What is a remote work policy? Why is it important and what should you include in it? Find out more about remote work policy in this article
Since the COVID-19 lockdown started, remote work has become a norm in a company’s options for work set ups. With the increasing demand for the work arrangement, it is time for companies to sit down and create a solid remote work policy that develops a strong pillar for employers and employees alike to follow – but the most common question remains: where do you start?
In this article, HRD guides HR leaders in how to create a policy for employees working from home, the important things to include, and how to spread the word on it. But first, it is important to know why the policy is a need that can no longer be postponed.
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy is a set of rules and guidelines the covers all there is to know about a company’s work from home arrangements. This includes who is allowed to work remotely, how their shift will look like, what is expected from managers and HR leaders, as well as what will be expected from the employee during their remote work arrangements. The document will serve as an official point of reference the company can go back to when in doubt of how to go about certain situations regarding working from home.
Why is a remote work policy important?
The COVID-19 pandemic boosted remote work globally and many have seen the benefits the work arrangement brings. Considering this, there have been many studies and research done regarding the arrangement.
According to a global HRD survey, around 91% of the HR leaders surveyed are open to pushing for remote work arrangements to continue post COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, 2022 research done by FlexJobs revealed that 48% of employers who were surveyed revealed that they are already maintaining some form of remote work in their company.
I love working remotely bc:— Coleee 🌍 (@w0lfnic) December 15, 2022
- I have a home gym
- I cook healthy meals
- I usually take a walk on break
- sometimes I work in pjs or sweatpants and still meet quotas regardless
- cameras is not a requirement.
-$0 goes towards transportation
- sleeping extra hours 😄
However, just because many are aware or already in some form of remote work does not mean there is no need for a policy. If anything, the need for a policy on working from home increases.
Here are seven reasons why a remote work policy is important:
- It creates a standard of fairness: Businesses will naturally have an in-office policy in place for employees reporting to work at a designated physical space. Having a separate guideline dedicated for remote workers provides a standard of fairness as they are seen just as vital as onsite workers.
- It enhances employee eligibility: Having a formal document for remote workers gives them a sense of inclusivity and authenticity in the organization. The policy is a way a company can show how serious they are in incorporating remote work in their workplace culture.
- It creates a unified and efficient flow: With a remote work policy in place, employees doing remote work and managers alike are aware of one set of rules and regulations. It provides clarity which allows the workforce to work together more efficiently and erases miscommunication and misinformation.
- It helps attract top talent: As more people look for companies who offer remote work arrangements, having a policy in place improves the company’s image for job seekers and attracts top talent that could have been eyeing remote work vacancies.
- It helps in managing expectations: As the policy provides clarity for the workforce, it helps managers and employees manage their expectation on how the remote work would go about. The guidelines form a clear view on what the remote work arrangement would look like, so it alleviates the pressure managers could have placed on employees as well as adjusts the expectations of employees when it comes to their work.
- It reduces risk of unnecessary costs: A remote work policy helps in reducing the risk of unnecessary costs and expenses that could come from tension and issues due to unclear remote work guidelines. Having the policy in place helps companies risk any legal damages and extra expenses that could arise such as the hiring costs to replace the leaving employee who was dissatisfied with the remote work arrangement.
- It increases employee morale, productivity, and retention: A remote work policy provides work arrangement options for employees to choose from. This gives them flexibility to choose which work set up works best for their lifestyle and productivity. In effect, the employee morale gets a boost, and the quality of work improves due to better productivity levels. It also motivates employees to stay with the company for longer.
One last reason that we would like to look at is the increased productivity of a work from home workforce. A study conducted by Stats Canada showed very promising increases in productivity:
- 90% of those surveyed reported being as productive working from home as they were in office
- 32% of those surveyed reported being even more productive working from home than in the office
- Only 10% of those surveyed reported being less productive working from home than they were in the office
Happier and more productive employees should be the goal of every HR department, and a properly set up remote work policy will give everyone the greatest opportunity for success.
How do you set up a remote work policy?
There are many things to consider when making rules and regulations on remote work and HR leaders are usually confused on what to step to do first – which can lead to many vital factors being brushed off in the final draft of the policy.
HRD lists down the steps that can help any HR manager of every industry create a flawless and working remote work policy:
Clearly explain the purpose of the policy
Every rule and regulation being put to practice must have a valid reason as to why the company is adopting it into its business operations. Outlining the purpose of the policy helps employees see the need for the guideline which makes them more open to the new policy.
It is ideal for employers, at the start of the policy, to explain why the company is adopting remote work, how it can affect the work set up of employees, and how it can promote work-life balance as transparent as possible before moving on to the technicalities and details of the policy.
I was in the office today and yesterday (just for a couple of hours) and it's exhausting.— Lisa (@_LiMaMo_) November 17, 2021
I can't believe I used to schlep out ma house to be in an office for 40 hours a week and mingle with people. It's lunacy.
