Workplace Flexibility

Workplace flexibility policies and programs help meet employees’ need to maintain work/life balance in day-to-day activities. Flexibilities in work schedules, work locations, and other non-traditional working arrangements have the potential to help employees succeed at work while also fulfilling personal needs such as family obligations or educational pursuits. According to the 2014 National Study of Employers conducted by Families and Work Institute, workplace flexibility is linked to greater employee productivity, higher morale and job satisfaction, decreased absenteeism, and reduced turnover. Additionally, flexible work arrangements can serve as a recruiting tool to help UW-Madison continue to attract and hire talented people.

With the need for, and organizational advantages of, flexible working arrangements, there is a challenge for campus leaders to balance flexibility with critical business needs. With creativity and cooperation between employees and supervisors/managers, however, there are opportunities where flexibilities can be implemented in ways that benefit both our employees and our University.

UW-Madison promotes the use of workplace flexibilities when possible. This toolkit describes available workplace flexibility options.

The Workplace Flexibility Toolkit was developed to list flexibilities that already exist on campus. It was also intended to provide managers, supervisors, human resource professionals, and others with information to guide them while discussing individual employee needs. While the campus supports the need to allow employees to adopt workplace flexibilities, operational needs must take precedence. This means not all flexibilities will be feasible in every occupational or work area. For example, telecommuting would not be feasible in an animal research lab if an employee is responsible for regularly feeding the animals. Employees should work with their supervisors and human resources department to discuss the feasibility of specific flexibilities.

The Office of Human Resources (OHR) would like to continually collect examples of workplace flexibilities that are utilized on campus. If you have an example you would like to share, please email Someone will be in contact with you if more information is needed.

The Workplace Flexibility Toolkit was developed to list flexibilities that currently exist on campus in order to provide supervisors, human resource staff, and others with information to guide them while discussing individual employee needs.

OHR would like to continually collect examples of workplace flexibilities that are utilized on campus. If you have an example you would like to share, please email Someone will be in contact with you if more information is needed.

Alternative Work Schedules

Alternative Work Schedules

UW-Madison supports the use of the alternative work schedule arrangement described below, when these schedules are consistent with maintaining department efficiency and effectiveness. The University encourages individual employee scheduling flexibility, including scheduling experiments affecting entire units, when these arrangements meet the criteria in existing policies and are approved by supervisors.

In some areas, such as customer-facing departments or animal research labs, alternative work schedules may not be possible. Where it is feasible, however, supervisors should work with employees to create flexible staffing arrangements that ensure coverage of tasks/hours.

Classified employee policy on alternative work schedules

Unclassified employee policy on alternative work schedules



Flex-time allows employees to alter their standard start and end work times on a daily basis to accommodate personal commitments and promote a healthy work-life balance. In such cases, departments may establish core hours when employees must be present.


Variable Hours

Employees may use this option to permanently change their start and end times to adjust for personal situations, such as riding in a carpool or childcare. Variable hours, unlike flex-time, are fixed schedules which deviate from the standard work unit schedule. In most situations, employees and supervisors can work together to develop schedules that cover the core hours of operation.


Alternative Work Week

An alternative work week plan enables a full-time employee to complete the basic work requirement of 40 hours per week in fewer than five full days. Unlike flex-time, hours are standardized by agreement between the employee and supervisor. An example of an alternative work week is a four-day, 40-hour work week (four 10-hour days).


Reduced FTE/Part-time Schedules

Full-time employees who have been in their current positions for more than six months may request a temporary or permanent reduction in the percent of time they work (their full-time equivalent – FTE). For example, a full-time employee can request to decrease to 80 percent for six months to accommodate a personal situation. Employees should make these requests to their supervisors. Supervisors are encouraged to accommodate these requests as long as the operational needs of the department can still be met. Arrangements should be made to ensure service levels are maintained and all staff members carry the same workloads. Full-time staff should not be overloaded to accommodate another employee’s part-time schedule.



UW-Madison recognizes the value of telecommuting for both employees and supervisors. Telecommuting is a voluntary workplace flexibility in which a supervisor allows an employee to regularly perform some or all assigned duties at home or another remote location. Decisions to allow telecommuting are primarily made at the local level with due consideration to costs and telecommuting appropriateness. Telecommuting is not an employee right or an employer tool to reward performance. In all cases, except when telecommuting is a condition of the original employment agreement, telecommuting can be ended by either the employee or management.

Campus telecommuting policy and form 

Leaves of Absence/Career Breaks

 Leaves of Absence/Career Breaks

Leaves of absence/career breaks allow an employee to take an agreed period of time off work to accommodate a personal situation. These leaves, which may be paid or unpaid depending on the situation, must be pre-approved by the department. Employees should also speak to the Office of Human Resources Benefit Services or their departmental benefits team to understand how a leave of absence may affect their benefits.

Further information on leaves of absence for classified employees

Further information on leaves of absence for unclassified employees

Benefits information (for all UW-Madison employees)


Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act  (WFMLA)

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act (WFMLA) are federal- and-state-mandated programs that allow all eligible employees to take leaves of absence for a personal or family member’s medical condition. While FMLA/WFMLA leaves are considered unpaid leaves of absence, an employee may be able to use paid leave time to cover the absence. When an employee needs FMLA/WFMLA leave, he or she should work with the department to discuss the program.

