Remote work is on the rise. According to Global Workplace Analytics, by 2025, some 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days a month. But even though more and more companies embrace this new concept, many still lack a proper remote work policy. This can cause a lot of confusion, and is certainly not advisable if you want to establish a remote work culture.
Why companies need a remote work policy?
While establishing a remote work culture is not simply done by creating a remote work policy, it surely helps setting some boundaries and rules of play for your remote employees. They will likely have questions around what is allowed and expected of them, and it is your job as their employer to provide some clarity. A remote work policy is a good place to start and refer back to, and to 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 any legal risk before it arises, especially if you are working with an international team, which is subject to varying tax regulations and social security standards.
What should a remote work policy look like?
Now that we have established why a remote work policy is so important, let’s dive right into what should be included in your policy.
1. Who does the remote work policy apply to?
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 your remote work policy – and is a great opportunity for business owners to reflect on their actual needs for non-remote teams and things like office space and equipment.
2. Are there set working hours for remote employees?
Many remote employees tend to organise their days around common office hours; 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 the remote employees are allowed to plan their day around their own individual needs.
If the latter is the case in your company, make sure to still clearly outline your expectations around meetings and communication, as this could lead to some misunderstandings and confusion.
3. How are teams expected to communicate?
While on the topic of communication, it is crucial to set some rules for how, when and where your remote teams are supposed to communicate. This specifically refers to response time, but also availability in chat tools like Slack or Teams. If you have no rules in place for this, some employees might feel compelled to reply immediately, and therefore have a hard time switching off or setting boundaries for their work hours.
Additionally, letting everyone know when and how they are expected to communicate eliminates the risk for false expectations and again, these nasty confusions that can have a serious toll on workplace relationships.
4. What equipment is provided to your remote employees?
This is a big one. As working from home becomes more and more common, employees need to be able to have a proper set-up to not only increase their productivity, but also support their physical health. Employers must step up and take responsibility for this if they choose to have a remote culture in place – or at least clearly communicate who is responsible for providing the right set-up.
This also includes providing technical support for hard- and software-related issues and even ensuring the employee has access to a proper internet and phone connection.
5. How is performance measured for remote employees?
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 of your remote work policy. Are your employees expected to track their time spent on specific projects or the number of calls and emails sent out in one day?
At the same time, a remote work policy should also include what type of education and development is available to remote employees, for example in the form of accredited online courses, seminars, or video calls with a coach. So it’s not only about measuring their performance, but also giving them access to tools that can help them improve in this area.
6. What are the guidlines around security?
Security needs to be addressed in two different ways. First off, the physical work environment of your employees must be safe for them, just as your office or headquarters have to be.
Secondly, data security needs to be mentioned in your remote work policy. This is especially vital when working with sensitive client information that might be compromised by using public Wi-Fi or taking work calls in an open space 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, you can mitigate the risk for any breaches in security.
Conclusion: Better safe than sorry
With more and more employees working remotely, companies need to adapt their culture and their 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.
So, make sure you address anything and everything that might lead to confusion for remote employees, and set specific expectations around your employees availability, the form of communication, provided education and equipment, as well as specific security precautions. At the end of the day, it is better to have a clear framework than have employees wondering about their rights and rules as remote employees.