Flexible Work Arrangements

Columbia’s Flexible Work Arrangement(FWA) Policy is currently under review. Please consult with your HR Senior Business Partner about proposing or approving a FWA.

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  • Columbia University allows FWAs subject to meeting the needs and operational goals of the department and with the approval of the department manager. 
  • The University has established detailed descriptions of the various FWA options available and  guidelines for initiating, implementing, and managing such arrangements.
  • This policy applies to all officers of administration, officers of the libraries, and non-union support staff of Columbia University.
  • The categories of available FWAs  are:
    • Flextime
    • Telecommuting
    • Nine, Ten, and Eleven-Month Employment Programs 
    • Phased Retirement  
  • The University advises staff that not all tasks are appropriate for FWAs.

Departments will determine whether a staff member will be allowed to participate in a FWA case by case, and in accordance with the needs, requirements, and constraints of both the unit and the employee.


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Types of FWAS

Flextime Guidelines

The following flextime options are available at Columbia University:

  • Fixed starting and departure times
  • Starting and departure times that can vary daily
  • Variations in the length of the workday
  • Compressed work schedules
  • Customized work schedules
  • Part-time work

Requesting Flextime

  • Staff may request a flextime arrangement, or managers may restructure work schedules to create flextime opportunities. 
  • Flextime schedules must be approved in advance by the department.
  • Telecommuting entails regularly working outside of the office (for example, a work-at-home arrangement or a remote-access arrangement) for at least part of the work week.
  • In general, telecommuting is a privilege which managers may grant under appropriate circumstances, to high-performing staff whose job responsibilities are suited to such an arrangement.
  • Telecommuting may be applied to full-time and part-time positions.   

Telecommuting Guidelines
The following guidelines apply to telecommuting arrangements:

  • Develop agreed-upon schedule
  • Remain on-site for meetings, training sessions, or similar events.
  • Maintain a "normal" workload.
  • Use salary continuation or sick leave for illnesses
  • Use vacation or personal leave to be relieved of work responsibility

Requesting a Telecommuting Arrangement

  • Staff may request a telecommuting arrangement, or a manager may restructure a work schedule to create telecommuting. 
  • Telecommuting schedules must be approved in advance by the department and should be put in writing.

For more details on how to request telecommuting arrangements, including the proposal form, and to read the complete telecommuting policy, visit the Human Resources website

  • An Officer of Administration or Officer of the Libraries, or Non-Union Support Staff member, in a regular full-time position may apply for the Nine, Ten, or Eleven-Month Employment Program.
  • Under this program, salary is prorated based on the number of months the employee is scheduled to work. 
    • Employees are paid their salaries on their regular payroll cycles over a 12-month period
    • Full-time employment status and designated benefits continue for eleven month appointments
    • Benefits changes occur for nine and ten month appointments*
    • Vacation benefits and personal days are prorated based on vacation eligibility status.
    • All other Leaves of Absence still apply (i.e. salary continuation-medical leave, parental leave, etc.)
  • This work arrangement may be considered by the department for a new or vacant full-time position.
  • The time away from work must be taken in 30 day increments, but not necessarily consecutive months.
  • Staff on a Nine, Ten or Eleven-Month Employment Program must work the minimum number of days described below, before taking the 30, 60 or 90 day time off period.
    •  Eleven month program: One complete working month
    • Ten month program: Two complete and consecutive working months
    • Nine month program: Three complete and consecutive working months

Once a position has been designated a Nine, Ten, or Eleven-Month position, it cannot be reverted to a regular Twelve Month position:

  • within a year of being filled, if it is a newly created or vacant  position, or
  • within a year of the date of agreement with an incumbent officer.
  • However, a position can be reverted if business or operational needs dictate such a change, as determined by management, with Human Resources approval.

*Staff in an eleven-month employment program maintain full-time employment status and receive regular full-time benefits such as health insurance and vacation. Staff in a nine or ten-month employment program maintain full-time employment status but certain benefits may be modified as per the benefits schedule detailed on the Human Resources website.

