Remote work policies are rules that tell employees what they need to do to be able to work from home. These policies explain who can work from home, how they should do the work, what is expected of them, how their work will be evaluated, what help is available to them and what their legal rights are as remote employees.
Why do companies need to make remote work policies?
A remote work policy, also called a work-from-home policy, is a set of rules informing employees how and when they can work away from the office. A remote work policy may also talk about:
- who can work from home
- how to communicate
- how to keep track of time
- data security rules
- legal issues, etc.
Remote work policies can be temporary or permanent. They can apply to both full-time employees who work from home and those who work from home only sometimes.
Remote work policies allow employees to work from home or other locations, often on a flexible schedule. These policies include best practices and benefits for remote employees, their rights and requirements for communication. Flexible hours also help manage expectations for communication and availability.
What’s the difference between a policy for:
*fully remote workers?
*a mix of both?
A policy on working from home can be fully remote, flexible or a mix of the two. With remote work policies, employees work from home daily and occasionally visit the office. With hybrid remote work policies, workers spend some time at the office and home. Under a flexible remote work remote policy, employees can choose to work at home or in the office. Depending on your rules, they might even be allowed to divide their days between work and home.
The first step to take when creating remote and hybrid workplace policies is asking the following two questions: “How will you measure success?” and “What does success look like for your team?”. Some organizations have a policy of employees being available during core working hours, on certain days or a custom plan by department or office location.
How do you create efficient remote work policies?
1. Understanding how remote working policies will apply to employees
For some roles, it’s better to continue working in the office, despite remote work being an option. However, you should have a policy that ensures remote work is an option for everyone, no matter their job. With these policies, your company will be better prepared for future changes in the marketplace.
- What do you need to be successful when you work remotely?
- How to make a remote work policy?
- How do your existing supplementary policies fit into remote, hybrid or flexible work models?
- Finding a company that allows remote work is not as easy as it sounds.
- What considerations need to be made when selecting a person who will manage a remote worker? Will that person need additional support?
- How will remote, flexible and hybrid work affect the culture and collaboration among your teams?
- Will remote work, flexible hours or hybrid affect taxes or employment benefits for a company or employee in different states or countries?
- Get feedback from all your departments before introducing new policies to ensure everything goes smoothly.
2. Provide the right tools for successful and secure remote work
When setting up your remote work policies, you must consider all the tools and strategies people need to be productive across each work arrangement.
Employees need the right tools to be productive when working outside the office. Many remote or hybrid employees need access to Wi-Fi and a laptop. However, they may also need technology that will connect them to the company and make them feel engaged and like they are part of the team. Make sure to ask some questions like:
- How do remote workers communicate with the rest of the office?
- Will you set up video conferencing software so they can attend meetings?
- Do your employees need separate technology or equipment to maintain an effective home workspace?
- As an incentive, will you offer a stipend or reimbursement so employees can purchase the necessary equipment for their home offices?
It’s also important to consider whether your remote worker is using public Wi-Fi or a VPN when working on essential company files. You might need to provide them with a secure space at home to protect their data.
You’ll also need policies and tools to communicate with remote team members. To avoid technological barriers, use live chat, synchronous screencast recording, live video conferencing and other tools to ensure an effective work relationship with your team. This can be accomplished through Slack or Google Hangouts, which serve as virtual water coolers where employees can share the status of a project and debrief on White Lotus while bonding over their favourite music on TikTok.
3. Clear rules about working from home
It would help if you devised ways to work together and talk when you can’t meet with team members in person. Think about what kinds of tools work best in the circumstances, such as:
- 1 on 1 meeting with the manager
- Discussions for the whole team
- Client kickoff meetings
- Performance reviews
- Activities that help employees learn and grow
Clearly explain and write down what is expected of employees who work from home. Even though most employees say they are more productive when they work from home, there are many distractions when they are not in the office. Set rules about when staff is expected to be online and when they can work on a flexible timeline around their personal lives, like a doctor’s appointment or taking care of their children.
4. Set aside time to work together and meet new people
Ensure your policy has rules concerning providing time for teams to be together outside for impromptu conversations and team-building. No matter what technology you have, people still want to talk to each other in person. Build into your policy a time every month, quarter or year when you can virtually get everyone on the team together to come up with ideas, make plans and have fun.
