Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs)


Columbia University is committed to excellence in all of its operations and recognizes that flexibility is sometimes an important strategy to meet both the academic and business objectives of its schools and departments. The University also appreciates that Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) may enhance employee well-being and quality of life and therefore offers FWAs to many of its employees.

FWAs can positively impact the operations of schools and departments by potentially allowing for expanded operating hours, streamlining processes through increased use of technology, and enabling leaders to reduce or reallocate office space.  Flexible Work Arrangements support the University’s Sustainability Plan and its subsequent commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commute travel and peak-hour congestion as a result of University operations.

This policy pertains to full- or regular part-time Officers of Administration, and Officers of the Libraries, as well as Non-Union Support Staff. As officers of instruction have considerable flexibility in setting their work schedules, including determining when and where to work on and off campus, this policy does not apply to them. Officers of Research should contact the Office of the Provost for direction regarding Flexible Work Arrangements. For union-represented employees, the school or department must consult with and obtain approval from Labor Relations.

All Columbia University full- or regular part-time Officers of Administration, Officers of the Libraries, and Non-Union Support Staff should review and understand this policy. All local HR administrators, academic department administrators, and managers should review and understand this policy, as well as be familiar with the timekeeping and attendance guidelines on the HR Manager Toolkit.

What are Flexible Work Arrangements?  

Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA) are an alternative to the standard practices in a school or department for where, how, and when work is done. FWAs are not Medical Accommodations. nor are they a substitute for other requests such as FMLA or PFL to care for a family member. For information regarding medical accommodations please contact the Office of Leave Management at [email protected].

Schools and departments—“Units”-- at Columbia have varying requirements for the number of days employees must be on site, as well as requirements for an employee’s daily start and end times. These requirements may also vary within a unit based on an employee’s role. These requirements are subject to change at any time, based on a department’s business needs. This combination of working both on and off-campus is considered the “Unit’s Hybrid Schedule.”  Any variation to a “Unit’s Hybrid Schedule” that is proposed by an employee or their manager is considered a Flexible Work Arrangement. Note that this policy does not address Fully Remote Work Arrangements, which will be addressed in a forthcoming policy.

FWA Guiding Principles

  • When reviewing a request for an FWA, managers should first consider the operational needs of the department and the employee’s job function.
  • The job should be performed as well as or better than the prior arrangement; having a net-neutral or net-positive effect.
  • The process for evaluating FWA requests must be transparent, fair, and equitable.
  • FWAs must be evaluated at regular intervals (at least once a year) and employees and managers should remain flexible if job requirements change.
  • FWAs are a privilege that may be granted under appropriate circumstances to individuals whose job responsibilities are suited to such an arrangement.
  • An effort should be made to maintain and support teamwork, through special opportunities for unit members to have shared hours and constructive interactions.


  • Partially Remote Work Options that Differ from a Unit’s Hybrid Schedule (formerly called Telecommuting)
  • Flextime
  • Compressed Work Schedule
  • Seasonal Arrangement
  • Job Sharing
  • Nine, Ten or Eleven-Month Appointments

Partially Remote Flexible Work Arrangements (formerly called Telecommuting)  

A partially remote FWA is an agreement between the employee and their manager to work from a location other than their standard University location for more days per week than the unit’s standard schedule (including hybrid schedules). The number of days an employee may work remotely may vary from one to four days.  For examples, please refer to the FWA Guidelines.


Flextime is a regular five day/seven hour work schedule that has alternative start and end times relative to the standard start and end times of an employee’s unit. Flextime can apply to those working full-time or part-time, working on campus, or partially remote and can be applied to any number of days per week (from one to five). A flextime schedule does not change the length of the work day, but simply shifts the start and end times. For example, an employee may work 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Please review the Standard Work Week and Hours policy for more information.

Compressed Work Schedule

A compressed work schedule is a 35-hour week that is condensed into fewer than five days per week. Examples of this may include working four 8.75 hour days each week with the fifth day off, or eight 7.75 hour days and one 8 hour day with one day off in every two week period. This type of schedule has limited benefits except in a clinical setting or settings requiring extended front office coverage because it may allow for longer operational hours each day. Most officer roles are not well-suited for compressed work as the expectation is that Officers of Administration work until their tasks are completed. Anyone who manages others is expected to be available to their team during regular business hours. Therefore, it would be unusual for a Compressed Work Week to be approved for Officers except in the roles cited above.

