More and more businesses are embracing remote work and the opportunities it provides to access global talent. So much so that working with globally distributed teams is becoming increasingly normal.
While there are many benefits to having a global workforce, it also requires some changes in the way businesses operate. One of the aspects organizations should think about when they start managing a global team is the introduction of a remote work policy.
What exactly is a remote work policy? What should it include? And how to create a remote work policy for a remote-first organization?
A remote work policy is a set of values, guidelines and rules that outline how remote work is managed and lived in an organization. It is the central source of information regarding how the company addresses the challenges that are unique to remote work. This involves both organizational and management challenges as well as compliance challenges that are linked to global mobility.
Establishing a remote work culture is not done simply by creating a remote work policy. But setting some ground rules on how remote employees are expected to work, communicate and collaborate can help point employees in the right direction.
Remote employees usually have questions regarding what is allowed and expected of them, and it is the employer's responsibility to provide clarity. A remote work policy is a good place to start as it outlines the basic rules that the company has established to manage its global team. It also helps build mutual trust as both parties have a clear framework of rules to rely on.
Another important reason for drafting a remote work policy is to mitigate legal risks. This is especially important when working with a globally distributed team, since the latter is subject to varying tax regulations, social security standards, and more.
As we have seen, a remote work policy is crucial for any business with a remote or global workforce. But how to create a remote work policy? What are the different elements it should include?
In some companies, there might be a few employees who need to be in the office to fulfill their task, while others may be able to perform all their duties remotely. This needs to be addressed in the company’s remote work policy.
Working out which members of staff and which positions are needed on site and which are not is also a great opportunity for business owners to reflect on aspects such as office space, equipment, and more.
Many remote employees tend to organize their days around common office hours, which is usually the typical 9 to 5. But this concept can quickly become a challenge when working with people in different time zones. Therefore, a remote work policy should clearly define if there is a need for specific working hours or if remote employees are allowed to plan their day as they see fit.
However, even if employees enjoy the freedom of managing their hours independently, it’s still necessary to outline expectations regarding meetings and communication to avoid misunderstandings and confusion.
While on the topic of communication, it is crucial to set some rules for how, when, how often and through which channels remote teams are expected to communicate. This refers to response times, but also to their availability in chat tools like Slack.
Without clear communication rules, employees might feel compelled to reply immediately and therefore have a hard time switching off or establishing boundaries between work and their personal life. Providing guidance with regard to communication also helps prevent misunderstandings and confusion that could have a negative impact on workplace relationships.
Remote employees need a proper office set-up at home to be productive and to prevent physical health issues. Employers must step up and take responsibility for this if they choose to be remote-first—or at least clearly communicate who is responsible for providing said set-up.
This also includes providing technical support for hard- and software-related issues as well as ensuring employees have access to a proper internet and phone connection.
Performance feedback and individual development is not unique to remote employees and should in fact always be clearly communicated to workers. But it is also an important aspect to consider in any remote work policy. Are employees expected to track time spent on specific projects or the number of calls and emails sent out in one day?
At the same time, a company policy for remote work should outline the possibilities for all-remote learning and development—for example, if employees have access to accredited online courses, seminars, or video calls with a coach. So it’s not only about measuring their performance, but also about giving them access to tools that can help them improve in this area.
Security in the context of remote work comprises two different aspects. On the one hand, a remote work policy must outline security standards regarding the employees’ physical work environment which must comply with the same safety standards as the ones at the company’s headquarters.
On the other hand, a remote work policy must provide detailed guidance on how to ensure data security when working remotely. This is especially important when working with sensitive client information that might be compromised through the use of public Wi-Fi networks or when employees take work calls in open spaces like a cafe or a coworking space.
By setting clear rules around where to physically work from and what to consider when dealing with sensitive information, businesses can significantly reduce their security risks.
Depending on how often the members of a remote team are required to travel or perform any type of activity that leads to them incurring work-related expenses, it might be a good idea to also include some rules in the remote work policy that outline how and to what extent expenses are reimbursed .
An expense policy for global teams consists of a detailed list of covered expenses along with specific guidelines on budgets and limits that employees have to respect. It also outlines how expenses can be claimed and what payment methods are supported.
Remote work is not limited to employees working from home. If employees can work from the comfort of their own home, this means that they can basically work from anywhere—at least in theory—which opens up vast possibilities for employee relocation, short workations and longer remote work stays abroad.
Since global mobility can have complex tax implications for businesses and employees alike, every organization with an international workforce should establish some ground rules to protect both itself and its employees from tax liabilities. These rules should be included in the remote work policy and outline what procedure employees have to follow when they plan to work remotely from another country, and what limitations they have to respect.
With more and more employees working remotely, businesses need to adapt their company culture and workplace regulations to meet the needs of their workers. A remote work policy plays an important part in this, as it manages expectations and sets clear rules around not only what is allowed but also what is provided to remote employees.
For a remote work company policy to be effective, it should cover anything and everything that might be unclear or confusing. For instance, it should establish clear rules regarding employee availability, communication, provided training options and equipment, as well as specific security precautions. It should also address compliance issues that might arise in connection with employee global mobility.
The Lano Academy is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Lano Software GmbH disclaims any liability for any actions you take or refrain from taking based on the content contained in this article.
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