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Negotiating a Flexible Schedule

Many HUCTW staff members across Harvard negotiate flexible work schedules and work-from-home arrangements with their supervisors. This is supported and encouraged by the Harvard-HUCTW contract. Below is the language on flexibility from the Harvard-HUCTW Agreement, including examples of flex schedules. Below that is language on unpaid meal time from the Harvard-HUCTW Personnel Manual (some members use their unpaid meal break to shape their flexible schedule arrangements).

An HUCTW organizer can help you strategize confidentially about how to approach your supervisor about a flexible work or working from home (telework) proposal. Flexible schedule and telework requests may not be unreasonably denied.


A truly flexible work environment balances the needs of the individual and the operational needs of the work unit, department or school. Harvard University is a diverse institution where a wide variety of activities support its teaching and research. In order to support the many diverse activities of the University, a high degree of flexibility for supervisors and for employees is required. Moreover, that flexibility fosters opportunities for creative growth, development and work life balance of the employees who support these many activities. Each employee brings to the workplace unique skills, needs, and aspirations. Staff members’ needs for flexibility include but are not limited to education, dependent care (including child and eldercare), and commuting concerns. Both the University and the employee work better when it is possible to accommodate this mutual need for flexibility. Therefore, as the University conducts its day-to-day business, flexibility should be considered in the application of the policies in this Manual.

In order to promote flexibility in the workplace, supervisors should discuss with employees their need for a flexible work arrangement with early, open, and ongoing communication. Requests should be considered and not unreasonably denied. Open communication about flexibility requests provides opportunities to explore ways to accomplish the work of the department while recognizing the personal styles, needs, work life balance and career goals of each employee.

If a requested flexible schedule arrangement cannot be reached between an employee and supervisor, the request will be explored further in consultation with the human resources department and HUCTW. If an agreement cannot be reached, the employee will be given a reason for the decision.

Within the context of commitment to the successful operation of the local workplace, flexible arrangements and changes to existing flexible arrangements may be appropriate. If a proposed change will have a significant effect on any employee in the local unit, every effort will be made to review the flexible schedule arrangement to ensure that the needs of the individual and work unit are met.

Flexible Schedule Options

An employee with a flexible schedule works hours that differ from a traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, or from the hours worked by other employees in her/his department.

Job Sharing

Typically this is an arrangement where two people fill regular part-time jobs and share the responsibilities of one regular full-time position, or one plus a fraction of a second position (e.g., each person works a total of three days per week.) When a person job shares, that person is part of a team; i.e., two people share one job and are both responsible for the satisfactory performance of the job.

Compressed Work Week

A staff member’s total weekly hours may be condensed into fewer work days: for instance, rather than work a five day week, the staff member can work more hours per day in fewer days (e.g., a 35 hour/week employee could work four days of 8.75 hours each).

Alternative Work Week

A schedule which is different than the standard Monday through Friday work week; for instance a work week could span different days such as Tuesday through Saturday.

Daily Flexible Schedule

An employee sets her/his own work hours, in consultation with a manager, and considering the core hours or operational needs of the work unit or department (e.g., an employee whose regular schedule is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. may work instead 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Reduced Hours/Part-Time

An employee reduces hours for a temporary or seasonal period of time, or as a permanent change (e.g., reducing to 80% from 100% FTE for a specified period of time).

Telecommuting and Remote Work

An employee works at home or another off-site location for a specified number of hours per week. Alternatively, an employee has no office/physical space in Harvard facilities, and conducts all work from home or on the road, either temporarily or permanently.

Work Redesign

In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to implement a collaborative work design effort when developing flexible schedules in a work unit, department or school. Contact HUCTW or consult Agreement (Article I) regarding work redesign projects.

Joint Working Group on Flexibility

The University and HUCTW have agreed that workplace flexibility is deeply valuable, both for the individual and for the work unit.
In order to carry out further exploration of workplace flexibility, the Union and University will form a joint working group on flexibility. The working group will be composed of an equal number of Union and University representatives. The working group will assess the current staff experience across the schools in regards to flexibility, review the range of resources available, and coordinate training and education about flexibility among staff and supervisors. At the end of the 2015- 2018 Agreement, the working group may provide recommendations to HUCTW and University leadership on strategies for promoting flexible work arrangements across the University.

(Excerpt above from the Harvard-HUCTW Agreement, pages 17-19)


  1. Employees working six or more hours in any work day are entitled to a one-hour unpaid meal period. Employees are neither required to take such meal period nor can they be required to forgo it. Employees and supervisors should seek to accommodate their mutual needs in regard to meal periods. Employees cannot forgo the unpaid meal hour in order to accrue overtime or banked time without prior approval by her/his supervisor.
  2. The scheduling of the meal hour will be worked out by mutual agreement between the supervisor and employee consistent with the needs of the workplace.
  3. The unpaid meal hour can be used to create a flexible schedule when discussed and mutually agreed to in advance between the supervisor and employee.
  4. The unpaid meal hour is separate from the common practice at Harvard of taking informal breaks during the work day.

(Excerpt from the Harvard-HUCTW Personnel Manual, page 12)

An HUCTW organizer can help you strategize confidentially about how to approach your supervisor about a flexible work arrangement. If you are interested in working from home (telework), you may also want to watch the video recording of our June 6, 2017 panel discussion on working from home.