Flexible Work Arrangements Agreement: What Does It Mean?

This year, URA, as a part of the Coalition of Rutgers Unions (CRU) reached an agreement with management to incorporate “Flexible Work Arrangements” including “Remote Work” and “Flexible Work Schedules” into our contract (see: Article 59 – Flexible Work Arrangements). While this practice existed in some departments prior to COVID-19, the pandemic brought the function to the forefront of operations at Rutgers and fundamentally challenges concepts of who could work from where when.

 As many employers now seek to curtail remote work opportunities granted during times of high infections rates, progressive employers recognized the many beneficial aspects of remote work and Rutgers developed the “FlexWork@RU” program. Our agreement builds on the principles of saving time and expenses commuting when not necessary, helping preserve the environment and utilizing that time performing vital research, academic and administrative tasks to support the university’s mission remotely. 

 For members concerned the practice would end based on the whims of management at the end of August 2024, incorporating it into our contract provides a framework to continue the practice under the conditions as outlined. 

 Less widespread in implementation, but equally important to some members, is the ability to take advantage of Flexible Work Schedules to take classes by breaking up the work day, work longer days in exchange for shorter work weeks and take care of other responsibilities. 

This week, we posted the first of several information articles outlining details and examples of the Flexible Work Arrangements contract article to help members understand our rights and responsibilities under the provision. 

Some highlights of the agreement include: 

  • All unit employees are now eligible to apply for a flexible work arrangement, whether you are non-exempt (eligible for overtime) or exempt (ineligible for overtime). Previously only exempt workers were formally allowed to work remote.
  • Ad hoc (temporary) remote work arrangements can be made based on circumstances. These remote work arrangement may prove to be testing grounds for the efficiency of one of the formal remote work or compressed schedule agreements.
  • Seasonal modifications to a hybrid schedule can be made based on shifting demands of the job.
  • Written explanation must be provided if request is denied so members understand the decision-making process.
  • Grievances can be filed if the process is not followed to help promote fairness.

 We are working on outlining some of the basic provisions of this agreement in order to help members understand our rights earned and responsibilities put in place. Not everyone who wants to work remote will be able to do so, but there is a process in place to review requests, the expectation of fairness and the ability to grieve is the process is not followed.  

 As with any contractual agreement, we can only use the provisions if we understand our rights and support one another in our application of requests for flexible work arrangements across the bargaining unit. When implemented, we need to support our co-workers in demonstrating the successes in our respective workplaces so we can defend and mold the program to have a better work life at Rutgers. 

Share your experiences: What is your current Flexible Work Arrangement practice if any? What’s working well? What problems have been encountered? Email union@ura-aft.org to share your story and be included in the discussion of making Rutgers a better university with Flexible Work Arrangements.

See also:

Questions Your Boss May Be Considering In Approving Flexible Workplace Arrangements (5/17/24)

Complete The Seasonal Hybrid/Remote Work Survey (5/17/24)

Flexible Work Arrangements: Review Seasonal Definition In Contract (5/15/24)

Members Call for Flexibility In Contract

As part of the pressure to reach an agreement, URA members wrote postcards to management to complete the thought…”We need comprehensive, negotiated telecommuting language immediately because:..” The first batch is excerpted with the author’s initials. More will be included as we roll out additional articles.

Staff are the reason the campus is able to run smoothly. The campus is able to still run efficiently with the pilot program. A permanent telecommuting program will allow RU to reduce unnecessary expenses. AE

It is a DEI supportive measure. SY

– Telecommuting is an effective means to meet and achieve goals. Telecommuting doesn’t impact the university negatively as work towards the mission remains at the forefront as evidenced by top ratings and recognition. SD

– Telecommuting is an effective means to meet and achieve goals. Telecommuting doesn’t impact the university negatively as work towards the mission remains at the forefront as evidenced by top ratings and recognition.  SD 

–  We have proved we are productive. This has happened for three years and our numbers have been met!  AN 

–   It makes the work environment more flexible and better work space. It’s 2024. C’mon.  GB 

– Not codifying these policies prevents staff from truly being able to take advantage of these flexibilities without fear of retribution from managers.  ZL 

– There are some days where there is no need to be in the office—work can be done remotely from home. Telecommuting also saves gas, time and congestion on campus.  MB 

– With a more flexible schedule and not having to deal with commuting, workers can be more productive.  AK 

–  I am able to get more time for work at home without the 45+ minute commute each way.  KH 

– I feel by not commuting, I save time and can be more productive.  PM 

– I’m able to focus and complete accounting/fiscal assignments without interruptions.  AA 

 To save on gas/money. More work is done!  LC 

 I want it in my contract and the flex schedule has helped my mental health.  JR 

– Technology now allows organizations to meet goals and advance the mission of the organization without the need to be in person 5 days per week. Telecommuting has and will continue to help workers create a better work life balance and help Rutgers bolster recruitment and retention in a changing and competitive workforce.  SD 

– My mental health is better when I get back 3+ hours of commute time a week! I need more than a pilot program. MM 

– People are concerned that the extended pilot program could be ended at any time. We need stability.  MA 

– Telecommute = health.  BB