What Is a Remote Work Policy, and How Can You Create One?
Is your company temporarily remote because of the pandemic, open to telecommuting from time to time, or permanently work from home? No matter your model, you need a policy to communicate that to your workers.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, human resources should draft a remote work plan. It should cover the following:
- Eligibility for remote work
- Expectations for employees
- Legal issues
- Technology issues.
We’d add two more:
- How remote work violations will be handled
- How the company draws the line between work and fun.
The right remote team policy can improve communication, boost morale, and retain employees. Set remote work expectations clearly and early.
A work-from-home policy covers:
- Work hours
- Check-in style
- Location requirements
- Cybersecurity practices
- Equipment requirements
- Internet connection standards
At a minimum, list when and how employees work remotely for your team. This can impact hiring decisions. For example, if your team is mostly on the West Coast, having someone work European business hours can be more trouble than it’s worth.
- When are employees expected to be online?
- Will you have enough time zone overlap if your team members are in different states or countries?
- Do you expect employees to maintain a regular work schedule?
A “check in” means something different at every company. If a company touches base weekly in Slack threads, there’s more flexibility. If there’s a two-hour meeting, employees should know about that in advance so they can prepare.
Work-Related Location Requirements
Some digital nomads might assume it’s fine to change countries every few months. If you’re worried about James checking in over spotty Wi-Fi at a Bali resort, where you suspect he might just be lounging by the pool and not on a video conference, call it out.
Note: This can create complex tax liability issues for the company.
Equipment and Cybersecurity Issues
An employee might assume borrowing their neighbor’s Wi-Fi is fine, or that it’s no big deal to stream on their work computer the evening after an out-of-town conference, but this could cause security issues. If you need specific types of computers or software, or you need employees to follow certain cybersecurity practices, your remote work code of conduct should call them out.
Consider what tools remote workers need in remote workspaces. Then, clarify what the ownership, lease, and care requirements will be. Companies might:
- Purchase computers, monitors, and external keyboards and mouses that run efficiently on Wi-Fi
- Purchase noise-canceling headphones or ring lights
- Reimburse for internet plans or cell phone bills
Internet Connection Requirements
Will your employee be on video conferencing calls with Zoom? Recording podcasts? Chatting on Gather? Running webinars regularly? They’ll benefit from a high-speed Internet connection, so you might want to require a minimum internet speed. You can reimburse employees who have to upgrade as a general rule or case-by-case.
Many companies go remote to reach the best talent in a bigger geographic area. That means compensation may vary depending on where employees live. The cost of housing in San Francisco is astronomical, so an in-office employee there might get paid more than a remote worker in rural Nebraska.
Make sure the entire team knows the policy on location-based compensation, and store this in a central place where it can be updated regularly.
Company Remote Work Agreement Examples
The college of William & Mary has had their remote work procedures manual in place since 2016. It gives clear definitions of what they mean by telecommuting. Remote employees, for example, only work remotely one day per week:
Remote working: a work arrangement where the employee enters into a formal agreement with the university to perform his/her usual job duties in an alternate work location at least one day per week.
Per USF’s remote work policy, telecommuting and remote work are allowed as needed by departments. When working remotely, employees are asked to work their normal work schedule, have the same response times as if they were in-person, and arrange for childcare during working hours.
Here are a few more questions to think about when drafting your own policy:
- What metrics will be used to gauge performance?
- How do we prevent hourly eligible employees from logging more overtime than expected? Which roles can’t easily switch to remote, and which ones might require some tweaking to accommodate flexible work options?
- Are your remote workers eligible for promotion and training on the same schedule as everyone else?
Your work-from-home policy is only as effective as you want it to be. That means you might have to play bad cop if someone breaks it.
The policy is a starting point, but it’s up to management to decide how to adjust and enforce it. Most remote work policies evolve as situations come up, so think of your remote work document as a living one.
Responses to Remote Work Policy Violations
What happens if a worker unintentionally or intentionally violates the remote work policy? Do you call them out for sitting at Starbucks during the workday by telling them you can hear the couple next to them arguing? Will you use a three-strike warning system? What if an employee doesn’t have access to a quiet workspace — is it a violation if their spouse walks by in the background, or will you use this as an opportunity to help them find a good coworking space?
You want to encourage a good work-life balance, but you need workers to respect your policies. Start with a warning and a reference to the remote work policy, but take it seriously when someone has crossed the line.
Level up Your Remote Work Environment Today
Even though we’ve come a long way with digital collaboration tools, some of them just don’t cut the mustard. You can check out the live walkthrough of Gather to see how you can connect team members in a fun digital work environment.