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Resources for Flexible Work Arrangements

Keep connected, productive and engaged with the following resources and tools to support your flexible work arrangements.

Image for healthy and productive work from home

Staying connected and engaged

Review curated content on the following topics to set yourself up for success in a hybrid work environment.

Since a lot of time will be spent working in a home office, employees must make sure it’s a comfortable, healthy and safe environment. The main criteria for a home-based office are comfort, function, health, safety, accessibility, and privacy for disturbance-free professionalism.

Please designate an adequate and separate workstation in your home and ensure satisfactory safety at your home office.  To help ensure your safety at home, the Home Workspace Self-Assessment Safety Checklist is required. Please review this short video on how to ensure your home office is setup ergonomically. Additional McMaster Resources for Working Remotely are available online.

Aside from equipment supplied by McMaster (for example laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, as applicable, depending on the nature of work), an employee is expected to use their own equipment in establishing the home office, and they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of that equipment. Any equipment purchased by the employee and reimbursed by McMaster, or supplied by McMaster, will remain the property of the University. McMaster will not be responsible for any costs that are associated with the employee using their home as an alternative worksite; for example, home maintenance, insurance, internet or telephone connection, or utilities.

Some employee groups have allowances available that may be used towards some of these expenditures, as outlined in respective policies. Employees are encouraged to review the policies to determine eligibility.

Employees will be required to return all equipment supplied by McMaster, should they leave the University.

Equipment and Electronics

Avoid dangerous electrical practices such as overloading circuits or modifying three-prong plugs to fit two-prong outlets. There is also a risk of data loss without suitable power circuitry and surge protection to guard electronic equipment from power surges and blackouts.

When you arrange your home office workspace, locate equipment so that you don’t have power cords and telephone lines trailing across the floor and creating hazards.

If you must move the equipment around, do it carefully so you don’t hurt yourself – or damage your equipment. Remember that not all components of your office needs to be in the same room, or space, as long as everything is conveniently located.

Communications Tools

Maintaining communication is an integral part of a successful flexible work arrangement. Employees must consider the importance of tools such as voicemail, email, electronic calendar, laptop computers, remote internet access, shared electronic folders and files, flash drives, and cell phones, and ensure you know how to use them. Seek assistance from University Technology Services early on in the process for assistance with equipment or networking needs. Where possible, meetings should have virtual attendance options available that you can request in advance.

McMaster University offers Microsoft Office 365 at no charge to students, staff, and faculty, and includes access to leading productivity and collaboration tools for everyone in the community. One such tool within O365 is Teams. Teams has the potential to optimize communication between staff, faculty and various teams. Groups can organize and create teams to have a central location to discuss projects, host virtual meetings, and share documents in a place that everyone can access.

It will also be important to be aware of the “contact tree” for emergency and contingency planning for your area through your supervisor or department head.

Other Tools and Resources

Speak with your supervisor about other tools and resources that will assist you in performing the required job duties including:

  • Phone to email service
  • Application to link VOIP phones to laptops –
  • Automatic Response/Out of office reply for email if applicable
  • Automatic Response/Out of office for phone and voicemail, if applicable

 Secure Storage

If you work with confidential information at your home office, you need to ensure that you have secure storage to protect this material and reduce the risk of loss to the university.

The above information and area offices responsible can be accessed using the following links:

Review current McMaster meeting guidance to decide if your meeting should be an in person, hybrid or virtual meeting.

Other considerations:

Resources and reading:

Support your development by working through these LinkedIn Learning courses/videos.

Start with:

Health and well-being topics:

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning is available free for all McMaster students, faculty and staff. Many of the learning opportunities can be completed at your own pace and there is a wealth of options available to you. Some courses to consider are:

  • Develop Essential Skills to Manage in a Hybrid Workplace
    • Learning Path, December 2021
    • 4 hours, 42 minutes
  • How to be an Effective Remote Manager
    • By: Madecraft and Mitch Simon, June 2021
    • 1 hour, 9 minutes
  • Managing Skills for Remote Leaders
    • By: Madecraft and Mary Jean Vignone, March 2021
    • 1 hour, 12 minutes
  • Building Relationships While Working from Home
    • By: Dave Crenshaw, Sept 2020
    • 22 minutes
  • Managing Virtual Teams
    • By: Phil Gold, May 2019
    • 56 minutes

DeGroote Executive Management Program (EMP)

EMP courses are available to employees in TMG, are discounted for employees and can be paid for using your MPDA. Most courses are one day of learning, broken up into two half-day sessions. Completing five courses also provides a Certificate of Completion, with the opportunity for a specialization, depending on the courses you take. Signup is easy and can be done by connecting with Lynn Petruzzella – Some courses to consider are:

W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology – Industry Operations Leadership & Management Program

The Industry Operations Leadership & Management (IOLM) Program is an adaptable, modular, practical, applied program aimed at managers and supervisors in industry. An industry-first driven approach will enable candidates to learn directly from leaders in industry as well as academic instructors, to derive relevant, real-world insights and capabilities to drive transition and scale of their own industry business units.

