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Individual Contributor Guide

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This Guide was created to provide employees practices to support the co-creation of successful flexible work solutions with their managers.

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In the best of times employees report experiencing competing demands between work, family and life. The pandemic exacerbated these issues and flexibility and workforce agility became necessary survival tools. From the crisis comes the opportunity to reconsider our workplace culture.

This guide helps you prepare for conversations with your manager to support workplace flexibility and work-life solutions to improve integration and well-being.

What to do

As work arrangements become formalized in 2022, engage with your manager to share the type of support and flexibility you seek. Focus on establishing a connection and acknowledge your commitment to working together to find solutions that meet organizational goals, team operational needs, and your specific needs and preferences in ways that contribute to a successful collaborative and inclusive workplace.

Why do it

Since March 2020, collectively we have had to adopt new patterns and experiment with new ways of working, demonstrating courage, tolerance for ambiguity and flexibility while doing so. Now is a great opportunity to continue evolving those new ways of working as you make longer-term plans to return to work while strengthening your relationships through partnership, discussion and creative problem solving with your manager.

How to do it

Consider what your needs are now and are likely to be going forward, and determine what type of support would be most helpful to continue delivering at work while maintaining your personal responsibilities. Give yourself permission to engage in exploring new flexible work opportunities that work for you, your team, and your manager.

As you prepare...

  • What do I need right now? What are my ideal work hours, desired flexibility, or schedule changes?
  • What is working well for me right now? What is not working well for me right now?
  • Have I deeply considered my “measures of success”? How am I sharing these measures with my manager? Can I articulate how my flexible work plans enable me and my team to reach the success criteria?
  • How will I structure my day? Are there regular times that I am available or unavailable? How will I ‘own’ my schedule and share it with those on my team?
  • How am I taking care of myself right now? How do I want to “show up” in my (work) life?
  • What boundaries do I want to maintain? How will I protect my time and energy?
  • How do I want to remember this period in my life? How do I want those around me to remember this period?
  • How am I demonstrating empathy for myself, my colleagues, my manager and their challenging situations?
  • Are my expectations of myself or others around me realistic? What can I let go of? What is my comfort level with “good enough”?
  • What activities or behaviors make me feel most overwhelmed? How can I minimize them?
  • What is one small act that I can take to lessen the pressure of my workday (example writing a to-do list for the next workday at the end of the current workday).



Before entering a conversation, check in with yourself. Slow down and connect with the present moment. Starting conversations from a centered place fosters authenticity and focus.


Curiosity maintains a judgment-free space. Suspend your assumptions of why something may or may not work, and consider coming to the conversation from a place of inquiry with a willingness to engage, ask questions and an openness to co-create solutions.


Include all the elements of your job that are essential and predict the concerns of your managers and co-worker(s) that might impact your proposal. Consider how your manager may view your proposal, their perspective on flexible work and if there are potential challenges or solutions to those challenges that you can identify ahead of the conversation. Ask that the first conversation be to review the proposal. Once you have shared what your needs and preferences are, be open to listening to your manager’s feedback and perspective.


Navigating flexible work schedules can be uncomfortable and even if your request is approved, your manager may have some concerns. Asking for a“trial” period signifies that the modified schedule is not “forever” and that you're willing to work with your manager to be successful. Consider setting up the conversation in this way:

  • “At this particular point in time, I am finding that I am being challenged by X and I’d like to suggest a test period.”


This is an opportunity to explore new patterns, processes and solutions that result in a successful work schedule agreement that aligns with the university's mission, flexible work guiding principles, and employee well-being. Flexibility exists on a spectrum and potential adjustments may include:

  • If you have dependent care needs, consider shifting work hours to better accommodate the difference between office hours and school hours
  • Consider if a cohort hybrid schedule works with your needs and preferences, where your entire team is on-site on the same days each week and works remotely the remainder of the week
  • Ask to adjust deadlines from “end of day” to “beginning of next day” and proactively discuss what happens if a deadline needs to be renegotiated due to shifting plans or priorities


This winter, Hybrid and Remote Work Agreements will be added in Axess to help manage and aggregate remote and hybrid work agreements across Stanford. More information about the new functionality will be available on the Flexible Work microsite in January 2022.

Schools/units manage the work agreement process differently, so talk to your manager or school/unit HR manager for guidance on how to submit or acknowledge your updated work agreement.


Once an agreement has been reached, offer to check back with your manager in 2-3 weeks to ensure the agreement is continuing to work for both of you. Adjust as needed.

Other Considerations

As you prepare to create your proposal, consider the type of workplace schedule and flexibility you are proposing and how you will demonstrate your effectiveness working within that schedule.

  • Focus on what is real: When you are considering your options and identifying possible solutions, make sure you are working with the truth. Before you decide how to move forward, consider the stories you are telling yourself, and ask yourself, is this based on real facts or not? For example, maybe you have a long commute to on-site work and have identified that working Flex Time, 6am-3pm rather than the traditional 8am-5pm schedule allows you to travel to the office during non-peak traffic, reducing your commute in half. You hold back on presenting this idea to your manager because you have not seen others on your teamwork modified schedules before the pandemic. Before you discount this option, are you considering what’s fact or perception? What needs to be true for you to propose solutions within the context of re-imagining work?
  • Be an anthropologist: Know the norms about flexible work schedules before you make your request. Connect with colleagues, both inside and outside your team or department, who may have successful flexible schedules. Find out what worked well for them and what is challenging. Seek online articles that offer suggestions for your consideration.
  • Know how to manage your presence: When working from home, your visibility will likely change. How will you address crisis and conflict remotely? How will your manager and co-workers reach you should an issue arise when you are not “online”? How will you continue to make yourself and your contributions visible to your manager, your team, your organization?
  • Align your performance to address concerns about hybrid or remote work: To make a successful proposal you should be able to demonstrate how flexible work will be mutually beneficial and in service to your team and department. Ensure that your performance has proven that you can collaborate well with colleagues, that you are responsive and available before you even approach sharing your proposal.
  • Have a plan B: If your manager does not agree with your proposed plan, identify adaptations you can make that would meet both your needs and the business needs your manager has identified. Consider the period of time that you are going to wait before discussing again. How will you approach a return to the discussion? What are you willing to change about your proposal?

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