Many employers understand the benefits of allowing employees to work from home. By enabling remote work, companies can attract top talent regardless of location, increase worker productivity and improve employee retention. While the advantages of remote work are growing increasingly clear, many employers still aren't prepared to support flexible policies.
Owl Labs published the 2019 State of Remote Work report, based on a survey of 1,202 employees in the United States. We found that more than half of on-site workers want to start working remotely and 42% of already remote workers plan on working remotely more often. A remote work policy is essential for organizations with remote employees. Instituting a clear policy helps remote employees embrace their preferred work styles. It also helps companies attract distributed talent while making sure work gets done.
A remote work policy is a document that outlines what's expected for remote workers. It describes who can work remotely, best practices to follow, and the legal rights of remote employees (among other things).
Here are the first steps to take and questions to ask to create a remote work policy that works for your business.
The remote work policy outlines what's expected when working remotely. It should go into detail about all aspects of remote work. This includes expectations of working hours, legal rights, and cybersecurity requirements. Although this might sound challenging, with the right guide, it won't be! Our remote work policy template removes the hassle of starting from scratch on your policy.
With a remote work policy in place, you'll end any confusion when employees are remote. When the policy is clear, employees know when they should be responding to others and how to keep data safe. They'll also know their legal rights when working remotely. This can be confusing when employees don't have traditional working hours or locations.
While employees across many roles can benefit from working away from the office, not everyone can feasibly work from home all or even some of the time. For example, HR roles that coordinate in-person training sessions, meetings and recruiting events might not fit as seamlessly into a remote work policy as a copywriter. When developing a remote work policy, first determine who is eligible to work remotely and in what capacity. Some employees might find success working remote full-time others might be able to work from home on an ad-hoc basis, and some might not be able to at all.
Questions to consider when building the policy include:
Ask the right questions and determine the answers with your HR, legal, and finance teams before rolling out any working from home (WFH) policies to make sure the transition is smooth.
When working away from the office, your employees need the right tools to work securely and productively. For many employees, a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection might not be enough. Remote employees need technology that makes them feel engaged and part of the team, not just an afterthought. Be sure to ask questions like:
Additionally, cybersecurity concerns should be top-of-mind. Remote workers might need a VPN or another form of security to work on important company files or private customer data. And while some employees might be able to operate using public Wi-Fi networks, others might need to stay at home or in a more secure co-working space to ensure data privacy.
You'll also need policies and tools in place for remote team collaboration and communication. Use additional tools like live chat, synchronous screencast recording, live video conferencing and more to ensure technology doesn't get in the way of an effective and meaningful work relationship. For instance, Slack and Google Hangouts can act as a virtual watercooler, where employees can discuss the status of a project but also debrief on Game of Thrones, share cat GIFs and bond over their favorite music.
If employees can work from home sometimes but not always, clarify upfront when and where employees can work remotely. Consider whether in-person or remote communication works best in situations like:
Clearly communicate and document what is expected when employees work remotely. Though most employees report being more productive working remotely, distractions abound when outside of the office. Set policies about when employees are expected to be available online, or if they can operate on a flexible schedule that's built around their personal lives -- for example, to accommodate a doctor's appointment or delivery. Remind employees that WFH days are a privilege, and should not be abused for personal time like dependent care, running errands or catching up on your favorite TV show.
If your remote work policy will enable employees to work remotely full-time, either from home or from a different state or country, make sure your policy has guidelines for building in time for teams to be together in person, too.
No matter what technologies you have at your disposal, human beings crave in-person connection, so build into your policy time every month, quarter, or year when you can gather all team members in the same location for brainstorming, planning, and having fun. Depending on your budget, plan an annual in-person retreat at a minimum to keep up team morale and camaraderie.
Remote workers are entitled to the same legal protections that in-office workers have. However, working remotely can present some added challenges that need to be addressed to ensure your company is legally compliant.
Set up a process to report hours for hourly remote workers. If they work more than 40 hours, they'll likely qualify for overtime. To avoid high overtime costs, select times that employees should and shouldn't be working. With clear guidelines, they won't be able to work outside of these hours unless they have permission from their manager. This makes it easier to avoid employees accidentally working more hours than intended.
It's important to support employees that are remote just as you would in-office workers. This means clearly discussing the training, benefits, and promotions that are available to them. If you don't provide remote workers with the same level of assistance as in-office workers, it could result in discrimination or disability-related workplace violations.
Perks can be specific to your company but should list anything that employees earn. Some companies give a stipend for equipment needed for work such as computer monitors or desk equipment. Others provide reimbursement for employees to use on office-related costs such as electricity.
Transportation benefits are 73% more important to remote workers than to on-site workers. Stipends for transportation can ease the pain of commuting for remote employees who work from a coworking space rather than at home.
Poll your teams before deciding on benefits so you know what's important to them. This information can help employees decide if they'd rather work from home or the office. Include all perks and stipends so employees can make the best choice.
A policy is only as good as the results it brings in, especially when it concerns a shift like remote work. Unlike a traditional office setting, it's difficult to see what folks are working on when remote. A good policy will focus on what managers expect from their employees and how they will measure success.
Every role is different, so measures of success are different for every team. Customer support will value the numbers of callers assisted rather than the number of hours they reported working. Some results-oriented metrics include the number of projects finished in a week or the number of hours worked.
These can be tracked using project management software such as Asana or Trello. However, don't take these metrics at face value alone. We found that remote workers work more than 40 hours 43% more than on-site workers. Just because they work more hours doesn't necessarily mean they're maximizing their productivity during that time. Find the metric that's most useful to your work or team so priorities are clear.
Another way to measure the success of your policy is less about numbers and more about people. Remote folks can get lost in the shuffle of work, so visibility is a priority. Fix this by scheduling regular check-ins for employees to discuss their work in a one-on-one setting.
No matter which method you use, set clear deadlines and goals for employees. Clear communication reduces the chance of missed deadlines or work that isn't up to par. Analyze work for its quality regularly. If things are starting to slip, it might be a sign that there are weaknesses in your remote work policy.
Remote work is a beneficial aspect of the 21st-century workplace. Enabling remote work shows your employees you care about their work-life balance and trust them to do what's best for their productivity. By establishing a clear policy about remote work, you ensure both your employees and your business reap the rewards.
To learn more, read our list of remote work statistics next. Don't forget to download the remote work, flexible schedule, and working from home policy templates to get your remote work policy started.