Many have found value in working from home or in other remote settings, and numerous companies have had to make arrangements to continue allowing their employees to work remotely. As a matter of course, this has included drafting effective remote work policies to ensure compliance among their remote workers.
Remote work has benefited workers and companies alike. Companies that have turned to remote work policies no longer need to rent office spaces or pay utility bills to accommodate in-house workers, nor do they no longer have to limit their search for new employees to local talent. They now have endless options to expand their talent pool near and far, and workers can ask for a remote work request to work where they want to (with some stipulations, of course).
However, to successfully run a remote-first business structure, companies must plan accordingly. Particularly, they need to devise a strong remote workspace policy that encompasses working arrangements and employment terms. This typically includes how many hours need to be worked daily, what work needs to be completed, employee performance standard expectations, and compensation benefits.
A strong work-from-home policy will help companies and employees comply with their working contracts and agreements. Corporate policies also help ensure that both the company and the employee know expectations and enter into the working arrangement on good terms. In addition, the policy for business will ensure that both parties remain happy.
What Is a Remote Work Policy?
Your employees need to have a firm grasp of your organization’s rules and what’s expected of them. Remote work can muddle things up in this area. There are considerable differences, including pros and cons, between in-house work and working from home. For example, those working from home may not understand their roles and responsibilities like those who work in-house do.
Instead of having everyone in one place where you can easily delegate tasks and responsibilities, you have employees split up all over the state, country, and sometimes even throughout different continents. Having no clear direction on who is responsible for what and when certain tasks should be handled can lead to confusion.
Remote work policies state what is expected of who, where, and when. They're becoming mandatory across the sector and should be a top priority of any remote-first or remote-friendly workforce.
A standard policy should consider the following:
- Who can work from home: Not all jobs can be performed off-site. To avoid disagreements and confusion, it’s important to state which jobs can be done remotely. Most technical jobs can be done off-site, while janitorial jobs and certain jobs related to the medical field cannot. Additionally, you may want your IT specialists to work on-site in case you need their immediate assistance, so it’s important to have these regulations outlined in your policy.
- When remote work is permissible: Some companies are hesitant about allowing their employees to work remotely, so they’ll compromise and allow them to work a few days of the week remotely. Additionally, you may want your employees to work on-site if you have important deadlines or meetings lined up. If this is the case for your company, you must outline the details of when remote work is permissible.
- Time zone overlaps: You should also consider time zone overlaps, especially if you hire remote employees from other countries. You need to make sure that your employees are working in a time zone that works for you. This will help ensure that deadlines are met on time and that you can reach your remote workers when needed.
A big factor to consider when setting a remote work policy is providing your employees with autonomy and empowering them to complete their work in ways that best fit their work and lifestyles.
There are two types of remote work policies that you should consider:
Flexible Work Arrangements
More and more individuals are seeing the value in flexible work arrangements. Flexible work allows employees to have a better work/life balance and to put priority into their home and personal lives instead of just their working lives. With flexible work growing in demand, both employees and employers are eager and interested in finding practical solutions to the flexible work demand.
There are several types of flexible work options that you can include in your employer-to-employee contract. Some options include:
- Remote work: The most obvious choice for flexible work agreements is allowing your employees to work remotely, if applicable. However, this option is not suitable for every job type, and many companies are hesitant to engage in full-time remote work scenarios.
- Condensed workweeks: With condensed workweeks, you would allow your employees to work fewer days while still working the standard 40-hour workweek. For example, some employers allow their employees to work 10-hour days, 4 days a week.
- Flextime: Flextime allows employees to choose when their workdays start and end. They can also change how many hours they work a week as long as they meet their standard hours within a specific timeframe.
- Job sharing: Job sharing means that two employees share the task of one job. Each employee would be working part-time shifts to ensure that the duties and responsibilities of their job are handled. The employees usually divide their responsibilities equally based on their skills and needs. This allows the employer to offer full-time positions to employees who require part-time positions.
- Part-time work: Part-time work is the traditional flexible work option. Part-time employees work fewer hours than the standard 40-hour work week. This is beneficial to students, new parents, and senior workers. However, not all employers can offer part-time options.