Note that paid time off for individuals working a compressed schedule has to be managed in hours. Please see the Compressed Work Schedule Guide for more details.

Seasonal Arrangement

A seasonal arrangement is one that is based on the cyclical change in operational needs of a school or department based on the season. For example, an employee who performs a student-facing job function may request to work partially remote for a period of time over the summer, when there are fewer students on campus.

Job Sharing

Job sharing is when the responsibilities of a single full-time job are shared by two part-time employees. In this scenario, the two employees would together fulfill all responsibilities related to the role and function as a singular unit. Please note that this arrangement will necessitate two part-time jobs. If someone is shifting from a full-time to a part-time role their benefits may be impacted.

Nine, Ten, and Eleven Month Appointments

A nine-, ten-, or eleven-month position is a full-time position where employees receive a pro-rated salary paid over a 12-month period, and time away from work must be taken in 30-day increments (but not necessarily consecutive months). Officers of Administration, Officers of the Libraries, or Non-Union Support Staff members in a regular full-time position may apply for this program. Please see complete details here.

A Note Regarding Employees Enrolled in Classes

An employee who wishes to attend classes scheduled to take place during their regular work hours/days must request a Flexible Work Arrangement for the relevant semester.  Acceptance into a class or program does not automatically grant employees the right to attend class during their regular work hours. The employee needs to seek approval from their manager for their plan in advance, so that the manager is aware of the potential schedule change. However, managers are encouraged to provide as much flexibility as possible to the employee in these circumstances.


To request a Flexible Work Arrangement, an employee should first schedule a meeting with their manager to discuss a draft of their proposal and then finalize and submit the FWA proposal form after their conversation. Both the employee proposing the arrangement and the manager reviewing it should be familiar with the guidelines located here. Each FWA proposal goes through the same process, as described below, and is evaluated on its own merits.

  1. The employee should carefully review this policy as well as their job description. They should be prepared to answer questions on how such an arrangement would affect service delivery, deadlines, etc.
  2. The employee should complete the Flexible Work Arrangement Proposal Form and prepare a clear, realistic request that includes a strong business rationale for the arrangement. The written proposal provides the basis for discussion between the manager and the employee.
  3. The employee and their manager meet to discuss the proposal. The employee modifies the proposal after the discussion, if necessary.
  4. The employee submits the final draft of the proposal to their manager.
  5. The manager then consults with their unit head and local HR representative to review the proposal. Local HR will make the final approval determination.
  6. If the FWA is approved, the employee works with their manager to develop an implementation plan.
  7. The employee and the manager each keep a copy of the final approved request for their records.

All FWAs must be reviewed and reapproved at least annually, and are subject to re-evaluation if business conditions change or issues with job performance are identified.

An initial Flexible Work Arrangement will be no longer than three months as a trial period. After this initial trial, the arrangement must be evaluated and at that point can be put in place with a new review period not to exceed twelve months. There should also be regular check-ins throughout the period so that any needed adjustments can be made. It should also be understood that FWAs are subject to change, with a recommended 30 days’ notice.

This flexible work arrangement policy pertains to FWAs with a duration of two months or more. Short-term and/or non-recurring FWAs are permitted under this policy as well. Such arrangements do not require that the formal process (see above) be followed, but need to be approved in advance and in writing by the department manager and be supported by the unit head.

Permission to work partially remote is dependent upon the employee having a suitable work location at the off-site premises, and on compliance with the requirements set forth below.

Employees working on a partially remote basis should consult the Remote Work Supplies and Minor Equipment Policy.

Remote work options are not intended to permit employees to have time to work at other jobs or to run their own businesses. In addition, employees are expected to work in a distraction-free environment. Failure to fulfill normal requirements, both qualitative and quantitative, because of other employment may be cause for disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

Equipment such as computers, printers, and software provided on loan by the University, remain the property of the University, and must be returned upon termination of the remote arrangement. Employees must return the equipment in the same condition in which it was originally received, minus normal wear and tear. Employees are personally liable for missing or damaged equipment.


The University assumes no liability for injuries occurring in the employee's home workspace outside of work hours. Should an employee suffer an occupational injury while working remotely, please refer to the University’s Workers Compensation Policy.