With so many companies now having hybrid and remote employees, it is crucial to have a well-defined remote work policy to support the interests of employees and employers. Remote work is not practical for every role, but if your company employs remote workers, a written policy that sets clear expectations for remote employees and outlines what support is available for them can benefit your business.
The Rise of Remote Work
Although remote work was on the rise before 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many employers rapidly adopting workplace changes to keep their businesses operating. For many workplaces, remote work became the norm as employees needed recovery time or were required to quarantine after virus exposure. As the pandemic continued, many employers and employees realized that remote work had benefits, leading to many companies adopting permanent hybrid and remote work policies.
What is a Remote Work Policy?
A remote work policy (also known as a work-from-home policy) is a set of formal guidelines that communicates how and when employees may work from home or a remote location. Your policy can be temporary or permanent and should outline who is permitted to work remotely, how and when they are expected to accomplish their work, what tools are available, and more.
Why Do I Need a Formal Remote Work Policy?
A strategic policy can help your company develop a successful and proactive remote work program that maximizes the advantages of remote work while minimizing risks. Without clear guidelines, employees may be confused about what is expected of them, leading to poor productivity and decreased job satisfaction. By giving your remote employees a firm foundation for their remote role, you’ll be able to help them stay on track and create a thriving remote company culture.
1. Mitigate Risk
Help your organization minimize legal and security risks by creating a clear remote work policy. It’s a good idea to mitigate risks by including sections in your policy that incorporate the following considerations:
Overtime. In most cases, nonexempt employees must be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Ensure that hourly employees understand the number of hours they are required to work and what to do if they need to work overtime.
Security. When employees work remotely, the company cannot control the security of their employees’ internet connection. This can present significant data security risks for employers, especially if their remote employees work from an unsecured network in coffee shops or other locations. Increase the likelihood of data security by outlining best practices in your remote work manual. Consider the following tips to safeguard your organization’s confidential information:
- Provide remote employees with a dedicated work computer with access to a secure network for company-related communication.
- Instruct employees to lock their laptop screens if they step away from their workstations.
- Ask employees to use a privacy screen on their monitors to shield their work from casual observation in public spaces.
- Require employees to use strong passwords and multi-factor identification.
- Remind employees not to hold client calls in public areas if they plan to discuss confidential information.
- Ask employees to use a virtual private network when using a public internet connection.
- Require employees to maintain up-to-date virus protection software on their company devices.
- Outline what an employee should do and who they should contact in the event of an accidental data breach.
Workers’ Compensation. Remote work does not protect employers from workers’ compensation claims, and accidents that occur during the workday (and during work) may result in employer liability. Check the rules in your state and include relevant and up-to-date information about workers’ compensation in your remote work policy.
2. Increase Employee Value Proposition
The flexibility of remote work is an attractive benefit to many workers. Having a well-defined remote work policy can increase your employee value proposition by providing a benefit appreciated by many employees. In addition, many workers want to know their options in the event of another health crisis. Having a clear plan for remote work shows potential employees that your organization can adapt and thrive during uncertainty, easing fears and creating confidence.
What to Include in Your Remote Work Policy
Your remote work policy establishes the criteria for all aspects of working outside the office. Your employees will have many questions about the process, and your written policy should answer them in a way that protects the interest of your business and the rights of your employees.
1. Define Your Purpose & Scope
Your remote work policy should explain why it exists and who is eligible. Is your company remote-first? Hybrid? Can all workers request to work remotely, or are only certain employees covered by the policy? Make it clear to all employees whether remote work is a possibility for them.
2. Who is Eligible for Remote Work?
Not all jobs can be accomplished remotely. For example, an employee who works on a computer might be able to get their work done from any location, but a warehouse worker will need to work on-site to be successful. Similarly, many jobs require equipment that cannot be obtained for home use or documents that can only be accessed from a secure work location.
Even if your business is entirely remote, you may want to create eligibility rules that define whether workers need to live in the same city as the company or if they are free to do their jobs from anywhere in the world. Since different states have different tax laws, where your employees live can have significant legal ramifications for your business.
3. Clearly Explain Overall Remote Work Expectations
Since supervisors aren’t able to physically oversee the work of employees, a remote work policy should clearly outline work expectations, including:
Business hours. Many remote workers find it difficult to disengage from work at the end of the day, especially if they are working from home. Establishing business hours (and not contacting employees outside of the designated hours) can help your remote employees create a better work-life balance. Many choose remote work to provide more flexibility in their schedules. If this is the case in your organization, consider asking employees to work 8 hours within a certain period, such as 8 am to 8 pm, or be available during the regular operating hours of your company.
- Responsiveness. How quickly do you expect your remote employees to respond to emails or other forms of outreach during the workday? Take time zones into consideration while creating guidelines for employee response times.
- Time tracking. An efficient time-tracking system is a must for all remote workers. Your policy should clearly explain how to log hours and what to do if overtime occurs.
- Employee reviews. Employees need feedback to help them develop in their roles. Explain how often you will review performance and how employees can advance within the company.
- Company meetings. If your organization has a company-wide meeting, explain how employees will connect or receive the information they need to participate.
- Client meetings. If remote employees are required to meet with clients, outline the steps they need to represent the organization in a professional manner.
- Professional development. Employee development should continue even if your employees are no longer working in the office. Your remote work manual can be an essential resource for employees, outlining the opportunities for advancement and personal growth your organization provides.
4. Important Communication Tools
Your remote employees will have questions about how they should communicate with their colleagues. Listing the available communication tools and how to use them appropriately can help your remote employees feel connected to the company. Include instructions for how they will receive information about onboarding and training and where they can access important company policies.
Guidelines that help employees understand when to send an email, a Slack message, or a video meeting request will allow new remote employees to feel like one of the team faster. If collaboration is an important part of an employee’s job, make it clear which tools will be used to share information about projects and how the employee can access them.
Another key communication channel allows employees to chat socially, just as they would if they worked on-site. Providing a way for employees to socialize can help your employees build team connections that lead to more job satisfaction. Be sure to include information about how your remote workers can gather around the virtual “water cooler” in your remote work policy.
5. Salary Structure for Remote Workers
Does your company allow workers to move out of the city or state? Some states may have a higher or lower cost of living—which means your remote workers may wonder if their compensation will reflect the change. Being clear about the salary structure for remote workers can save time and avoid misunderstandings.
6. Tools & Technical Support for Remote Employees
Will your remote employees need equipment or resources to perform their jobs? Outline what the company will cover in your remote work policy. Some companies pay for laptops or additional monitors but require employees to cover the cost of internet, printers, and office equipment. Be specific about what tools you’ll furnish, what you expect your employees to source for themselves, and what qualifies for reimbursement.
Technical difficulties often accompany device usage. Your remote employees might hit technical speed bumps, and they’ll want to know how to get support. If your company offers a help desk or IT support hotline, list the contact methods in your remote work manual to help keep your employees connected and productive.
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