No matter which flexible option you choose to engage in, you must include it in your employee’s contract and clearly outline your expectations. For example, if you’re aiming for flextime work, your contract must state how many hours will be worked and in what timeframe.
Hybrid Work Arrangements
Some employers, sensitive to the complications that could arise with remote work, are hesitant to allow their workforce to work outside the traditional workplace. Instead, they compromise with hybrid work arrangements. But what is a hybrid work arrangement, how does it benefit the employer and employee, and what should be included in the agreement?
Hybrid work mixes traditional on-site working with remote working, allowing employees to work both from an office and a remote location. Some employers allow their employees to choose which days to work from home as long as they occasionally agree to work from the office. They only require that their employees work in-office when important meetings are set to occur. Other employers will have their own schedule, having definite requirements (such as certain days of the week) for working on-site and remotely at home.
With a hybrid remote work policy, you must outline exactly what is expected of your employees. How many hours should they work in-office versus how many they can work remotely, and other important factors, such as at-home working equipment, specific responsibilities, and more.
Remote Work Policy Checklist
If you’ve decided that you want to implement flexible work in your workforce, whether it’s fully remote or hybrid work, you must establish a clear and thorough remote work policy. The policy should outline fundamentals such as specific details on roles and responsibilities, what positions are eligible for remote work, and performance and legal considerations.
Let’s examine the most important policies and working remote best practices and what should be included in them.
Business Purposes & Scope of Employment
The first policy to prioritize in your remote work arrangement is business purposes and scope of employment, or conditions of employment. Basically, this means that you should clearly outline all employee responsibilities and activities in which your employee is expected to participate. The scope of employment may need to be updated regularly to include new projects and deadlines.
The employment or business purpose scope should include a summary of each task and project, the steps to completing those tasks and projects, and the deadline for completing them. You may also want to include the budget for the project or task and the expected outcome.
The standard scope of work company policy should look something like this:
- Scope statement
- Work breakdown statement
- WBS Dictionary
- Incidental costs
- Sponsor acceptance
- Scope control
Eligible Employees & Position
Another important policy to include in your remote work agreement is which employees and positions are eligible to work from home. Unfortunately, as much as some employees may want to work remotely, they may not be able to do so.
Common positions that are unable to work away from their typical office include:
- Janitorial workers
- Retail employees
- Hospitality workers
- Personal care service employees
- Food service workers
- Transportation workers
However, some employers may not want certain employees working remotely, even if their job can be performed off-site, especially those working in human resources. This is why it’s important to set clear expectations on which employees you are fine with working off-site, and which ones you would prefer to work in-house.
Of course, performance expectations should be marked down in your remote work policy. Since your employees will be working remotely, they need to understand the exact expectations you have of them. Without clear expectations, they may end up confused, fall behind on their job, or try to complete tasks that fall outside their responsibilities.
Set out clear expectations regarding the employee and their job, including:
Be sure to set clear expectations surrounding work hours and responsibilities.
Legal Risks Consideration (Consideration of Tax Laws)
Your remote work policy should clearly outline legal risk considerations, including employment and tax regulations. This is especially true if you plan on hiring oversea remote workers, since foreign employment and tax laws may differ from local ones. However, regardless of where you’re hiring your remote workers, defining the legal risks is something that you shouldn’t overlook.
Remote workers should be just as legally protected as in-house workers, but remote work can pose some unique challenges to your company’s compliance. You’ll need to ensure that there is a way to keep track of the hours that your remote workers work, especially if your workers decide to put in overtime. Plus, you must ensure that their taxes are withheld and delivered to the tax authority.
Ensuring that your policy covers these legal risk considerations will help keep your company compliant and out of trouble.
Availability Of Equipment & Office Supplies
Since your remote workers won’t be working in-house, it’s important to ensure that they have adequate equipment and office supplies. You must also decide who will provide these supplies — will it be you or your employee? If you choose to supply your employees with additional equipment, you’ll need to outline what equipment you’ll be providing them with and the terms and conditions for using it.