This McMaster University Professional Certificate Program will inform, educate, mentor, and practically assess critical competencies needed to transform, sustain, and scale industry 4.0 operations. The IOLM Program is designed to be flexible and adaptable to meet specific individual & business needs.

The Program consists of five Industry-specific certification courses – Industry Operations Leadership Fundamentals, Tactical Planning & Execution, Industry Business Unit Operations, Advanced Leadership Skills, Advanced Operations Skills.

For Supervisors

Issue Possible solution
You can’t track how much time your employees spend on the job if they don’t work in the same location during the same hours as you do. Flexible work arrangements imply managing by watching the results – that employees are completing their tasks on time and the quality meets expectations – not by watching them doing their work. It demonstrates employee trust and supports empowerment. Set standards and expectations with all employees, not just those using flexible work options.
The employee’s job can’t support a flexible work arrangement. Make sure you seek advice from HR and your supervisor/Director or AVP when needed. After consideration and discussion with the employee and others in the work unit, provide clear and specific rationale for the decision. On the whole, try to be open to all requests. When the request just isn’t feasible, show your willingness to support something else that works for both you and the employee.
You become aware that a flex time employee is not adhering to early start or late finish times. Perceived inequity can lead to morale issues within and across teams. The manager must speak to the employee immediately to understand what is happening from their perspective, and consider ways to address this. It may be as simple as confirming an understanding and agreement about hours of work or adjusting the work schedule to times that work better for both. Addressing issues clearly and promptly is the most effective way to ensure issues don’t linger. Please see the GROW model for tips on initiating this conversation.
You want to keep track of how the arrangement works out. Regular review intervals should take place to present an opportunity to discuss concerns, assess progress and plan for the future. Reviews should happen at least annually, but more frequently (quarterly, semi-annually) is preferred. You should agree with the employee in advance on a means of measuring or assessing performance under the flexible work arrangement agreement. The performance expectations should be the same as those that apply to other employees with the same duties.

Check out the University Technology Services (UTS) website to find the following:

The DO’s:

  • Trust your flex workers.
  • Focus on your management/leadership skills and manage by objectives and results, building strong trusting relationships and empowering employees.
  • Outline how success/performance will be measured. Set clear expectations and clear, measurable objectives.
  • Set core hours based on operational requirements and communicate service standards and expectations to employees.
  • Communicate on a regular basis. Let the flex workers know your expectations and that you’re there for them.
  • Establish standards for communications within workgroups; schedule regular updates with employees both individually/team; identify methods and frequency for communication.
  • Provide regular feedback
  • Include your flex worker in goal setting.
  • Delegate assignments fairly among all employees.
  • Include the flex workers in day-to-day activities; keep on the lookout for clues that a flexible worker is feeling isolated.
  • Expect that things will not go smoothly all the time. Consider opportunities for learning and debriefs with the team to help with continuous improvement and communication.
  • Be prepared to let the employee adjust or cancel the arrangement – or look to discuss to adjust or cancel it yourself – if it is clearly not working in its current form. Document and discuss issues and attempt to address them before making this determination.
  • Ensure flex worker has regular “in office” time or meetings to maintain ties. Consider other opportunities for connection and culture building.

The DON’Ts:

  • Don’t just say no to a flexible work proposal – review it with the requester and give clear feedback if you are denying it, or modify if there’s an opportunity for an acceptable compromise.
  • Don’t just check up on your flex worker, e.g., calling early in the morning to make sure they are at work.
  • Check-in instead! See how things are going and if they need any support. Don’t ignore your flexible work workers.
  • Don’t allow one unsuccessful attempt to give flex work a bad name.
  • Don’t expect everyone to want to be a flex worker.

Please visit the templates webpage for the fillable template documents.

For Employees

Issue Possible solution
You are concerned that your supervisor will turn down your request. Once you know what you want, take the time to explore the impact such an arrangement could have on your work unit. Talk to co-workers and think it through for yourself. Use information contained in this guide to assess yourself and your interests. By being prepared, you are demonstrating the responsibility needed to support successful flexible work arrangements.
Your supervisor turns down all or part of your request. Ask for reasons if they are not provided. Try to address specific issues raised, and perhaps modify your request. Be open for discussion and some compromise. Be open to the possibility that such an arrangement may not work for your job or work unit at this time, depending on the nature of your role.
You are not sure if a flexible work arrangement is worth all the work it requires to put it in place. Most flex workers wish they had done it earlier, and find they focus better on their job and are more productive. A trial period allows you to test out whether it is worth it for you and adjust for any changes that would benefit you and your work unit.


