Future of Work@Iowa

Released in March 2021, these preliminary guidelines were designed to inform planning for the fall 2021 semester. They established initial processes governing work-arrangement decisions at the college/division level, including concepts further developed in the final Future of Work report.

Establishing work arrangements—including work locations and schedules—is a central step in every employee appointment. Technology, market trends, and the experience of the pandemic allow us to think more broadly about effective work arrangements and assess more flexible options.

Some functions — including health care delivery and the Carver College of Medicine —require specific arrangements including synchronous, on-site work. They are beyond the scope of these guidelines. 

Please click here for information specific to Faculty

Developing the Workplace of Tomorrow

  • Preserve and build on core values of excellence, learning, community, diversity, integrity, respect and responsibility
  • Deliver world-class education, research and health care
  • Ensure equitable, transparent and fair processes
  • Comply with university and Board of Regents policy, and state and federal law
  • Empower local decisions that prioritize business needs while taking into account employee preferences​​​​  

Work Locations

  • On-campus work: Job functions that must be completed or are most effectively completed at an on-campus location. Employees have an assigned workspace at an on-campus site.
  • Remote work: Job functions that can be performed effectively entirely off campus. Employees typically will not have a personal workspace assigned at an on-campus site.
  • Hybrid work: Job functions that can be performed effectively in a combination of on- and off-campus locations. Employees typically have a personal or shared workspace assigned or available to them at an on-campus site.

Work Scheduling

  • Standard schedule: Designated work hours that set typical start and stop times for a unit’s employees. Work may be performed on or off campus.
  • Flexible schedule: Designated work hours that differ from standard unit start and stop times. Work may be performed on or off campus. 

These preliminary guidelines for work arrangements apply to all campus units not engaged in health care delivery.

Scope includes all colleges (excluding the Carver College of Medicine) and administrative units.

  • Faculty/instructors: The Office of the Provost will determine guidelines and expectations for faculty and instructors.
  • Staff: Org-level leaders will determine in-scope job functions eligible for remote/hybrid work, flexible schedules, or other arrangements.  

The Future of Work committee will develop campus-wide policies, procedures and standard definitions for establishing work arrangements. Examples of these items include:

  • Work arrangement policies and process
  • Approval process for employees who request to work outside the state of Iowa
  • Reimbursable items associated with specific work arrangements

University Human Resources will develop best practices, resources and training for supervisors that support a high-quality employee experience. This training will address engagement strategies, supervision for hybrid teams, performance management, etc.

Deans and VPs will manage work arrangements at the org and unit levels based on campus guidelines. In keeping with the university’s budget model, deans and VPs are best positioned to make decisions that support their respective missions.

The Future of Work committee proposes that orgs interested in implementing options for remote work, hybrid work, and/or flexible schedules follow this process and timeline:

Pre-Planning Phase

  • Review these preliminary guidelines.
  • Establish an org-level implementation committee.
  • Develop principles and business rationale for expanding potential work arrangements.
  • Complete initial review of job functions eligible for new or different work arrangements.

March-May 2021

Implementation Phase

  • Refer to campus guidelines for process, plan/agreement templates and methodology.
  • Begin conversations with employees and managers interested in different work arrangements. If work arrangement requests are related to an employee's health condition or disability, consult Faculty and Staff Disability Services.
  • Establish work plans and agreements (employee-specific location and/or schedule arrangements, IT needs, space considerations, etc.).
  • Implement six-month trial with evaluation for each work agreement.

June-August 2021

Pilot Phase

  • Track implementation issues and other items for consideration by campus-wide Work Arrangement Implementation Committee.

Fall 2021

Evaluation Phase

  • Coordinate initial review of new work arrangements with supervisors.
  • How is the arrangement working for the employee?
  • How is it working for the unit?
  • Consider approving arrangements on a 12-month basis, reviewing annually.

