Flexible Workplace Agreements: Enabling Higher Education’s Strategic Advantage

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The ability to forge flexible workplace agreements with faculty is an oft-hidden and under-utilized strategic advantage for colleges and universities.


Workplace flexibility is a strategic advantage for higher education. Unlike organizations with fixed constraints on what they deliver and how they deliver it, colleges and universities have leeway to reconsider the structures and mechanisms used to achieve their mission. Accordingly, institutions can consider more ways to engage faculty in work that is both matched to their talents and that supports institutional goals. At the same time, faculty members often want more ways to structure their work to meet the changing realities of their lives. This paper focuses on colleges and universities that have tapped into this strategic advantage, adding flexibility in such areas as faculty time to advancement, terms of advancement, workload and the nature of appointments.

Key Insights

  • Creating flexible organizational practices requires rethinking old assumptions based on a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • The available evidence suggests flexible policies improve inclusion of diverse faculty, increase efficiency in matching institutional needs and individual talents, boost organizational commitment and productivity, and enhance perceptions of fairness.
  • Increased flexibility also can result in mutual satisfaction for faculty members and their institutions by enabling both to achieve their goals.

When institutions create flexible policies and enter into shared agreements with faculty, they provide the kinds of resources highly valued by today’s workers.


The author cites research drawing connections between flexible workforce policies and increased productivity, as well as the positive effects such policies can have on building a more diverse workforce. She also shares specific examples of flexible workforce agreements for higher education leaders to consider implementing on their campuses.


KerryAnn O'Meara

University of Maryland

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