taking a deeper dive: 
Supervisors' discussion guides

Getting Started: What is the Work? 

Why it's important: Not all positions lend themselves to remote work arrangements. Similarly, not all aspects of every position's work need to be completed in-person. As a supervisor, the primary determination is the position's responsibilities. Each employee needs an actual, factual position description to form the basis of your decisions about where and how work should be performed. Additionally, you have to account for responsibilities accomplished by the team. The nature of the work should be the primary driver in your decisions about remote or flexible work.

  • Does each one of your employees have an updated position description (not the classification specification)?
  • What parts of this position's work and responsibilities must be done in person?
  • What parts of this position's work can be performed virtually?
  • What parts of the position's work have always been in person? Why? Can I challenge my beliefs about this position's work and think about how things can be done differently?
  • What kind of flexibility can I offer this position, based on the nature of its work and responsibilities?
  • What drives productivity in your role? (e.g., focus, coordination, collaboration, etc.)
  • What helps you accomplish your highest-impact responsibilities?
  • What parts of your responsibilities do you think you need to be in person to accomplish?
  • What can be performed virtually?
  • List specific tasks that must be completed onsite and when.
  • Provide known specific dates when flexible arrangements will be altered to meet unit needs.

What is the unit strategy for communication? Consider expectations for meetings, use of Teams, Zoom, or other means. Communicate expectations about camera use requirements and professionalism. Will onsite participation be required, and when?

  • In-Person
  • Zoom/Teams
  • We will be doing both
  • Other

Will the employee retain a personal workspace with equipment onsite? If not, list expectations for shared workstations including equipment. 

Optional: Colleges and Units are not required to use this or any other form and can customize it to meet their needs.

Pro-tip: Have each employee use this chart and discuss their specific situation, particularly those working a hybrid schedule. Having clarity upfront will assist you with decisions and the employee with expectations. You may want to attach this form to the RWA.

After you have decided what kind of flexibility you can offer each position, get in touch with the people you supervise and discuss how their preferences fit within those parameters. Reminder: check with your unit leadership before you make commitments.

Questions to discuss with the people you supervise:

  • Given the flexibility your position can have, what are your preferences? (e.g., "Based on this position's work, I can offer this person flexibility around three days a week – but they would prefer to work virtually two days a week.”)
  • What concerns do you have about working with flexibility? What are you excited about, and how can I help and support you?

How does Remote Work Affect Teams? 

Supervisors may wish to document departmental work plans and where these intersect to ensure clarity about who is doing what, when, and where. Use the below sample form or create one that aligns with your operations. Colleges and Units are not required to use this or any other format and customize this form to meet their needs.

Pro-tip: have the team contribute and share the final document with them. Impact on the Team: Begin with the nature of the team's collective work.

  • What is the team responsible for, and what parts of the team's work must be done in person?
  • What parts of the team's work can be completed virtually?
  • What parts of the team's work have always been in person? Why? Can I challenge my beliefs about the work and think about how things can be done in different ways? 

Here is an optional sample worksheet you may consider using: Departmental Plan


Managing RWAs can come at the cost of increased supervisory effort, at least at first. Consider these questions about your own preferences and capacity:

  • What level of time, energy, and support do I need to manage the work of a flexible team?
  • What will business and non-business hours look like for the entire team? How do I make sure everyone is on the same page?
  • How will I onboard* a new employee the next time I hire? What will that look like?

Work Considerations

This is not an exhaustive list of considerations but provides various work modalities to consider during determinations. Multiple considerations can intersect.

Decisions made about employee work locations have no bearing on the value or appreciation of the job or person. They are strictly based on the nature of work. We are all valued employees of Michigan State University.  Supervisor preference or comfort in oversight alone is not a sufficient reason to require an employee to work onsite.  

All work is critical on campus. 

All work can be performed away from the on-campus work location or it can be performed hybrid or on-campus, if desired by the employee. 

A work schedule in which the employee completes part of their work onsite and part of their work at a remote location while maintaining the same number of scheduled work hours for the week (i.e., 1-2 days remote, 3-4 days on campus). 

A work schedule in which an employee alters the start and/or end time of their workday while maintaining the same number of scheduled hours for the workday and/or workweek. When scheduling employees, supervisors need to be cognizant of FLSA and MSU union overtime rules. For additional flexible work resources, please visit the MSU Work Life Office website.  

A work schedule that has employees reporting to work at different times and/or in shifts.  

A work schedule that alternates days or weeks that employees report onsite. When not reporting onsite, employees will work remotely. This option helps to reduce the number. 

Up Next: Promoting Equity & Understanding Bias in Remote Work Decisions