Establishing New Norms

Conversations should take place between leaders and teammates to discuss regular work schedules, flexible work schedules, core hours of availability and expectations regarding work hours exceptions.  Leaders should also communicate expectations regarding notice of PTO requests and utilization of out-of-office notifications. The following guidelines can be used by all leaders to establish department-specific norms that support the operations of the health system as well as the well-being of teammates.

Teammate Availability

With the evolution in technology, teammates can be reached anytime of the day or night by phone, text, or email.  Not only has the technology evolved but so has the expectation that teammates must always be available to respond.  These unrealistic expectations have led to burnout, dissatisfaction and turnover and UNC Health’s Working Forward initiative is setting new expectations.

Establishing Core Work Hours

Each leader should identify core hours of work for their department/work team. These core hours establish expectations for being online and available for meetings, project collaboration and other exchanges. Emails sent to teammates outside of these core hours will not require immediate response. Leaders will set up a protocol (phone calls or texts) for addressing legitimate emergencies that must be addressed outside of core business hours. Information on department core hours and emergency strategies should be shared with the leader’s direct supervisor.

Meeting Analysis and Restructure

Each week, many work hours are spent in meetings. Leaders should objectively and critically review standing meetings and should evaluate the frequency, attendees, structure of the meeting and if the meeting is needed at all.

Meeting-free Work Time

As a 24/7 healthcare provider, there are operational challenges with the organization designating a meeting free day during the week. Instead of creating a mandate that causes frustration and challenge, each operational leader is charged with identifying a meeting-free period for their unit, department, or division. Some options include establishing one meeting-free day a week, every two weeks, or four hours once a week. Meeting free time periods should be shared with teammates of the work unit as well as with others in the organization as appropriate. Teammates would be encouraged to block meeting-free time on Outlook calendars to ensure others do not unknowingly infringe upon that time.

Respect of Paid Time Off

Paid Time Off (PTO) is time teammates have earned to use away from work as they choose. Infringing upon that time demonstrates a lack of respect for the teammate. Backup resources should be put in place to cover for teammates when they are on PTO. Unless a legitimate emergency occurs, teammates should not be contacted while on PTO and responses to emails should not be expected. Teammates will be required to turn on the Out of Office email message so that anyone expecting a reply is fully informed.


Teammates working in a virtual environment may have responsibility for visiting clients, meeting with UNC Health teammates or other types of business that require travel. Questions related to the application of mileage reimbursement can be addressed by referencing the UNC Health Teammate Travel and Business Expense Reimbursement policy.

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