Requesting a Nine, Ten, or Eleven Month Arrangement

  • Staff may request a Nine, Ten, and Eleven-Month position or a manager may restructure a work schedule to create a Nine, Ten, and Eleven-Month position. 
  • When operationally feasible, departments may ask to designate a newly created or vacant regular full-time regular position as a Nine, Ten, and Eleven-Month position.
  • The department is responsible for reviewing the request to participate in the Nine, Ten, and Eleven-Month program and determining whether the arrangement is operationally feasible.
  • Staff members should be advised that not all tasks are appropriate for the Nine, Ten or Eleven Month Employment Program. 
  • Departments will determine whether to allow a staff member to participate in a Nine, Ten or Eleven-Month Employment Program on a case by case basis, and in accordance with the needs, requirements, and constraints of both the unit and the staff member.
  • Any Nine, Ten or Eleven-Month Employment Program agreement, or any other FWA, made as a condition of employment, cannot be revoked without approval of the department head and/or Human Resources.

To review the Nine, Ten, & Eleven-Month Employment Program guidelines in their entirety, visit the Human Resources website

  • Officers of administration who are age 55 or over, have completed 10 years of service with the University, and are now contemplating retirement can now explore the possibility of a "phased retirement," in which they gradually decrease their workload instead of going immediately into full retirement.
  • During this period, the officer retains his or her full-time status.
  • Salary and any salary-dependent benefits are prorated to reflect the decreased workload.

Phased Retirement Guidelines
A phased retirement goes into effect according to the terms of written Phased Retirement Agreement, agreed to by the Officer and the department and approved by the Vice President for Human Resources. The Agreement must address the following issues:

  • The effective date of the agreement must be included.
  • The decrease in workload and salary. Agreements typically specify work commitments of one-half, two-thirds, or three-fifths of a full-time schedule (or the equivalent of days per week), although other arrangements may be negotiated.
  • The Officer's eligibility for future merit increases must be addressed in the agreement.
  • The Officer's full retirement date, generally no more than two years after the start of the agreement must also be included.
  • A confidentiality agreement.

Requesting Phased Retirement

  • Departments should contact a Retirement Benefits Specialist by calling 212-851-7000.
  • Any final agreement must be approved by the department's dean, chair, or vice president, as well as by the Vice President for Human Resources.
  • Once approved, a copy of the agreement should be submitted to Human Resources with the PAF to implement changes in salary and benefits. The department should place the Officer on a partial leave of absence in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

To learn more about phased retirement, visit the Human Resources website.

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Guidelines for Initiating and Managing FWAS

FWAs can be initiated by either staff or managers.

  • In order to request a FWA, a staff member must complete a FWA proposal and submit it to the manager for consideration. 
  • Each staff-initiated proposal goes through the same process, as described below, and is evaluated on its own merits. 
  • Managers may also initiate such arrangements. The goal is a consistent application of the process, and finding FWAs that are appropriate.
  • Staff members should complete the proposal form and meet with his/her direct supervisor to discuss a FWA request.
  •  If the FWA is approved, the staff member should work with his/her supervisor to develop an implementation plan and keep a copy of the final signed proposal for his/her records.

For more on the complete guidelines for initiating a FWA, please visit the Human Resources website.

Managers who receive a FWA proposal should review and evaluate the proposal considering factors such as:

  • Business and department needs
  • Job requirements
  • The employee’s skills and performance history

For more information on reviewing and approving a FWA proposal, please visit the Human Resources website.

  • It is the manager’s responsibility to accept or decline the proposal and meet with the staff member to inform him/her of the decision as soon as possible. 
  • If the proposal is accepted, the manager and the staff member should develop an implementation plan that includes expectations, deliverables, and timekeeping.
  • The manager would then communicate the change to the department and any necessary business partners.
  • If the proposal is denied, the manager should schedule a meeting with the staff member to explain the business rationale.
  • When operational needs require a staffing review, managers may want to consider FWAs as an option for their business planning.
  • Manager-initiated FWAs should not be used as a method for changing individuals' hours or salary.
  • Managers are required to consult with their HR client manager when considering implementing FWAs as part of business needs and operational goals. 
  • All manager-initiated FWAs require final approval by CU HR.

When considering implementation of a FWA, some departmental plans and modifications may be required. Considerations include:

  • Will work functions be impacted? Will cross-training initiatives and team-based approaches be affected?
  • Will adequate staffing and customer service be maintained during times of peak office demand?
  • How will:
    • assignments and performance expectations be clearly communicated?
    • accountability be maintained?
    • results and productivity be measured?
  • Will additional technology be required?
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Columbia University Resources

Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) offers information and support for remote access tools and video conferencing.


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