OSU Extension

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Virtual Offices

Virtual Offices – Work Places

The organization believes that the Extension professional is needed as close as possible to clientele and/or other team members, which requires flexibility in office location. The professional does need connection to a strong problem-solving team, clerical support, and housing for website management, computer technical support, etc. Effectiveness and efficiency will be lost without this connectivity to support rules.  An university office location will be assigned to serve as the IRS Tax Home. This location will be the official university mailing address.

Virtual is defined as the ability to work from various environments and locations other than the assignment office. It does not imply a home office, although significant work may be done from a professional’s home.

Criteria for Positions/People Suitable for Virtual Offices

  1. Many job roles can be conducted via electronic media and at multiple sites.
  2. Professional is capable of working independently; self-starter; good time manager, trustworthy.
  3. Professional understands uses and adapts new information technology.
  4. Professional is a willing communicator and effective in multiple communication modes; responsive.
  5. Professional embraces change.
  6. Professional agrees upon arrangement that will enhance efficiency and effectiveness of the professional and program delivery.
  7. Professional has statewide programming responsibility.

Process for application

  1. Professional and supervisor(s) must mutually agree, with an option for either to refuse.
  2. Position will be identified and approved by a review of immediate supervisor(s), HR representative, and Department Chair.
  3. Virtual office plan must be specifically developed, including a budget and evaluation plan for each professional with their supervisor(s).
  4. The virtual office agreement can be terminated by the employer at any time, or through mutual agreement by supervisor(s) and professional.
  5. The virtual office agreement should be reviewed annually during the employee’s annual performance evaluation.

Support for virtual office*

  1. Cell phones, with voice mail, published as employee’s phone number. Office land-line phone numbers may be forwarded, if possible.
  2. Computer support will be provided through phone, help desk, or a specified work site.
  3. Support staff, supplies, and equipment (computer, copying, scanner, etc.) needs will be negotiated. Support for phone/fax installation can be provided.
  4. Mileage reimbursement will be established following University and OSU Extension travel guidelines.
  5. The person’s supervisor must have a high level of trust for the employee; cannot be a micromanager; is capable of communicating electronically.
  6. Professional development opportunities must be provided to prepare/assist the virtual office worker.
  7. Landing spaces at OSU Extension offices will be provided as circumstances allow.


  1. Can contracting be conducted with local Extension offices to provide clerical and equipment support?

Probably not. The assigned programmatic unit should be providing this support.


  1. Can a home office be utilized as a tax deduction?


The individual would need to talk with their own tax consultant related to this situation.


  1. Could home office address be used for main address or the identified local office?


No. The assigned university office needs to be utilized as the mailing address and base of operations. This will also serve as the IRS Tax Home.


*Clarification on ‘support’

  1. Cell phone with voice mail will be provided following current University guidelines.
  2. Current computer or laptop would be provided. A laptop is optimum and would eventually replace a desk computer if this is all that is available at the start of the arrangement.
  3. For estimating purposes, it is projected that a $1,000 be budgeted per year to support the virtual office arrangement; this does include the phone-internet access. Reimbursement will follow current University and OSU Extension guidelines. A maximum of $40.00 per month will be budgeted to cover telephone bills, line charges for a second line, and a maximum of $75 per month for internet connectivity. The individual will discuss with his/her immediate supervisor the most reasonable combination. The monthly costs will be reimbursable to the employee having paid the bills. It should be noted that this will be viewed as a taxable benefit.


References:  Flexible Work Arrangements for more background and links to University resources -   http://extensionstaff.osu.edu/policy-and-procedures-handbook/iii-faculty...

Committee members: Don Breece, Jim Chatfield, Bill Haynes, Linda Kutilek, Joyce McDowell, Cindy Torppa.Approved, 06/17/04

Review Committee: Bill Grunkemeyer, Linda Kutilek, Barbara Ludwig, Brian McClain, Jill Eversole Nolan Revised and Approved, (12/08/05)

2008 (September 9) Review Committee: Lisa Jinks, Shirley Cook, Tom Archer, Linda Kutilek, Garee Earnest, Kirk Bloir

Virtual Office Agreement Form




Start Date:

End Date:







Evaluation Plan








Employee                                           Date


Supervisor                                                    Date




Extension HR                                     Date


Department Chair                                         Date

Virtual Office Agreement Annual Review Form


These review questions focuses specifically on Extension professionals that have an existing virtual office arrangement. Virtual office arrangements will be reviewed on an annual basis during the professional’s annual performance evaluation. The supervisor performing the review may seek input from appropriate Assistant Director, Center Director or Department Chair. A copy of the final review comments shall be added to the employee’s personnel file and a copy provided to Extension Human Resources. This statement should include a status report, new corrections or ideas, and changes or actions taken. A copy of these will then be attached to the original virtual office agreement.

A philosophical starting point should be to consider performance as a professional first, then how the virtual office arrangement contributes to the performance level. A second level of review is an assessment of how the professional organizes their work and the level of satisfaction those that work with the professional have with the virtual arrangement. Therefore, as background material for the review Extension professionals and support staff in the professional’s assigned office location, should be consulted about the virtual office arrangement. Feedback on how it is working, what is not working, and suggestions for improvement should be solicited.

Review Questions

  1. How does the virtual office arrangement assist the professional in meeting current job requirements?
  2. What work locations does the professional use to operate in a virtual setting? Examples may include county/center/regional/state/departmental offices, professional’s home, wi-fi locations, partnering agencies and others.
  3. What is the level of adoption and application of technology use by the professional? How does the use of each technology enhance the accessibility of the professional to peers, staff and clientele and delivery of programs and services?
  4. How will concerns identified by the review with Extension professionals and support staff be addressed, if needed?
  5. Does the professional wish to continue in the virtual office arrangement? If so why? If not, what actions need to be taken?
  6. What special needs or circumstances need to be addressed?
  7. Please indicate the future agreement for cell phone, office equipment and supplies, internet access and mileage reimbursement.

Updated March 2013