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A Culture of Care

Read Smith’s plans for the spring 2021 semester.
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Smith College A Culture of Care

Telecommuting/Remote Work

Telecommuting/Remote Work

Staff are expected to work from home until further notice unless they have received notification from their manager that their job responsibilities require them to be on campus. Faculty have the choice to teach their classes remotely or teach on-campus. Managers and their reports should have clear communication regarding the expectations for their work.

Under the temporary remote work policy, employees will perform essentially the same work that they would in their on-campus workplace in accordance with performance expectations and other terms determined by their supervisors. Remote work arrangements may not be feasible in all cases, and requests should not compromise continuity of operations for members of the Smith community and the performance of essential functions of each office and department.

If employees have specific concerns that may prevent them from performing their work on campus, they may contact their Human Resources Business Partner for further direction.

Telework, Telecommuting, Working Remotely

What is telework?

Telework refers to an arrangement where an employee works from home or from another location away from the usual workplace. It is also referred to as telecommuting or working remotely. Depending on the details of the arrangement, telework constitutes either a portion of the employee’s work time or all of it. A telework arrangement can be initiated by an employee’s request or by Smith as a condition of employment. Not all positions are eligible for telework.

Supervisors in collaboration with the Office of Human Resources must determine the feasibility of a proposed telework arrangement before approving it. The feasibility of a proposed telework arrangement should take into account the actual functions of the job, the needs of the employee, and the needs of the team or department. Once approved, the conditions of the arrangement will be documented. 

Types of telework arrangements

The college recognizes two general types of telework arrangements:

Occasional telework: Occasional telework requests are approved on a case-by-case basis, are infrequent, and are not regularly scheduled. Approval must be documented, which can be done by email.

Occasional telework may be used when an employee:

  • Has a personal need at home, such as meeting a service technician that cannot be done outside business hours
  • Has a temporary workplace disruption, such as office remodeling or inclement weather
  • Has other circumstances approved by the supervisor

Regular telework: Regular telework arrangements are for ongoing telework and must be supported by a written agreement that specifies the requirements and details of the arrangement. The arrangement can last for a defined period or can continue indefinitely with regular review.

Telework evaluation process

Supervisors should work with their reports to evaluate requests to telework, considering business needs of the unit, communication, employee’s readiness, prior experience with telework, and the impact of remote work on other team members. Some employees may be better prepared than others to manage the unique requirements of teleworking.

When evaluating a telework request, supervisors should consider whether the employee has a record of satisfactory performance in the workplace, no active formal disciplinary actions on file for the current or immediately preceding review period, prior experience with or preparation for telework, and has demonstrated the ability to:

  • Prioritize work to meet deadlines;
  • Accomplish job duties with minimal supervision;
  • Communicate effectively with clients, stakeholders, and team members; and
  • Manage time effectively.

Supervisors must ensure that telecommuting decisions are made for appropriate, non-discriminatory reasons.

A supervisor may approve telework on a pilot basis. A supervisor should establish a review period after which a decision can be made about whether to continue telework.

Determine supervisor and team preparedness for telework

Before approving a telework request, supervisors and their teams must be prepared to meet objectives after telework commences. Employees working remotely must be managed as effectively managed as their on-site colleagues.

* Note that requirements for in-person attendance can override telework agreements. Supervisors should discuss such instances with the employee (e.g. hands-on training).

Respond to the telework request

Supervisors are responsible for responding to a telework request in writing.

If the request is granted, the response should specify the conditions by which telework is permitted and the date telework will commence. If the request is denied, the supervisor must explain the reasons for denying the request with reference to the factors outlined in the evaluation process.

Document the telework arrangement

The goal of a telework agreement is to ensure that both the employee and supervisor have a shared understanding of the telework arrangement. At a minimum, the agreement should define:

  • A work schedule that specifies telework days, location and hours
  • Required methods of communication specific to telework (e.g. Zoom, phone)
  • The duration of the telework arrangement
  • Responsibility for telework equipment
  • Circumstances requiring on-site attendance

Although supervisors may revise or revoke a telework arrangement at any time, they should provide as much advance notice of a revision or revocation as is practicable under the circumstances.

Note: Consider reviewing the effectiveness of telework arrangements during the performance evaluation process.

Telework-Related Policies and Practices

Both supervisors and employees must understand and comply with the following policies:


Employees who telework must abide by the Code of Conduct and employee handbook expectations. Material violations of this code, of federal, state, or local laws and regulations, or of related college policies and procedures may carry disciplinary consequences up to and including dismissal.

College property and data security

Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that college property is used in compliance with current IT policy. This includes complying with all software licensing agreements. The security and confidentiality of college records must also be maintained. Sensitive data should not be placed on a personal computer or device but instead should be accessed via secure remote access technology.

Use of Leave

Employees cannot use telecommuting in place of sick leave, Family and Medical Leave, Workers’ Compensation leave, or other types of leave. However, the college may determine whether or not it is appropriate to offer telecommuting as an opportunity for partial or full return to work based on the college’s return-to-work policies following an injury or illness and the criteria normally applied to decisions regarding the approval of telework.

Costs of Telework

Supervisors must approve in advance any work-related expenses or reimbursement requests arising from telework. Generally, the college is not obligated to assume financial or legal responsibility for operating costs, home maintenance, or other costs incurred by employees in the use of their homes as telecommuting alternate work locations.

Equipment insurance

College equipment and resources located at an alternate worksite are not automatically insured. Review information about equipment insurance with Information Technology. If departments do not ensure the equipment that will support the telework arrangement, the telework agreement should specify whether the department or the employee bears the risk of loss. The telework agreement should require that the employee immediately report any damage to college equipment.

Overtime eligible employees

For overtime eligible employees, certain activities, such as travel to and from required meetings that occur during scheduled work time, are included as hours worked. For more information, please contact Human Resources.

Workers’ compensation

Teleworking employees are covered by workers’ compensation for job-related injuries that occur in the course and scope of employment. When the telework site is in the home, workers’ compensation covers only injuries that are job related. Employees who work out of state or out of the country in one location for more than 30 days need workers’ compensation coverage specific to that location. Contact the Human Resources and Payroll teams regarding coverage.