Remote work policies are important. From encouraging greater inclusivity and diversity to promoting productivity — remote work policies can be a real game changer for many companies. And as remote work becomes the norm (both pre- and post-COVID), companies will need to figure out how to create a remote work policy that meets employee needs while it provides accountability for leadership.
Remote work comes with many unique challenges as employees take on the work day from a home office environment. That's where a remote work policy comes in: creating an effective remote work policy helps to align your remote workers, set expectations, and create specific measures for verifying work, encouraging communication and avoiding workplace conflict.
But certainly, designing a remote work policy can be a daunting task. If you're ready to create your own remote work policy for your company and want it to be as effective as possible but aren't quite sure where to start — this guide is for you. Read on to find out our key steps to creating an effective remote work policy for your employees.
Identify your company's needs (as well as your employees' needs!).
Every company is one-of-a-kind. Before you start writing up rules, take a step back and think about your company culture. Do you encourage collaborative work? Are your workers self-starters? How do they best communicate? Your remote work policy should go hand-in-hand with your company’s current culture and practices.
Get a handle on your in-office workflow, so you can find ways to translate it to an out of office enviromment.
In order to establish an effective remote work policy, you'll need to first address your current processes and use them to establish remote ones. Ask yourself: what does your workflow look like in the office, and then how does it translate to those who are working remotely? For example, all your team members should understand how work should be submitted, how deadlines are communicated and extended, and how any problems are elevated to the right people.
Let’s say a remote worker has discovered a bug in the application’s code. Your remote work policy should make it clear who, when and how this worker should contact the rest of the team. In this case, perhaps the policy specifies that urgent technical problems should be escalated to the manager via Slack as soon as possible.
Account for one-off circumstances and unusual scenarios that may come up when employees work from home.
In order to set better employee expectations via your remote work policy, you need to make sure you're thinking of niche scenarios and accounting for them in that policy. Instead of leaving one-off circumstances up in the air to be determined ad hoc, you should be precise and transparent. You’ll want to consider all the scenarios that a remote worker might deal with during work, and create fair policies to address them. Thinking through these “what-ifs” will help you lead your remote team so that everyone’s on the same page. A few examples include:
- Scenario one: What if your remote worker doesn’t respond to emails during working hours?
- Scenario two: What happens if your remote worker shows up to a video call in his/her pajamas?
- Scenario three: What do you do if your remote worker posts on his/her personal Facebook during the day?
- Scenario four: What happens a remote worker doesn’t have an antivirus program installed on his/her home computer?
One of the best ways to avoid potential problems is by addressing possible challenges of remote work directly in your remote work policy itself.
Begin drafting your effective remote work policy.
After doing some brainstorming and prep work around identifying company needs and culture, as well as employee needs, you can begin to create your remote work policy. In general, your policy should include clauses about these main areas:
- Determine hours and employee schedules: When will your remote workers be available? Will your employees need to track their time? Are workers allowed to take longer breaks for doctor’s appointments or errands? How should remote workers communicate unavailable hours or days?
- Set behavior expectations: Is there a dress code for remote workers during any video calls or meetings? Are remote workers allowed to check personal social media accounts during work? Can they do personal activities at work, like cooking lunch or walking the dog?
- Figure out what workplace requirements and equipment are needed: What tools will your remote workers need to be successful? Do they have high-speed internet? Will they need to install any specific programs? Are they required to have a business phone number?
- Define and implement communication expectations and processes: How are delays and/or problems communicated to the team? How responsive should employees be during working hours? What are the expectations for being logged into company programs like Slack?
- Determine how to distinguish between personal and professional time: Can remote workers blend personal and professional time? Can workers use working time for errands or childcare? Are there specific times that workers may not go offline?
- Detail what your company's security and confidentiality expectations are: Do remote workers have a secure connection? Do they need tools to safely transfer documents or programs to other team members? Is there any risk of loss of confidentiality?
- Define the parameters of success: What does it mean to be a successful remote worker? Are there feedback systems in place to improve issues? Do you understand the challenges being faced by your remote workers?
Make sure that your remote work policy covers all of these points plus any other that pertain to your company. To that end, be sure to include any clauses that you think are relevant to your team, company, and industry.
Once you've created a remote work policy that you believe reflects your company goals and culture, your job is not done! You'll need to implement it by sending it to all remote workers first, and then to the rest of the company second. We recommend getting sign-off from employees to guarantee that your remote work policy is as successful (and noticed) as possible.
You can then incorporate it into hiring and onboarding by making it highly visible in job postings and during the onboarding process. (Don't forget that making sure potential employees know that your company is open to and even encourages effective remote work is a great way to empower your hiring teams to attract top talent!) Finally, don't be afraid to correct and restructure your remote work policy as time goes on based on trial and error. As far as we're concerned, changing your policy is always OK if it's warranted and done intentionally.
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