Whether your company is already fully remote or just transitioning due to the recent COVID pandemic, it is likely to encounter obstacles and misunderstandings related to remote working. One solution for those challenges is drafting a good remote work policy. This policy is actually a remote work agreement that outlines all the aspects of remote work arrangements: duties, expectations, and procedures.
And though the word policy may make you roll your eyes and think of bureaucracy, that doesn't have to be the case. Informal or verbal procedures may sound great, especially in teams where trust is king. Still, they can cause headaches even with the best of intentions.
Remote work policy purpose
You may wonder why a remote work policy is needed in the first place. As we have covered in one of our previous articles, remote work is not about location or a worksite. It's an entirely different work method and setting. A solid remote work policy is a necessity that makes life easier for everyone: the managers, the teams, and the company as a whole. Even if your company is introducing remote working short-term, you should consider creating one.
With space for misunderstandings out of the way, everyone can focus on establishing trust and doing their best work.
What to include in a remote work policy
The first step to comprehensive remote work policy is understanding it is and what it should contain. It is important to cover the basics before drafting, whether you plan to use a remote work policy template found on the internet or write your own.
When drafting a remote work policy for your company, you need to think about all aspects of work performance, even those you wouldn't consider significant in a traditional office. Policy elements like responsiveness and communication practices may not cross your mind, so a vital piece of advice is to include team members from all departments not just human resources in the policy creation. Some of them may offer insights that will prove essential, so gather your team and go through the policy ideas with them.
Let's dive right into some of the crucial elements of a good remote work policy and explore them individually.
Remote work eligibility
The first chapter in creating a telecommuting policy and procedure establishes which positions are eligible to work remotely and outlines them clearly. If the company is not fully remote, the HR department will need to analyze the organizational structure and determine which employees can telecommute and how often. Of course, in cases of roles not suitable for remote work, those should be included in the eligibility chapter as well. In specific situations, like working from home part-time and otherwise from the office, home policy also needs to be analyzed for each position within the company.
Remote work authorization
After you have completed the list of positions and personnel eligible to telecommute, you need to make this transition official. Employees should submit a request for remote work and specify whether they wish to telecommute full-time or part-time. This request needs to be approved, which brings us to the next step - authorization. Make sure to document who approves remote work requests and how the procedure of submitting a request works.
Work expectation management
Managing expectations is one of the most critical elements of a well-crafted remote work agreement. Since remote workers often end up working longer hours and therefore jeopardize their work-life balance, the remote work policy should address telecommuters' availability and their working hours. Whether your remote team sticks to the 9-5 schedule or has flexible hours, ensure their availability is highlighted in the remote work agreement. Apart from work hours, the policy should contain the expected outcome of your employees' work and responsibilities. Emphasize any changes that may affect particular positions and their workload, set guidelines for attendance, and give instructions on communication processes for work expectation management.
Worker's compensation and benefits
A professional remote work policy contains information on the base salary and any other perks or expenses that remote workers (or even their family members) are entitled to. Paid time off, sick leave, health insurance, 401k, and other contributions need to be specified clearly, especially if you are a part of a hybrid company.
Some remote companies offer enticing perks, such as unlimited vacation days or donation matching; others have education and training budgets for their teams. If your company provides any additional benefits, even on a case-by-case basis, make sure to list them in the company policy with all their limitations and use conditions.
Let’s talk about remote work expenses. Your remote workers save a lot of energy and time on commuting, but they do have expenses and needs even when working from home. Having in mind each remote worker's position, think of ways to make them more productive and satisfied. Is there a monthly allowance for their wellbeing and health, such as a gym membership or a yoga class? Include all budgets or reimbursement options, their limitations, and procedures for approval in the policy.
Rightful termination is a standard part of most company policies. It covers the basis for termination and the procedures related to it. However, in a remote work employee policy, it should contain a clause stating that employees cannot be terminated based on working remotely. This simple inclusion prevents managers from treating remote workers differently than office-based ones simply because of the lack of in-person contact.
The rightful termination clause should also cover procedures related to equipment when a remote employee leaves the company.
Compliance with company policies
Whether they work remotely or not, all employees have to comply with rules and company policies, such as the Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics. If your company has an Anti Discrimination or Equal Opportunity policy, your remote employees should abide by it and benefit from it. Since they can't be "seen" in the same way as office staff, telecommuters can easily be overlooked for promotions and bonuses. The remote work policy should clearly state equal opportunities for your remote workers.
Compliance with company policies has a happiness bonus too: it can enhance the sense of belonging for remote teams. Sometimes it's difficult for people to feel like they are part of a team when working from a remote location. An exact code of conduct can help adjust their mindset and boost their adherence to company values.
Safety and security
An exemplary remote work policy should address the insurance and liability related to employee safety and security. The company can require remote members' workspaces to be vetted and approved or offer guidelines on creating a safe workspace at home. Either way, procedures, rules, and coverage for work-related injuries need to be specified in the policy.
Another thing you should consider including in your remote work policy is the cybersecurity section. Work-at-home may have numerous benefits, but it may put your company's information security at risk. If your employees are using personal equipment or mobile devices, have your IT department outline the best practices and software that should be implemented.
Measuring productivity for remote work
Whether you have a remote work policy or not, evaluating your employees' productivity requires some common sense and just a little bit of effort. First of all, develop work plans that outline responsibilities and tasks for your remote workers. Then come up with how the productivity will be measured. The rise of flexible work environments made it possible to measure the outcomes of someone's work instead of the hours they spent sitting at the desk. A useful tip is to borrow a page from the process of hiring independent contractors - put deliverables in place because results and quality of work are what matters.