Further information on FMLA

Further information on WFMLA


Faculty Sabbatical Leave Program

The sabbatical leave program allows faculty members to engage in intensive study in order to become more effective teachers and scholars. Sabbatical leave may be granted to enhance teaching, course and curriculum development; or to conduct research or any other scholarly activities related to instructional programs in the faculty member’s field of expertise.

Further information on the leave program, the application procedure, compensation, and frequently asked questions

Employees are also encouraged to speak with their unit’s benefits team and/or HR office regarding any possible retirement contribution/benefit impacts caused by a sabbatical.

Job Sharing/Job Splitting

Job Sharing/Job Splitting

Job sharing is an arrangement between two part-time employees which splits the responsibility of one regular, full-time position. For example, two employees work 50 percent (20 hours per week per employee) to accomplish the work of one full-time position. This arrangement provides organizational benefits such as decreased absenteeism, and full utilization of the unique skills and experiences of each employee. To request a job sharing arrangement, work with your supervisor and/or your human resources department. A full-time employee who enters a job sharing arrangement, with a reduction in the percent time worked, should contact the unit benefits office to ensure continuity of benefit plans.

Professional Development

 Professional Development

The University recognizes the value and importance of employee training and development. Supervisors should consider granting time off for employee training and development in a fair and equitable manner, for employees in all job titles.


Professional Development for Career Enrichment

Supervisors should also plan and allow time off, while still meeting operational needs, for professional development opportunities that will benefit both employees and the University. Supervisors and employees should work together to establish a professional development plan for job skills required for career development and advancement.


Professional Development for Job-related/Employer-required Training

Supervisors should work with employees to plan, and allow time off for, professional development that contributes to performance of current duties. This training can be on- or off-campus.


Training Course/Tuition Reimbursement

UW-Madison may authorize payment for coursework or training, as outlined in OHR the policy, as well as individual college or division procedures. These training activities must have prior approval from the college or division before the employee participates.

Tuition reimbursement policy and procedures for classified employees

Tuition reimbursement policy and procedures for unclassified employees

Time Off for Campus-related Events

Time Off for Campus-related Events

Campus-related events such as HR Design forums, ice cream socials, etc., are held on campus to benefit all University employees. Supervisors should work with their employees to create a plan for employees to participate in such events while still covering operational needs.

Additional Resources

The topics listed below are not necessarily workplace flexibilities but are campus resources that can help an employee maintain a balance between his/her work and personal lives. Employees are encouraged to work with their supervisors if they are interested in any of these additional resources.


Balancing Family and Work

In addition to information provided in other sections of the Workplace Flexibility Toolkit, unclassified employees can find more information related to balancing family and work, specifically related to time off to care for ill family members, births, or adoptions, as well as scheduling when returning to work at this link:

Family-Related Leave Policies for Faculty, Academic Staff and Limited Appointees


Break Time for Nursing Mothers

The U.S. Department of Labor guide (“Labor Fact Sheet #73”) outlines workplace rules and policies for nursing mothers. The fact sheet, which applies to UW-Madison, outlines general requirements, time and location of breaks, coverage and compensation, and FLSA prohibitions on retaliation.

US Department of Labor Fact Sheet #73 

Campus building and room locations that are designated as lactation spaces


Employee Assistance Office (EAO)

UW-Madison established the EAO to assist faculty and staff with maintaining and enhancing both their personal and professional lives. EAO offers services to promote well-being, as well as respectful and productive work environments. EAO provides confidential services such as problem consultation/assessment, information about community resources, educational programs, and individual referrals free of charge.

Please visit EAO for more information.



UW-Madison provides a variety of ergonomic services free-of-charge to campus employees, with the goal providing a safe environment that minimizes injury potential, decreases cumulative trauma disorders and Workers’ Compensation expenses, increases productivity, and ensures a healthier work environment. UW-Madison Ergonomic Services helps identify ergonomic risks as well as offers solutions to reduce ergonomic “red flags” and reduce repetitive stress injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders. Ergonomic consultations can reduce, prevent or even eliminate potential injuries and disorders.

Please visit Ergonomics for more information.


Recreational Sports – Workplace Workouts

To promote healthy lifestyles, UW-Madison Rec Sports provides employees with opportunities to participate in workplace workouts during lunch period.

Please visit Rec Sports – Workplace Workouts for more information.



UWell is a campus-wide initiative to help promote and support employees and students to live well and be well. The UWell website provides resources and information about a variety of wellness opportunities and concepts. Topics include news and updates on physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and environmental wellness.

Please visit UWell for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I request a workplace flexibility?

Discuss workplace flexibilities with your supervisor and/or your human resources department. Not all flexibilities are available within every occupational area at the UW due to operational needs; therefore, availabilities may vary across units. Discussing flexibilities with your supervisor or your human resources department will allow you to determine what options are available.

I want to request a flexibility that is not listed here. What should I do?

The OHR workplace flexibility team has compiled the current list of flexibilities, but realizes that some individual situations may not be covered due to the wide variety of options. If you would like to request a workplace flexibility arrangement that is not listed on the toolkit, work with your supervisor and unit’s human resources department to discuss the arrangement.

I do not see policies for all the workplace flexibilities that are listed. Where do I find them?

Not all flexibilities have specific policies. If a policy exists for any of the flexibilities that are listed, there is a link from this page to the policy. If new policies are created, the toolkit will be updated. The absence of a policy does not mean a workplace flexibility will not be allowed.


Please direct questions about the Workplace Flexibility Tookit to