For example, if you provide your remote employee with a laptop, then you should outline that the laptop is only used for work purposes and not for recreation. Additionally, if your employee quits or is terminated, you’ll want to ensure that your contract covers that the employee must return the equipment to you.
Define Compensation Benefits
Another area to cover in your remote work policy is compensation and benefits. In general, your remote workers should be treated just as well as your in-house employees. However, it’s not that black and white. Different positions receive different compensation, and part-time workers aren’t always provided with benefits like their full-time counterparts. However, if your remote workers are full-time workers, then they are entitled to benefits and full-time pay.
It’s important to outline compensation and benefits in your remote contract. You’ll also need to consider the employment laws of where your remote workers are based. There are differing minimum wages and required benefits from state to state and country to country, so pay careful attention to what those laws are where you hire your employees.
Security and Confidentiality Agreement
Security and confidentiality should be a top priority for your business. When it comes to remote work, it can be difficult to determine whether your remote workers are living up to these expectations. It’s important to outline any security and confidentiality expectations in your remote work policy.
Include a non-disclosure agreement, and what you expect them to keep to themselves. You won’t want to risk your remote employees leaking secret information about your company or any products you intend to release in the future.
Clearly Define Termination of Employment
One final point to make clear in your remote work policy is employee termination. You’ll want to mark down what can lead to termination. For example, an employee might be terminated if they break the security and confidentiality agreement, if they don’t complete their work in the agreed amount of time, if they don’t put in the required working hours each week, and so on.
Define these terms clearly. If you don’t and then terminate an employee, your employee can sue. Avoid legal complications and ensure that you clearly define any termination scenarios in your contract.
How to Measure Productivity of Remote Workers
Keeping track of your in-house workers can be difficult enough, but tracking your remote workers and their performance can be even more bothersome. However, there are a few tips to make tracking and measuring the productivity of your remote workers easier.
Initiate & Value Internal feedback
Feedback is critical to the success of any company. Internal feedback is even more important — it’s the feedback that flows throughout a company and can include customer feedback, employee feedback, and employee performance reviews. What’s most valuable about internal feedback is what employees have to say about how the company can improve and what it can do to keep its employees happy. After all, happy employees are vital to a company’s success.
Set the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Numbers are important. Regardless of where your employees are working, you should pay attention to key performance indicators (KPIs) — especially if they’re working in remote locations. KPIs will help you measure and compare valuable information, such as performance and how effective a company is in its objectives. Setting KPIs will allow you to set goals for your employees, create strategies for those employees to reach their goals, and track their performance along the way.
In short, KPIs allow you to determine whether your employees and company are reaching their goals.
Get Tool Assistance
If you’re allowing your employees to work remotely, or hiring new remote workers, you must ensure that your employees have the right tools to work with. Whether it’s physical equipment like computers, laptops, printers, or software like Adobe or Microsoft suites, it’s crucial that you set your employees up with what they need to work comfortably from home. Sometimes your employees don’t have access to the right hardware or software and may spend their own cash on securing these items. If that happens, you’ll want to offer them a tool-reimbursement program to get reimbursed for the tools and equipment they had to cover out of pocket.
You may also want to consider helping them pay for their internet access, which is a vital tool for them to work from a remote location.
Choose the Clearest Method for Communicating Goals
Communicating effectively with your remote workers isn’t always the easiest. Keeping your employees in the loop can be difficult with so many workers divided up across different locations. Luckily, there are many effective ways to communicate and manage your remote teams that allow your employees to reach out to you in case of technical difficulty or when you need to keep your employees updated.
For example, there are communication tools that allow you to communicate with all your employees simultaneously. Some may require your employees to be there, such as Zoom. Others, you can create a group and leave messages and updates in the group chat. Programs like Slack are perfect for communicating with all team members.
You can also download productivity apps, to assign and delegate tasks and keep your employees engaged and updated on any project requirements. Slack can be used for this purpose, but there are also programs like Trello, Google Docs, and Asana.
Track Time & Productivity Frequently
You must track the hours worked and how much work your remote employees did. While this may seem difficult, it doesn’t have to be. You can easily track your employee’s time and productivity levels through certain software and applications, including:
- Time Doctor
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