Coordination of work


Issue Possible solution
Co-workers express reservations about your work arrangements. Begin by recognizing your co-workers’ contributions to making your arrangement work. Recognize that you have to be flexible yourself for others to be flexible in helping to establish these arrangements. It may be necessary to come to key meetings on remote workdays or times when there are scheduling conflicts. You can also gain support within your work unit by asking co-workers for their opinion. Listen to the feedback, both positive and negative. Find ways to address concerns and discuss what modifications you can make to work around these issues.
Co-workers tell you they don’t know your schedule. Stay in touch with your colleagues. Post your schedule in a place where others will see it or where they can find it easily. A shared electronic calendar is a great way to keep each other informed. 

The DO’s:

  • Value your flexible work arrangement and commit to success by meeting the expectations outlined by your supervisor.
  • Take the time to explore how your flexible work arrangement could affect your work and be prepared.
  • Ask co-workers for their opinion to gain support on your work arrangement – whether it’s a team or individual request.
  • If not all parts of your request for a flexible work arrangement are approved, modify your request.
  • Stay in touch with your colleagues and communicate your schedule through tools such as outlook calendar, voicemail, email, or Microsoft Teams.
  • Be flexible in helping to establish your colleague’s work arrangements.
  • Communicate regularly on how the arrangement is going with your supervisor.
  • Cancel or revisit the arrangement if it is not meeting your needs.
  • Employees are responsible for informing individuals who set up meetings of work schedule and ensure calendar is up to date.
  • Remember that flexible work arrangements are a privilege.

The DON’Ts:

  • Shift your schedule daily without communicating to your team and manager.
  • Cancel important meetings scheduled on your work from home day.
  • Notify your manager of a need to work from home on short notice.
  • Don’t expect perfection – allow adjustment.

Health and safety considerations must be reviewed prior to determining whether a flexible work arrangement is appropriate. If all parties agree to a flexible work arrangement, the health and safety checklist must be completed and included as part of the written agreement about the arrangement.

McMaster is committed to creating a healthy and safe work environment for everyone that works, studies or visits the campus. This commitment and duty also extends to university employees who work from home. Employees are responsible for setting up an appropriate work environment within their home, which provides the same level of safety and security as the regular work office.

Please review this short video on how to ensure your home office is setup ergonomically.

Workplace Injuries

When an employee is injured while working from home, they must comply with the normal reporting requirements for any work-related accident as outlined in the reporting procedures. Employees should first treat or seek treatment for the injury, and then report the injury to their supervisor, just as they would if they were injured at the office through the Injury/Illness Report. Please reference RMM 1000 Reporting and Investigating Injury/Incident/Occupational Disease for more information.

McMaster is not responsible and assumes no liability for any injuries to family members, visitors, and others in the employee’s home.

Workplace Violence

Employees with flexible work arrangements are subject to all of the same policies and procedures and expected standards of conduct as all other McMaster employees, including Violence in the Workplace Policy.

Threats or incidents of workplace violence should be reported to the supervisor, a person in authority or Security and Parking Services. The University has an established Accident/Incident form that employees are required to fill out in conjunction with their supervisor for any Health and Safety related issue. If you ever have an immediate fear for your safety while working remotely, call the police at 911. For on-campus safety matters, it is recommended that community members download the McMaster Safety App or contact McMaster Security Services.

Meeting Visitors

For health and safety reasons, employees cannot have work meetings with clients or others in their homes. This restriction needs to be included in working at home (flexible work arrangements) agreements.

Productivity and well-being best practises

For productive meetings McMaster meeting guidance

  • Consider timing: Book meetings for 20 minutes instead of half an hour and 50 minutes rather than a full hour to give time for people to stretch or have transition time between meetings. Wherever possible, try to keep Friday afternoons free of meetings to allow time for focused and uninterrupted work and preparation for the following week.
  • Be purposeful: Consider if a meeting is required or if there are other ways of sharing information or getting input. Consider phone calls rather than video calls so people are freer to move around and can have some time away from their computer screen.
  • Consider attendees: Only invite those who need to be at the meeting.
  • Set an agenda: Have a meeting agenda with time designated for each topic so the agenda can be completed on time.

To manage your workload

  • Consider ways to lighten workload, rethink due dates where possible.
  • Prioritize your work. Gain clarity with colleagues and supervisors about urgent or must do work vs. nice to do assignments and projects that can be deferred for a while. Treating every task as critical can lead to overwork and feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Respect your time and the time of your colleagues and co-workers. Remember that each person you interact with may also be under pressure to work under tight timelines.
  • Schedule blocks of work time in your calendar to allow for planning and uninterrupted time to focus on assignments.
  • Block a lunch break on your calendar and note time needed for family obligations.
  • Consider Microsoft teams or other tools/systems to help workflow and reduce the need for meetings.

For your well-being