Major global shifts towards working remotely, means that many companies are transitioning quite rapidly to having a remote workforce. As a result, many companies haven’t had time to give thought to creating a remote working policy.
Your company probably already has policy documents that cover issues like professional conduct, discrinimation, confidentiality and sick leave. You can expand on these issues and specifically address remote work by creating a remote work policy.
Here we look at reasons to create a remote working policy and some easy steps to follow to draft one.
Reasons to create a remote working policy
Essentially, a dedicated remote working policy is a way to set out company expectations and guidelines around how to work remotely. It also acts to empower staff so that they can perform their roles optimally and effectively.
For employers, having a remote work policy can help to reduce confusion among staff and managers, streamline communication, and save time on having to answer many staff questions about remote work. It can also help to ensure legal compliance and help to legally protect companies and employees.
Remote working policies address issues like preferred communication methods, work hours, expectations around meetings etc. A remote work policy also helps spell out all the rules, so employees know what’s permitted and what’s not – clearing up any possible confusion.
How to create a remote working policy
Drafting a remote working policy is a process that takes careful consideration. There are many templates and examples available which you can use as a basis and then customize to your company’s specific needs.
Below are some pointers to help you along this journey.
Specify who can work remotely
You may have a company that is fully remote, or you may have a hybrid system whereby only certain employees are expected to be in the office or where employees take shifts in the office and working from home.
It’s therefore important that you clarify exactly which job roles and people are expected to be in the office, and who is able to work remotely. It’s best to make it clear whether working remotely is an option, or whether it’s expected.
Being transparent about remote working opportunities helps employees know what to expect. You may need to look at what types of job roles can easily be fulfilled remotely and which are critical as in-office job roles before you specify who can work remotely.
Detail privacy and security guidelines
When companies have employees working remotely on their own devices, there are a range of privacy and security issues that may need to be addressed.
For example, staff working from home or from coworking hubs using free wifi, may not have access to a secure server. That means that any data sent could be open to being intercepted, putting the security of the company and its clients at risk.
That’s why it’s a good idea to detail rules in your remote working policy about how staff access and share sensitive information and passwords. This may include using encryption, having strict access protocols in regard to accessing company data, and using virtual private networks (VPNs).
Outline what equipment and support is provided
Employers may want to provide remote staff with a stipend to cover costs of setting up a home office, or to pay for monthly coworking space subscriptions. If there’s specific equipment or software that employees will need to use, that should also be specified.
Being clear about what the company will provide in terms of the monetary contribution towards a computer, network setup, and tools, helps employees plan and know what to expect.
If your company provides staff with resources like a computer, you may want to set rules about it only being used for company work, not for personal use to help avoid security issues.
Set Communication rules and standards
Companies that fail to set guidelines, rules, and standards for staff communication may find that there’s an impact on productivity and happiness. That’s because if employees don’t know what’s expected of them, they may not perform optimally and confusion around rules may also present problems.
Instead, rather be clear from the outset about what communication tools employees should use, what software and apps should be used, how project management should be tracked etc.
Managers can also set expectations and rules around participation in virtual meetings, and regular check-ins. When staff work remotely and are based in different locations and time zones, response times may vary and scheduling meetings takes extra consideration. This should also be addressed in a company policy.
Furthermore, many remote companies allow staff to work flexible hours, depending on the nature of their roles. If this is something your company plans to do, then you may want to set these guidelines or rules down in your company policy.
Discuss collaboration and team building
Collaboration between team members is an important aspect of most jobs and can lead to enhanced productivity – as well as innovation and the development of new ideas. But for remote staff who don’t have opportunities to informally engage and chat with other staff members, employers need to set guidelines and expectations. By specifically endorsing set times for informal socializing (for example virtual coffee breaks for staff), companies can provide staff with the chance to get to know each other better.
It can also be a good idea to specify in your policy how often staff will have the chance to take part in team planning and brainstorming sessions. And you may also want to mention optional staff events like staff movie nights, staff book club, staff wellness wednesdays etc. where staff can come together and interact.
Regular team building activities can also be a good opportunity to build closer staff working relationships. Your remote working policy can make reference to these activities, so staff know what to expect. This can also contribute towards the company work culture.
Explain monitoring and evaluation expectations
Many aspects of company performance require monitoring and evaluation – and staff also usually have to undergo performance evaluations. These are issues that can also be laid down in a remote working policy, to ensure transparency and to spell out expectations.
Your policy may need to detail metrics for measuring performance. For example, sales positions may have weekly targets and you may need a tracking system or a way of regularly communicating progress.
Other roles may need to have quality metrics attached to performance reviews. Explaining your company’s monitoring and evaluation expectations in a remote work policy helps staff to plan for these activities in advance.
Set out the relevant laws
All policy documents need to take account of relevant laws that apply. This is to protect both employers and employees. Your HR and legal departments will probably already have policy documents covering issues like work hours, overtime, remuneration, sick days, maternity leave etc. These may remain the same for a remote working policy, or they may change – but it’s best to document it so that staff know what to expect.
You may want to add legal provisions regarding handling sensitive data, client confidentiality, accessing company information, and may even want to create non-disclosure agreements for remote staff.
Final thoughts on how to create a remote work policy
It is important that companies create remote work policies to provide employees with a clear overview of expectations. For companies, these documents can also provide legal protection.
With rising levels of remote work, it’s best to be prepared and start writing your work from home policy. There are many templates available that can be customised, making it easier to draft the document.
It’s important that any remote work policy addresses issues like data security and protection, how employees will be monitored and evaluated, what communication methods to use, and what procedures they need to follow.