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The National Academies

NCHRP 23-13(01) [RFP]

Telecommuting, Remote Work, and Hybrid Schedules: Managing the Shift to a Flexible Work Future
[ NCHRP 23-13 (Transportation Research Related to COVID-19) ]

Posted Date: 11/10/2021

  Project Data
Funds: $150,000
Contract Time: 12 months
(includes 2 months for NCHRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 4/1/2022 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Ann M. Hartell
   Phone: 202.334.2369
   Email: ahartell@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 1/19/2022
Fiscal Year: 2021

BACKGROUND
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on day-to-day workplace operations at state departments of transportation (DOTs). Quarantine orders and requirements for physical distancing required shifts in business processes, including  modifications of telework policies that allow more employees to work remotely and allow employees with existing telework agreements to increase their remote work. This helped maintain business continuity through the pandemic disruption and may prove to be an effective way to respond to future disruptions. Although some of these adjustments are likely to be rolled back as the current pandemic eases, increased use of flexible work environments is widely recognized as a permanent feature of the future of work. Flexible work environments allow employees to work all or part of the workweek remotely from alternative locations (e.g., home office, co-working space, or satellite office), and/or on an alternative schedule.
 
As agency leadership, managers, and employees consider longer-term and wider adoption of flexible working environments, they must consider the benefits and risks for the agency as well as for individual employees and their supervisors. One concern is whether employees are more or less productive in flexible work environments. Managers accustomed to working alongside their direct reports may struggle to transition to new methods of communication and monitoring, thus hampering effective monitoring and direction of a team. Electronic monitoring using key loggers and similar applications are one approach to tracking employee activity for evaluating performance, although these methods can erode trust. Human resources managers need to address concerns about equity within the agency because flexible work environments may not be appropriate for all positions. Cybersecurity threats may be elevated when employees access agency networks from external locations, requiring new approaches to IT management and employee awareness. Business processes that were designed for a traditional workplace may need to be modified and then re-learned, perhaps in new systems and applications, although this can also spur needed modernization.
 
A shift to flexible work environments may also have cost implications for the agency. For example, providing computers, monitors, and other equipment for remote workers may affect IT budgets. At the same time, reconfiguring or reducing physical office space and employee parking to accommodate new occupancy patterns may bring cost savings. 
 
For individual employees, flexibility to adjust schedules to accommodate daily family routines can reduce stress and interruptions, increasing individual performance. Eliminating a commute—even for some days a week—may also increase employee satisfaction and productivity by reducing costs and allowing employees to reclaim valuable time for work or personal use. Flexible work environments can attract new talent in a competitive labor market where workers increasingly expect and value work-life balance. While often viewed as a reward offered to strong performers, flexible work environments can be a strategy to improve the performance of employees who thrive on a schedule and situation different from the typical, 9-to-5 office setting. At the same time, reduced in-person interaction can make onboarding new employees and mentoring more challenging.
 
Research is needed to provide state DOT leadership, managers, and employees with up-to-date information on the benefits and risks of flexible work environments and on how to assess the suitability of these arrangements at their organization.
 
OBJECTIVES
 
The objectives of this research are to (1) conduct a rapid review of the recent experience of state DOTs in increased use of flexible work environments; (2) synthesize the recent experience to identify successful practices and key considerations; and (3) develop a template for managers and employees to assess their suitability for a flexible work environment. The template will be designed to inform decisions about remote work and modified work schedules for a wide range of state DOT job types. The information collected using the template will also support the aggregation of assessments for reporting to agency leadership.
 
RESEARCH PLAN
 
The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must represent the proposers’ current thinking described in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach in meeting the research objectives. The work proposed must be divided tasks and/or phases. Proposers must describe the work proposed in each phase and task in detail.
 
The research plan should build in appropriate checkpoints with the NCHRP project panel including, at a minimum, (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the contract’s execution date and (2) at least one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting as well as web-enabled teleconferences tied to panel review and/or NCHRP approval of interim deliverables. Costs for the face-to-face meeting venue and travel costs for NCHRP panel members to attend the meeting will be paid by NCHRP.
 
The final deliverables will include but not be limited to:  
  • A final report that (1) summarizes and synthesizes the recent experience including successful practices and key considerations for using flexible work environments at state DOTs; (2) documents the project activities; and (3) identifies priorities for additional related research.
  • Template for an assessment of the suitability of a position and readiness of an employee for a flexible work environment. The template will be in an editable, stand-alone format and will address:
    • job duties
    • teaming arrangements
    • technology and connectivity requirements
    • ergonomics and safety performance and performance measurement
    • accountability
    • communication with colleagues and supervisors
    • considerations for employee development and training
    • considerations for employee advancement
    • other factors identified through the research
 Note: The development of a web-based tool is not requested.
  • A stand-alone briefing on the key findings designed for state DOT leadership.
  • A stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see Special Note C for additional information).  
Note: Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, the remaining 2 months shall be for NCHRP review and comment and for research agency preparation of the final deliverables.
 
SPECIAL NOTES
 
A. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs were modified in November 2020 to include maximum file size and page limits for all CRP proposals. Proposals must be submitted as a single PDF file with a maximum file size of 10 MB. The PDF must be formatted for standard 8 ½” X 11” paper, and the entire proposal must not exceed 60 pages (according to the page count displayed in the PDF). Proposals that do not meet these requirements will be rejected.  For other requirements, refer to chapter V of the instructions.
 
B. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the brochure, "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf). Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.
 
C. The NCHRP is a practical, applied research program that produces implementable products addressing problems faced by transportation practitioners and managers. The benefits of NCHRP research are realized only when the results are implemented in state DOTs and other agencies. Implementation of the research product must be considered throughout the process, from problem statement development to research contract and beyond completion of the research. Item 4(c), "Anticipated Research Results," must include the following: (a) the "product" expected from the research, (b) the audience or "market" for this product, (c) a realistic assessment of impediments to successful implementation, and (d) the institutions and individuals who might take leadership in deploying the research product. The project panel will develop and maintain an implementation plan throughout the life of the project. The research team will be expected to provide input to an implementation team consisting of panel members, AASHTO committee members, the NCHRP Implementation Coordinator, and others in order to meet the goals of NCHRP Active Implementation: Moving Research into Practice, available at https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP_ActiveImplementation.pdf.
 
D. Proposals are evaluated by the NCHRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively very knowledgeable in the problem area. Selection of an agency is made by the project panel considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities.
 
Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 11 of the proposal.

E. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.

Proposals should be uploaded via this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/zDP1v6zmyj28ZYFgZ9AF
Proposals are due not later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on 1/19/2022.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected.

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered statement in order for TRB to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a fillable PDF version of the Liability Statement. A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at https://www.adobe.com.


General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals". Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section V for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.

5. Potential proposers should understand that follow-on activities for this project may be carried out through either a contract amendment modifying the scope of work with additional time and funds, or through a new contract (via sole source, full, or restrictive competition).


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