Early 2022

Recommended steps for the Pre-Planning Phase include:

  1. Appoint an org-level implementation committee  (members may include executive leaders, senior HR leader for the org, business officer, IT liaison, communication liaison).
  2. Develop org-level principles and criteria in alignment with university guidance.
  3. Develop business rationale to support options for remote work, hybrid work, or flexible schedules (e.g., how these arrangements maintain or enhance quality of services and programs).
  4. Using principles, org criteria and business rationale, identify job functions that may be eligible for remote work, hybrid work or flexible schedules.
  5. Develop evaluation criteria to assess these arrangements.
  6. Apply org-level guidance and frameworks to individual units/departments.
  7. Appoint a liaison to the campus Work Arrangement Implementation Committee (see below).
  8. Work with org communication staff and/or the Office of Strategic Communication to develop a communication plan to convey org-level practices, eligible job functions, etc.

During the Pre-Planning and Implementation phases, a campus Work Arrangement Implementation Committee will ensure coordination, troubleshoot issues, identify best practices, and foster communication. Each college and major administrative unit will appoint a representative to this committee.

Recommendations for the Implementation and Evaluation phases are under development. UHR will develop a reporting mechanism to track work arrangements.

Each employee-specific remote work, hybrid work, or flexible schedule arrangement — including changes to existing arrangements — will require written documentation. Following conversation with the employee, the arrangement must be approved by the employee’s supervisor and org leadership.

Remote or hybrid work is not a substitute for childcare. Departments should afford all employees the flexibility to meet intermittent childcare needs (e.g., during illness, snow days, etc.) but employees requesting remote or hybrid work arrangements are responsible for ensuring ongoing childcare arrangements to allow for uninterrupted work time and focus.

Periodic reviews of work arrangements should be coordinated with supervisors and integrated into the employees’ annual performance evaluations. Existing arrangements for remote work, hybrid work, and flexible schedules also should be reviewed as part of the evaluation process. Any existing arrangements that are not in writing should be documented.

Each new arrangement (or modification to an existing arrangement) should include a trial period of no more than six months. Following initial assessment, arrangements can be renewed up to 12-month intervals.

Either an employee or a supervisor may initiate discussion regarding revisions to work arrangements, including whether an employee should return to on-campus work or to a standard schedule. The employer maintains discretion and will make final decisions based on business needs.

Requests for remote work locations outside the state of Iowa requires additional approvals. Each request will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and should only be made when there is a significant business reason for an individual to perform services outside of Iowa. More information is available from senior HR leaders.

Disability accommodations are the result of a separate process coordinated through Faculty and Staff Disability Services (FSDS). If an employee seeks specific work arrangements related to a health condition or disability, consult FSDS (

Remote or hybrid work arrangements should account for technology requirements. Additional guidance will be provided in the final recommendations but at the outset include but are not limited to the following:

  • Internet: Employees are responsible for providing internet connectivity and bandwidth that allow them to work effectively from remote locations. Technical requirements may vary depending on an employee’s function and the technology required for essential job functions.
  • Standard IT services: The university is responsible for providing standard IT services, technology and training to support remote work.
  • Equipment: Computers and other equipment required to perform the essential functions of the job should be provided by the org/unit unless the employee requests to use personal equipment. Approval for equipment requests should be managed at the unit level.
  • Data security: Employees with access to sensitive data are responsible for maintaining the security of that data while working remotely.
  • Existing policies: All university and departmental IT policies apply in remote, hybrid, or on-campus work situations.

Recognizing the potential for remote work, the university will encourage laptops rather than desktops when new or replacement computers are purchased. Additional guidance will be provided in the final recommendations. 

Remote or hybrid work arrangements should account for the following requirements for healthy working environments.

  • Physical environments: Remote workspaces should be safe, ergonomic and promote employee well-being.
  • Meeting requirements: Effective remote meetings require clear and secure audio/video connections (see technology requirements above). Remote workspaces should be free of potential distractions and allow all meeting participants to focus their attention.

Implications for On-Campus Space Planning

Growth in remote/hybrid work will likely affect on-campus space planning. The university may require new kinds of spaces. On-campus office spaces may become available for other uses. Need for leased space may diminish.

Forthcoming Future of Work recommendations will propose initial steps to evaluate and manage changes to on-campus space related to remote/hybrid work. Decisions must be thoughtful, coordinated, and consistent with existing planning processes.

Development of space-planning policies and processes will continue as orgs implement and pilot plans for remote/hybrid work throughout 2021. We expect a final planning framework during summer 2022.