.

  10. How does communication, technology and office supplies work when working remotely?

    Telecommuting equipment needs vary for each individual, depending on the designated tasks and access the supervisor and employee agree upon for work hours at home. Based on the tasks the employee and the supervisor have agreed upon, arrangements are made for telecommunications needs, equipment needs, and the responsibility for costs associated with these needs. Equipment provided to the employee is the property of the institution solely for the purpose of performing assigned job duties and will be returned to the employer at the conclusion of the agreement in the same condition as originally provided, less common wear.

    Employees will be provided with a method of telephone communication to avoid use of the employee’s personal device for work purposes. The method will be determined based on the technology and resources available at the work location (e.g. VOIP Phone, use of Jabber or call forwarding technology, or purchase of an employer owned cell phone in limited circumstances).

    Alternatively, the institution may provide an official contact for the employee using whatever local communications technology the institution has in place (such as: Microsoft Teams, or a “soft phone” number that will ring to the employee’s UW-issued computer/laptop).

    The employee is required to establish, pay for, and maintain a personal internet connection with sufficient bandwidth to effectively perform the duties of their position, including video conferencing and meetings.

    Reasonable requests for office supplies will be provided by the employer upon request from the employee to the supervisor following the normal process to purchase supplies for all employees.

    Equipment/software provided by the state is for business use and will not be used for personal business or by persons other than the employee, unless personal use is specified in the licensing agreement (i.e. Microsoft Office). Use of the computer will adhere to institution and UW System security protocols including an automatic lock of credential when there is inactivity. Employees using UWM IT resources to work remotely are fully obligated to comply with Regent Policy Document 25-3: Acceptable Use of Information technology Resources, as well as SAAP 11-2, Information Security Policy. The employee understands that accessing UWM’s networks, including for email usage, with a personal device should be avoided and may subject the personal device to review for purposes of record requests or management.

  11. 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

    Before an employee makes a request to work remotely out of state, they should be aware of the tax implications that accompany that arrangement. Please contact the Department of Human Resources for assistance.

  12. I tried to submit a remote work request using the UW System form, but it is not working for me. Whom shall I contact?

    Please contact the HR Business Partner who works with the school/college/division you are a member of.

    PREP/UBR/Shared Services Directories

  13. What is the goal date for departments to implement their work schedules/arrangements for the Fall 2021 semester?

    Departments should implement their work schedules/arrangements for the Fall 2021 semester as close to August 2, 2021, as possible.


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