You can hold virtual project kickoff meetings during office hours or set up a video call to discuss something other than work. Even though your team is in different places, all these things will bring them closer together.
5. Make clear what legal rights people who work from home have
Remote and hybrid workers have the same legal rights as those working in an office. But working from home or on a flexible schedule can add some challenges that need to be dealt with to ensure your business follows the law.
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Set up a way for hourly workers who work from home to report their hours. If they work more than 40 hours, they may be able to get extra pay. Decide when employees should and shouldn’t work to avoid paying a lot for overtime. If there are clear rules, they won’t be able to work outside these hours unless their manager permits them. This makes it easier to ensure that employees don’t work more hours than they should.
It’s essential to help remote workers the same way you help workers in the office. This means giving them clear information about the training, benefits and promotions they can get. If you don’t help remote or hybrid workers the same way you help in-office workers, it could be seen as discrimination or a violation of a worker’s rights because of a disability.
6. Talk about the pay and benefits that workers will get
Perks can be unique to your business, but they should include everything employees get. Some companies pay a stipend for work-related equipment like computer monitors or office supplies. Others give employees money back to pay for things like electricity in the office.
Before you decide on benefits, you should ask your teams what they value most. This information can help workers determine if they’d work from home or in the office. Include all perks and bonuses so that employees can make the best decision for themselves.
When switching from working in the office to working from home, a policy is only as good as the results it brings. When people work from home or on a hybrid or flexible schedule, it’s harder to see what they’re doing than in a traditional office. A good policy will tell employees what their managers expect of them and how they will evaluate performance.
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7. Expectations for working from home
At the start of COVID-19, more than three-quarters of HR leaders said that the biggest problem was “concerns from managers about the productivity or engagement of their remote teams.” Setting team norms and expectations upfront can help your employees (and their managers) be more productive, clear up any confusion, and set everyone up for success.
Here are some communication and teamwork rules you might want to put in writing:
- Availability: Can employees who work from home pick their hours, or do you want them to be online from 9 to 5? If you can, try to be flexible. Some companies, for example, let their remote workers work eight hours during a specific time frame, like between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., or be reachable during certain “core hours” based on your business’s headquarters (e.g., 9 am-11 am CST Monday to Friday).
- Responsiveness: Set expectations for how long it will take you to answer emails and pings. Make sure to think about time zones and workloads because even the most accessible staff may take longer to respond. You can put a number on this (like “within 1–2 hours for important emails”) or say something more general like “as soon as possible”.
- Maintaining the social side of work: Employees can chat with coworkers informally during a typical day at work. Socializing at work helps people get to know each other and builds more substantial teams. Without it, employees who work from home may feel alone. Your policy for working remotely can deal with this by setting up ways to talk that don’t have to do with work. Set up a Slack, Microsoft Teams channel, or a regular, optional video chat where employees can talk about anything, even if it doesn’t involve work.
- Efforts to keep developing employees: You shouldn’t stop developing your employees just because some or all of them aren’t in the office. If you stop training and coaching your employees, they might feel you don’t care about them. Your work-from-home policy should clarify that at-home workers have chances to grow and move up in their careers. One idea is to add a section to the sample policy below that talks about the online training resources or courses that your team can use. Your policy could also set up a regular one-on-one time for supervisors to give online coaching to remote workers.
8. Legal things to think about for hourly remote workers
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours per week must usually be paid overtime. Ensure hourly employees who work from home know the number of hours they’re allowed to work, any meal and rest breaks they’re required to take by state law and what to do if they need to work overtime. This will help you avoid legal trouble and high overtime costs.
9. Options for technical support
Tell remote employees what to do if they have technical problems and what IT support they can use (for example, a virtual help desk through Zoom or a 24/7 emergency IT hotline).
Most of the time, it’s best to look at your work-from-home policy for each position individually. Tell supervisors to check in every so often to see how well each employee who follows works from home is doing their job. If a whole team has the same problem, you may need to change your policy on working from home. If only one or two people on a team are having trouble, a supervisor can help them by giving one-on-one coaching in person or over the phone.
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