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Workplace Strategies Toolkit

Workplace Strategies (commonly known as flexible work arrangements) are alternative approaches to traditionally-structured in-person work in an employer-designated location. Such strategies include, but are not limited to remote work, and support a variety of goals related to staff engagement and well-being, and recruitment and retention. The toolkit resources are designed to support both managers and individuals in effectively assessing and implementing such strategies. 

Toolkit Resources

Assessing Roles for Hybrid Individual Checklist

Manager Checklist (Individual)MANAGER CHECKLIST (TEAM-WIDE)

Team CulturePROPOsAL FORM Current Research

Types of Work Strategies

There are two types of Workplace Strategies: occasional and formal. Occasional refers to one-time or intermittent short-term requests. Formal arrangements require some type of change in when and/or where someone works on a regular basis. 

 Occasional or temporary flexible arrangements do not require formal documentation. They can be initiated by managers or individual employees, but require approval from the manager and expectations should be clearly set.

Remote Work (Telecommuting)

A type of Workplace Strategy where work is performed from any approved location other than a traditional, employer-designated place of work (e.g., on campus) for a portion of work time. An example would be an employee who works from a home office 1 day per week.

Hybrid (steady/annual schedule)

A type of Workplace Strategy where work is performed partially in-person and partially remote (e.g., weekly schedule of three days in-person and two days remote).

Hybrid (tailored/seasonal)

A type of Workplace Strategy that incorporates a Seasonal Arrangement where the on-site and remote schedules fluctuate based on the nature of the work and the time of year (e.g., student facing roles where more in-person work is required during the academic year).

Primarily Remote

A type of Workplace Strategy where work is performed from a remote location and in-person presence is only occasional or “as needed.”


A type of Workplace Strategy that provides an employee and their manager greater latitude in determining their work schedule beyond standard business hours, or the ability to change work schedules from one week to the next depending on the needs of the operation or personal needs of the employee. Under a flextime arrangement, an employee might be required to work a standard number of core hours within a specified period but have the discretion to work the rest of their required hours at other points during their workday. For example, employees may be required to be in-person from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and allowed to work the rest of their shift for the day outside of the core hours. Flextime does not alter the total number of standard work hours required in a workweek.

Compressed Workweek

A type of Workplace Strategy where employees work longer daily hours over fewer workdays (e.g., instead of working five eight-hour days per week, employees might work four ten-hour days per week).


A work schedule of at least 18.75 hours per week, but fewer than 37.5 hours per week is considered part-time and may have prorated vacation, holiday, and sick time. Employees who work fewer than 18.75 hours per week are not benefits eligible. Refer to Section 2.2 of the Staff Handbook.

Job Sharing

A type of Workplace Strategy where the responsibilities of one full-time position are shared by two employees. Job sharing differs from part-time work in that job share partners are expected to be interchangeable in work assignments and represent a single employee in all respects. The job-sharing participants each work a minimum of 18.75 hours a week and receive part-time benefits.

Seasonal Arrangement

The use of one or more Workplace Strategies during a certain season or time of year, such as during the summer or during breaks between academic terms.

Transition To/From Leave

A work schedule that allows employees who are about to go on leave or who are returning from leave to utilize flextime, remote work or other workplace strategies before or after their leave.


Managers are key to ensuring that Workplace Strategies allow their teams to thrive.

Create an equitable process

  • All roles can and should be viewed through a Workplace Strategies lens but not every Workplace Strategy will be job appropriate, operationally viable and/or legally compliant for each role.
  • It is important to acknowledge that each person has their own needs and experience that should be understood. However, approaching Workplace Strategies in an equitable manner means that the process of evaluating Workplace Strategies for each role should be consistent, transparent, and based on business needs, NOT that every role can or should be able to utilize every type of Workplace Strategy. Different employees will and should utilize different forms of Workplace Strategies and those Workplace Strategies may change over time.
  • Be sure to take into account:
    • The specific nature of the employee’s role: If the employee has to be on-site regularly because they’re in say, a role that requires them to do on-site bench work in the lab or their role involves greeting visitors at a front desk, then remote work may not be appropriate for that person because they will be unable to carry out the work they were hired to do. But there may be a convincing business case for this employee to utilize another Workplace Strategy such as a flex time schedule that allows them to start and end their day earlier.
    • The role’s responsibilities and goals.
    • How, where and when those responsibilities must be fulfilled and those goals met.
    • Whether or not the Workplace Strategy(ies) would create more work for other colleagues or stakeholders.
    • Any specific School/Unit restrictions. Note that the Workplace Strategies policy does not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
    • The Fair Labor Standards Act, which regulates overtime, minimum wage and the like. Non-exempt employees can propose and utilize a Workplace Strategy(ies) but they cannot work over their established hours without being paid overtime. Any Workplace Strategy utilized by non-exempt employees should not result in overtime work.
    • Newly implemented Workplace Strategies should begin with a 30–90-day trial period to assess feasibility. Managers should review and assess the Workplace Strategies regularly during the trial period to ensure they fully support academic and business needs and, if necessary, adapt these strategies accordingly.

Focus on clear, mutually agreed upon expectations

  • Research shows that employees do best when they have a sense of control over how, when and where they do their work. As a manager, strive to partner with your employees in designing and implementing their Workplace Strategies and to give them autonomy within clearly articulated guidelines.
  • Establish mutually agreed upon expectations regarding work outcomes, communication and interaction between you and the employee and between the employee and others.
  • Keep the focus on the outcomes and results, not on where and when work is performed, and evaluate success according to agreed upon measures.

