Woman on virtual call with team

Remote work is here to stay! Laptops, smartphones, messaging apps, and easily accessible Wi-Fi from virtually anywhere make it easy and desirable to work remotely. Employees are taking advantage of these perks and are wanting to work from coffee shops, their couch, or while traveling. It’s important to have policies and procedures in place for your at-home employees that sets the precedent for what is expected and what won’t be tolerated.

Here are our top tips for creating an effective work-from-home policy!

Benefits of Having a Policy in Place

Defining rules, policies, and procedures is essential to keeping your teams on track and the more information you provide to your employees, the better the experience will be for everyone.

This kind of policy can help you set expectations for workers, such as when they should be logged on, how they will handle communication, and how they will log their time. Having these rules defined can help employees feel prepared and connected.

Keeping your employees engaged is vital when they are working from home. Learning and training doesn’t have to stop just because people aren’t physically in the office. Online learning solutions allow employees to remain engaged and active in their growth and you don’t have to hold classroom learning for when everyone is in the office.

Working from home allows you to keep ties to a learning culture while adjusting to the changing landscape.

Another benefit to having a policy in place is that you can set the expectation on productivity – times logged in, hours present, etc. – which is great because a study by Stanford University shows that working from home yields a 13% performance increase!

The benefits of remote work can help employees achieve work-life balance, and in the process, boost morale and improve retention at your organization. So, with that in mind, what should you include in your work-from-home policy?

7 Considerations for Designing Your Work-from-Home Policy

Boilerplate policies rarely work when designing a work from home policy, as each organization brings its own unique challenges – but can also reap unique benefits! 

What works for your competitor or for the company next door may not necessarily work for your organization. That said, it can be beneficial to look at their plans and policies as a jumping off point for setting your own standards. You should also speak with employees and tailor your policy to what works best for the office.

1. Define clear expectations.

While some employees may see this as a chance at freedom from the daily grind, it will be imperative to set clear guidelines for your office’s policy that remain consistent across all teams. Here are some questions to consider when developing your plan:

  • What will be some challenges and benefits to doing this?
  • Will employees need to request work from home days, or will you set up that every Friday is available to work from home?
  • Should we set up a time-tracking log?
  • What hours do we want people to be logged on?

2. Decide who is eligible to work from home.

Not every job can be completed remotely, and not every employee works well in a remote setting. It will be important to decide which teams can work from home and which are better suited to in-person work. For example, manufacturing teams will likely need to remain in the workplace, while sales teams could complete their jobs remotely. This can be left up to department managers to decide what location or combination of locations will work best for their team. For employees that are newer to the workforce and your organization, you may want to bring them in person for onboarding. However, with the appropriate training and technology in place, remote onboarding can be achieved effectively.

Check out our Onboarding…But Virtual guide in the Work…But Virtual series to learn more.

3. Consider reasons someone may need to work from home.

If your organization prefers employees work on-site, consider the occasional reasons that may be acceptable for remote work. Examples of these reasons could include illness, medical appointments, parenting responsibilities, commute times, and bad weather. There will always be outlying reasons why someone may need to work from home, so be flexible when needed to accommodate those requests.

Check out this webinar “Making the Move: The One Thing Managers Need to Know about Flexible Work” for information on the challenges of remote work and the best way to measure if your program and policy are successful.  

4. Know how you’ll stay in touch.

While working from home, you won’t be able to walk to someone’s desk and talk to them. They’ll only be able to be reached through digital mediums – email, text, messaging, video, etc. You should set up multiple avenues of communication and set standards on when to use which medium. For example, video could be best served for group meetings.

There are several video conferencing platforms out there – Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts – that provide the ability to host virtual meetings, so you can still get face time with your team.

Employees also need to be aware that phone calls and emails must still be part of their workday also. Consider how a messaging platform would be easier for quick discussion and how e-mails are better for longer thoughts and written pieces.

Determine expectations on response time. For example, do you expect asynchronous communication from employees through a project management tool or email? Or are there certain times when response communication is expected in a specific time period, such as a chat being answered within one hour, within the day, or within 24 hours?

Without communications practice standards, important information could be missed, or lost, and time could be wasted on mediums that weren’t of the best use.

5. Set expectations for productivity and performance.

While you might still be on the fence whether your organization should allow for remote work, 79% of employees think they would be more productive at home than in the office. With that in mind, manage expectations and reiterate that the work-from-home policy is truly a benefit by outlining productivity and performance standards.   

Additionally, determine how you’ll track productivity. While time logs are the obvious choice, they’re less indicative of performance than time spent on a task. Determine the specific metrics that are more relevant to your business and track those. Consider relying on managers to gauge productivity by tracking completed tasks or utilizing a task-management platform to make work progress visible.

Check out our blog on Managing Virtual Teams to learn how to address remote work challenges.

6. Make sure your team is secure.

One major concern with having remote teams is digital security. Employees using their personal devices could be open to attacks or introduce viruses to the company network. Even if it is a work-issued device, some employees may download something malicious.

Work with your IT team to establish rules and limitations on devices and ensure that each one has access to your network and the right levels of encryption, anti-virus software, firewalls, a VPN (virtual private network), and others in place.

You will also need to work with your IT department to establish parameters for tech support. You likely have tech support in your workplace, but if something freezes or won’t work, you will need to have procedures in place to combat these issues. One solution is to invest in remote desktop sharing software, so tech support can solve the issues quickly to keep your employees productive.

Under this part of the policy, you should outline your basic security policies as well. This includes information on secure passwords, logging off or locking screens when away from a device, and avoiding public WiFi, as it is notoriously insecure and can compromise data.

7. What costs will you cover?

You will need to explicitly lay out what costs, if any, you will cover for remote work. You could offer a stipend for a higher-speed internet or electric, for example. But one thing you will want to cover is any software-related costs. Include in your policy what those requirements are so that you, the employee, and IT can coordinate tech needs ahead of time.

Now that you have the policy laid out and ready to be put into place, you may have questions about how to best manage team members while they are at home.

Covering topics from onboarding new employees virtually to how managers can hold their teams accountable from afar, this series of guides is full of tips and strategies to help your organization utilize training to solve some of its biggest remote work roadblocks.