So happy ma work have a remote first policy 🙌
Determine who are eligible to work remotely
The next step HR leaders should take is to see who are eligible to work from home and what employees need to achieve to be able to work remotely. It is important to note that the remote work policy should fit well with the lifestyle and work ethics of the workforce, so it is advisable for employers to see how the current workforce is doing and what they look for in a company.
For example, do your employees work better at a specific time of day? Are they currently getting adequate work-life balance? If not, it is great to offer a remote work arrangement that could help ease their work. A company-wide survey on remote working can shed light on how employees view the work arrangement.
The next great place to look at would be the job positions in the company and which roles could be done remotely. A few examples of occupations that can be done remotely are:
- Computer and mathematical roles
- Legal roles
- Management roles
- Writing jobs (those of us at HRD know this!)
- Payroll and HR functions
- Office admin roles
From there, employers can tell whether certain roles can be 100% remote work, a hybrid set up, or purely an onsite role.
From there, employers can explore other conditions employees would need to be eligible for remote work. An example of this would be to set a requirement for an employee to have work a minimum amount for the company, or whether part-time and contractual employees are eligible for a remote work arrangement.
Enumerate the expectations and requirements for remote workers and managers
Once the company has determined which employees have the option to work remotely, the remote work policy should list down what is expected from them. Since they will not be working from one location, it will be challenging for managers to keep an eye on every team member. Setting clear boundaries on how they work remotely such as their:
- Key performance metrics
- Weekly hours
- Leave balances
- Shift schedules
- Communication methods and expectations
Doing this creates a unified workflow and can help boost collaboration virtually between team members.
This goes the same for managers and employers. The policy should state the responsibilities of managers regarding remote work and what employees can expect from them such as regular check ins with their remote team members and certain metrics managers need to follow.
State the company’s role in the work arrangement
HR leaders should take advantage of the policy to discuss what remote workers can expect from the company in terms of support and benefits.
An example of this would be to discuss the privacy and security policy the company upholds for their employees handling online sensitive data and files of the business. Keeping the sensitive information of the company and its employees are vital when it comes to different employees using different WiFi networks and servers. It is nice to inform employees that the company takes their protection seriously, most especially when they are miles away from the office.
Aside from this, employers can also discuss the guidelines in providing equipment for remote workers. There will be situations wherein employees will need to use software that can require specific kinds of equipment and hardware. Stating whether the company will provide equipment for remote workers in the policy, and other responsibilities of the company, helps employees feel more assured that employers are responsible, and accounted for, in taking care of employees.
Include the legal boundaries of remote work
In addition to the boundaries placed by the company, a remote work policy should also include the laws and legal policies set by federal, state, and local governments. HR leaders should explain the laws governing and affecting remote work and what it means for both the employee and employer. Explaining the rules to employees lessens the risk of a breach and any other sanctions.
It is crucial for HR leaders to always check on any news and updates on laws to ensure the policy is updated and to regularly assess if the company’s remote work policy is still relevant and beneficial for its workforce.
How can a remote work policy be improved?
Just creating a policy is not enough for companies and employees to reap the benefits remote working can give them. Depending on the company culture, there are ways to help HR leaders improve the way the policy is perceived and accepted into their work lifestyle. Below are some concrete examples:
Create open communication online
The lack of physical presence pushes for the need to create communication virtually even greater. HR leaders need to consider whether the tools for communication, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Skype, fit the company culture the company wants to achieve. It is important to note that these tools are not only for meetings and inquiries but to also form bonds with remote colleagues and team members.
Forming an open line of communication between employees that can be anything between formal work inquiries to casual conversations, breaks down walls of formality and intimidation, as well as the feeling of isolation remote work usually brings.
Host planned company events or gatherings
Growing a virtual community online with remote workers is usually not enough. Scheduling gatherings such as annual company events or quarterly team lunches help strengthen the bond co-workers build online as it solidifies the feeling of being a part of the organization.
Continuously improve the remote work policy and the quality of remote work
As the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, change can drastically happen overnight and can either improve businesses or can worsen the workload of employees. Companies should always find ways to improve the current remote work policy to fit the needs of employees while still focusing on the success of the business. One way to do this is by streamlining and incorporating innovative processes to increase collaboration and productivity through the use of new software or systems that can make work and data sharing more efficient.
Inform, inform, inform
There is a huge difference when companies actively inform employees of the company policies in place. When employees are made aware of the remote work policy and what comes with it, the actions and decisions being made from both sides are smarter and more meaningful in the long run.
A key time to pass on this information is during your onboarding. The onboarding process for remote work is different than in person and deserves special attention.
What have your experiences been like working from home? Do you feel that the remote work policy at your place of business is effective? Let us know in the comments section below.