Communication and trust

  • Establish clear communication norms and processes as a team for both in-person and remote interactions.
    • Consider utilizing this user manual exercise.
    • Jointly identify and address tasks or processes that are redundant or could be automated.
    • Establish a buddy system so that if one person is unavailable the buddy can step in.
    • When on-boarding a new team member, make sure they have one or more “go-to” team members with whom they can meet on-site as well as virtually during their first weeks.
    • Encourage team members to set up 1:1s with each other and with others across the university and facilitate those connections if needed. 
    • If you must host a hybrid meeting because some staff are remote at that time, then be sure to include those remote colleagues via Zoom or Teams. Position a camera so that those onsite are visible to those on screen. Some teams have successfully included remote members by having all on-site colleagues in the same room while also being on Zoom on individual laptops and dialing into the Zoom room as a group on a single phone. However you structure such hybrid meetings, encourage all team members to use Chat as an additional way of contributing to the conversation, particularly if they’re more comfortable sharing thoughts via the written rather than the spoken word.
    • For hybrid teams, discuss how best both on-site and off-site workspaces support individual and team responsibilities and goals. For example, you may agree to prioritize collaborative work on days when members are on-site and to prioritize tasks requiring individual focus (particularly deep work) on days off-site.
    • Make sure synchronous meetings are interactive and shift status updates to digital communication tools like Teams. Share agendas and documents in advance and address any accessibility needs.
    • Maintain regular contact with your team members, particularly those working remotely. This contact should include scheduled 1:1 meetings, as well as informal check ins on both the work and the individual’s well-being.
    • When you meet, ask:
      • How are you doing/feeling right now?
      • What is one thing I could do to help you?
      • How connected do you feel with the rest of the team/unit?
    • Provide clear, consistent, honest and productive feedback often. 
    • Always ask (do not assume) and remember the Northwestern formula for managers: Listen, Learn, Reflect, Respond.

Team workplace strategy documentation

  • Teams seeking to propose an Workplace Strategy that differs from or adds to their School/Unit Workplace Strategy guidance should complete and submit this form to their school/unit leaders or designee.

Utilize the University’s collaborative tools

Northwestern IT offers a variety of digital tools that support collaboration and communication among teams, whether those teams are remote, hybrid or fully on-site.

 These tools include:

  In addition to general technology support, all employees can access related online courses and playlists featuring related videos, articles, books and more through myHR Learn.

Support team well-being

  • Understand the critical importance of supporting your team’s well-being by watching the Supporting Staff Well-being webinar, part of the Managing the Employee Lifecycle on-demand video series
  • Lead with empathy and openness. Use the L2R2 model to ensure that you’re creating open dialogue
  • Tips for Managing Employee Burnout
  • Take a holistic approach and model and promote well-being for your team. 
  • Support boundary setting
    • Establish a standardized default time zone and core hours for team meetings and interaction.
    • Try not to send emails during non-work times or consider using Delay Send.
    • Set up clear on-site team/unit times.
    • Consider email and/or meeting-free hours/days so that team members can better engage in deep work.
    • Schedule slightly shorter Zoom/Teams meetings to build in transition time between back-to-back meetings (eg., 10:05-10:50 instead of 10-11 AM). Determine preferred communications for different types of messages and the expected response times for colleagues and for stakeholders.
    • Consider walking in-person or audio meetings for those meetings not requiring notes and documents

Additional resources for managers

Contact to request a Workplace Strategies consultation for you or for your team.

Individual Contributors

Individual contributors may propose utilizing one or more relevant workplace strategies beyond or instead of team or school/unit-wide workplace strategies, within the context of their School/Unit-specific guidance. Approval comes from managers and senior School/Unit leaders (or their designee).

Some questions to consider

  • How well do you communicate with your manager, co-workers, stakeholders and clients?
  • How comfortable are you working independently without much in-person supervision?
  • How comfortable are you with any necessary technology?
  • If you will be working off-site regularly:
    • How is your remote office set up? Are you able to be productive, safe and healthy there?
    • What files/documents do you need access to?
    • In the case of emergency or “unscheduled” telework, what will you need to have available at all times at your remote site in order to fulfill your responsibilities without returning to campus to retrieve materials?
    • Who on your team might serve as your backup on campus?
  • If you have caregiving responsibilities, have you been able to structure your dependent care arrangements so you can accomplish your work according to your manager’s expectations?
  • Regardless of the Workplace Strategy(ies) you may be using, can you be flexible in responding to the needs of your manager, team, and unit?

Creating an effective individual workplace strategies proposal

Utilize the University’s collaborative tools

Northwestern IT offers a variety of digital tools that support collaboration and communication among teams, whether those teams are remote, hybrid or fully on-site.

 These tools include:

  In addition to general technology support, all employees can access related online courses and playlists featuring related videos, articles, books and more through myHR Learn.

Additional resources for individual contributors

Contact to request a Workplace Strategies consultation.

Green Home Certification

  • Workplace Strategies often allow one to reduce one’s impact on the natural world. The sustainNU Green Home Certification program provides resources and ideas to make your space greener and healthier. You can certify your home or apartment with your roommate, family, or on your own. In no time, you’ll be on your way to saving money, brightening your physical space, and fostering well-being at home.