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Snowy Weather Tests Teleworking Pilot

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The first snowfall of the season gave employees the chance to utilize the updated curtailed operation policy that allows for teleworking in the event of inclement weather. The pilot program, part of the flexible work policy adopted in 2011, encourages managers to allow staff to work from home when the weather is bad and UNH does not curtail operations.

The UNH Flexible Work Arrangements Task Force was formed in June 2011 after extensive research by the UNH Women’s Commission’s work/life balance committee. In October 2011, Dick Cannon, vice president for finance and administration, notified UNH managers that a revision would be made to the curtailed operations policy encouraging “employees and supervisors to develop flexible work arrangements in the event that UNH is not closed but getting to and from campus is a concern.”

Cannon also noted that if the trial goes well, the change might be incorporated into UNH’s curtailed operations policy.

"This weather event was exactly what the Flexible Work Arrangements Task Force had in mind when they recommended we encourage managers and supervisors to discuss in advance with staff options for teleworking when weather conditions are problematic but do not warrant curtailed operations for the campus. I urge managers again to consider this option," Cannon says.

While teleworking doesn’t fit all departments and isn’t applicable for all jobs (such as admissions recruiting, fundraising, athletics, certain Cooperative Extension jobs, or committee work), Ned Helms, director of the N.H. Institute for Health Policy and Practice, says the practice has been a positive one at the institute.

“Our recent experience has shown us that we are able to carry on our operations effectively while telecommuting. We have staff in four different locations and often use telecommuting and other conferencing tools to carry out our work,” Helms says. “There is no reason we should not employ these tools during inclement weather to allow our staff to work remotely. We do not need to sacrifice office efficiency for personal safety. It is possible to have both.”

Sara Cleaves, associate director of the Sustainability Academy, manages four full-time and one part-time worker. She is a member of the Flexible Work Arrangements Task Force.

"UNH's new telework option allowed our office to be more productive, not less," Cleaves says. "All of us were clear on the policy and office expectations of staff ahead of time. For example, we communicate with each other via phone, email, and instant messaging throughout the day. The telework option allowed us to work at home, so fewer staff use vacation time if they do not feel comfortable commuting to campus. As a result, nothing falls behind and we get more accomplished."  

The Flexible Work Arrangements Task Force was formed to explore flexible work schedule policies and practices that would help employees sustain work/life balance, save energy and resources, and meet goals outlined in UNH’s strategic plan.

It’s important to note that teleworking will not replace curtailed operations. That decision is made based on a number of factors such as if the campus is, or is expected to be, unprepared for parking and pedestrian traffic; local road conditions, the ability to continue bus service; and/or utility and power outages that impact the working environment. The altered curtailed operations policy pilot allowing for flexible work arrangements does not factor into the decision to curtail operations.

Feedback on teleworking and flexible work alternatives can be sent to flex.work@unh.edu.