If you’re thinking about introducing remote or Anywhere working into your business, setting out the detail of how it will work in practice can often seem overwhelming.
Creating a clear remote work policy is essential for avoiding any issues or misunderstandings among those working outside of the office.
This guide outlines some of the key points you will need to consider when creating a remote work policy for your company.
There are a number of common questions that employees will be thinking about when transitioning to remote work, such as who exactly will be working remotely, when, and how often.
Set out these guidelines clearly at the beginning of your policy to ensure your team are all on the same page. The following points are a good place to start.
Who is able to work remotely?
Not all companies are fully remote. Some departments within a company might have the capability to go remote, while others may not.
Certain roles may be completely off-limits for remote working, some may be split between the office and home, and others may allow employees to work Anywhere full-time.
You might also have different rules for employees based in a particular location.Trello, for example, has a large remote workforce, but employees based near their company HQ in New York City are expected to work in the office unless they have a “legitimate business reason” for not doing so. If your company has similar requirements, state them clearly in your policy.
When and how often will they work remotely?
Remote work may not be the default position in your company, with your team members instead needing to request specific times to be out of the office. If this is the case for you, establish clear guidelines on how remote work requests will be granted.
Vague terms like “flexible working” can lead to confusion, as each individual will have a different interpretation of what this means. Provide examples of what kinds of requests would and would not be accepted to avoid any misunderstandings.
What does ‘remote work’ mean to you?
Define precisely what ‘remote work’ means to you.
To some companies, this will mean working Anywhere, with employees free to choose whether to work from home, in co-working spaces, or in public places like coffee shops. To others, it will mean a home office with set workspace requirements.
Be clear about which kinds of work environments are included in your definition of remote work.
Availability and working hours
Provide specific information on working hours and availability requirements for your remote team members.
Will your remote workers have to adhere to standard office hours, can they choose their own shifts to work their required number of hours, or will you implement aResults Only Work Environment policy?
Distributed teams may require their working hours to overlap with each other, while remote workers in particulartime zones may need to attend meetings outside of their usual working hours.
You might decide that everyone across the company has to be online during the same hours, or that remote workers in certain time zones must have some overlap time with the company HQ. You could decide that it is up to team leads or department heads to set their own rules regarding their particular team’s working hours. Whatever you choose, ensure clear structures are in place to establish how employee availability and working hours will operate.
Absences and vacation policy
You might also want to include information on absences and vacation policy.
These policies may be the same for remote workers and in-office employees, but it can still be useful to mention these details in your remote work policy document to avoid any confusion.
Equipment and workspace requirements
Think about the equipment your team members will need to use outside of the office.
What are the minimum standards required for technological equipment such as webcams, microphones, operating systems, back-up/secondary devices for emergencies, internet connection speed, and phone lines?
If your company will be providing the necessary equipment for your team then you should discuss this in your policy, and include details of product delivery, installation and set-up. Otherwise, you should explicitly state any criteria that needs to be met regarding your employees’ own technology.
You should also mention any specific workspace requirements that must be followed by your team. This could include things like a neutral background for video calls, security and privacy requirements, or health and safety standards that your remote workers must adhere to.
Expenses and insurance
Outline the expenses employees can be reimbursed for, if any apply (e.g. internet, home office supplies, office furniture etc.) and what employees will be expected to pay for themselves (e.g. heating, lighting).
In many companies, there is no expectation for the employer to pay for these costs due to the savings in time and money that come with working remotely, but it is useful to state this clearly in your remote work policy to avoid any confusion.
Your remote employees may also have to make certain legal declarations about them working from home. These laws will vary across different locations and will depend on the nature of their work, so your policy might not set out a one-size-fits-all set of instructions for employees. However, you should make your team aware of these processes. Let your employees know who to contact to ask any questions (e.g. your local HR representative).
Find out about local insurance laws, too. You may need to cover home offices to ensure employees are covered if they are injured while performing work-related activities. The nature of the work involved in your company may mean that this is unlikely, but again, it is helpful to explicitly state this information in your policy document.
Be sure to establish clear guidelines around confidentiality and data security so that your business data is not lost or put at risk of exposure.
In a traditional work environment, all computers are centralized and information is generally secure. But when employees work outside of the office, there are a number of security measures they need to take to prevent hacking.
Your remote work policy document should inform employees of what these are. They could include:
Using secure networks instead of public
Keeping business assets secure (company laptops, phones etc.)
Using secure passwords and keeping them hidden when logging into a network
Not using public computers
Some organizations monitor all internet data that is composed, transmitted or received via their computer systems. If you choose to do this, you should make your remote employees aware of exactly what is being monitored, and what is considered inappropriate internet usage.
Employee conduct and performance
Your remote work policy document should include information about your expectations of employee conduct and performance. This could include things such as:
Time tracking is especially useful for companies where employees work remotely. It can boost productivity and efficiency by helping people to manage their time effectively. List anytime tracking tools used by your company, and outline how team members should use them.
Set clear expectations on how employees should communicate. Many companies suggest a minimum engagement requirement with colleagues, such as a target number of video calls or shared status updates.
Communication and collaboration requirements can be set out in more detail while training your employees, but it can be useful to include them in your remote work policy document for clarity.
Be clear on what your expectations for dress codes are. Is dress to be casual or smart when employees participate in video calls?
Social media activity
Make employees aware of what is appropriate when posting company content on social media. Be clear on what conduct is expected of employees on company accounts as well as anything that is considered inappropriate for individual profiles.
Create an official consent form or contract
After considering all of the points above, draw up a written handbook or contract that employees can read and sign.
This way, if employees abuse any aspects of your remote work policy, they will be accountable for their actions, as they have acknowledged their awareness of the company’s guidelines.
Consider setting up digital contracts and signatures to avoid the issue of obtaining paperwork from employees who are based far away. If you need to physically send important documents for verification, ensure there are clear processes in place to handle this.
If your company is fully remote, or an employee was hired with the intention of being a remote team member, then this might come in the form of their overall work contract. But if an existing in-office employee is transitioning into remote work, you will need to draw up a new consent form or contract outlining these details.
Describe the basics of what ‘remote work’ means to your company. Outline who exactly will be working remotely, when, and how often, and avoid ambiguous terms
Define any equipment or workspace standards that must be met
State your policies on expenses and insurance
Establish clear guidelines around data security and confidential information
Include expectations of employee conduct and performance
Draw up an official consent form or contract for your remote workers