The key to ensuring remote work becomes an asset for your company is having a clear and detailed remote work policy in place. This is also essential to improving productivity and the overall success of your team.
Regardless of whether the current state of the world has forced your company to work remotely, having a remote work policy prepared will help your company be nimbler and more adaptable.
It is important to know that remote work is not just a concept born during a global pandemic —it was common before and will continue to be something that companies will have to embrace.
Data by the United States Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that from 2017 to 2018, 4.7 million people, representing about 3.4 percent of the U.S. workforce, were working remotely. This showed an increase of 1 percent, or 800,000 people, from 2015.
According to Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), from 2005 to 2018, the number of remote workers rose by 173 percent. GWA also found that globally, even before the pandemic, “surveys repeatedly showed 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time.”
A remote work policy gives your employees a clear understanding of your company’s expectations for remote workers. Creating your policy will help you solidify guidelines, transform your remote teams and attract talent.
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy is a set of guidelines for employees working from home or locations outside the office.
The purpose of a remote work policy is to manage employees’ expectations from the outset and make it easier to promote engagement and productivity.
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What information should be included in a remote work policy?
According to the job posting site Betterteam, a remote work policy should include the following information:
Can everybody in your company work from home? Just a few teams? It is essential to clearly outline which departments, teams, or worker types can work from home and how often they are allowed to do so. Home-based work is expected to increase by 8% between now and 2025. When defining your remote work-from-home policy, consider which positions are in-office only. Be prepared to provide remote work policy examples when requested.
- Rules and company policy
Working from home doesn’t exempt anyone, regardless of position or responsibility, from following the same rules and policies they would adhere to in the office. It is important to remind employees that they must adhere to the employee handbook, even when they are working remotely. All company rules and policies, such as sick leave and vacation days, should still apply while working remotely. Providing a new copy of the employee handbook might not be necessary, but it is an essential part of building a work from home policy document.
This section will explain what you want from your employees regarding performance, quality, productivity, and results. You should also explain the tools and resources you will provide to help them adhere to the company standards. It should include working hours and performance expectations. Some flexibility might be necessary, as well as moderating your expectations while employees used to an office interface adapt to working from home.
Clarify how employees should communicate. Explain what tools will be available for communication and how they should be used. Detail how meetings will be conducted and on which platforms they should take place. This is also the point where you can explain whether you will be using synchronous or asynchronous communication. Employers should also provide an emergency form of communication in case of technical difficulties, power outages, or other unforeseen complications.
Make sure your employees understand how seriously your company takes cybersecurity. Reports show that data breaches can cost the U.S. $3.92 million every year. While working remotely, confidential information and data will be shared online. Your employees must know that their data will be secure and how they should handle sensitive and confidential materials. Explain what steps you’ll be taking to ensure the security of protected information, from VPNs to secure networks to strong passwords and two-factor authentication for logins. Explain whether your employees can use their devices to work from home or whether they must use the company devices.
- Insurance and liability
What happens if your employees suffer an accident while working remotely? You need to know, and so do they. How do insurance claims work, and who is liable under remote work policies? How do you handle the burden of proof when everything is done remotely? Employees injured during remote work will need to prove they acquired their injury during work hours in the course of their assigned duties. Outline the steps they should follow and who they should contact.
In addition to this information, your company may also want to address subjects such as:
- Employee rights
A great way to ensure happy employees is clearly defining their break times, eating hours, the process for requesting days off, etc. Individuals need to understand what their rights are, both as employees and as remote workers, and where there might be any difference between the two states.
- Company mission and vision
Even working from home, your team and the work they do still represents your company. Your employees may already be aware of your company’s mission and vision, but it may also be something that’s forgotten with the majority of their onboarding training. It’s never a bad idea to remind them about the company goals and to take the time to adapt this statement to a remote work model.
- Conflict resolution
When people are not interacting face to face, conflicts can be reduced because friction is reduced. On the other hand, distance makes it difficult for people to read each other, creating a new set of challenges. Upwards of 80 percent of remote professionals report some type of workplace conflict that could impact their day-to-day practices. Let your employees know who they can talk to and how they should proceed when conflicts arise. The benefit of resolving conflicts between remote workers is that it is easier to keep the conflicting parties separate without damaging the work dynamic.
Explain the equipment required for each role and whether the company will provide these tools. Will employees be refunded for purchases, or should they wait to receive their equipment before starting work? When building a remote working policy, some flexibility may be necessary if your team encounters technical difficulties. A dedicated IT team may have the answers, but it is more challenging to diagnose problems remotely.
How can you create a remote work policy tailored to your company?
Every company is different, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. To tailor your remote work policy, you need to consider the following key points:
1. Company goals
Creating a policy that reflects your company’s mission and vision will help add uniqueness to your remote work approach. You can take this opportunity to remind employees what they’re working towards and expand on how to reach these goals as a remote company.
2. Your company culture
Take the time to ensure your culture is reflected in your remote work policy and make sure that employees can experience the culture, even while working remotely. Perks like online events, games, counseling, etc., can help improve the overall wellbeing of your employees and add value to your culture.
This goes hand in hand with your company culture. Decide how flexible you want to be with things like working hours and paid leave. It’s easier to create a remote work policy if you have already decided how much flexibility you want to give your employees. Keep in mind that employees who work remotely can find it difficult to build and maintain a healthy work/life balance. Consider this fact when you decide on the level of flexibility you’re willing to offer for remote teams.
4. Know your team
You are the one who knows the conditions your team performs best under and the resources that they need to accomplish their goals. Make sure to have this in mind while creating your policy and ask managers for information on their teams. This becomes especially important if you’re onboarding new employees that, due to quarantine, lockdowns, and shuttered office spaces, you’ve never had the chance to meet in-person. It can be challenging to really get to know someone if your only interactions are through text messages and email.
Every team works differently, so having workflow and performance details from all managers will help create a policy that suits every employee.
What are the benefits of a remote work policy?
According to a report by Upwork, over 57 percent of companies in the U.S. operate without a remote work policy. Before the pandemic, they weren’t really necessary — only 6 percent of employees worked entirely from home, and upwards of 75 percent had never had the option. However, the reality is that a remote work policy can only help your company.
Let us review some of the benefits below.
Failing to provide the proper guidance on how to proceed with daily processes and projects can hurt employee morale — no one wants to have to constantly ask for instructions and wait for responses. When your employees are clear on your remote work policy, it becomes easier to resolve challenges, from how to use certain communication platforms to navigating obstacles during projects. Clarity will help your employees focus and perform better; it is that simple.
Companies that embrace guidelines for remote communication adapt and grow at a faster pace. Communication is the first step toward success in every aspect of your business, and if it is broken, it can lead to significant issues.
The best way to create inclusivity and boost employee performance in a remote business world is to make everybody feel that they are an integral part of the machine. This can be achieved by providing employees with the best tools and guidelines to communicate effectively and respectfully.
Paul Burrin, Vice President at Sage People, tells Workplace that “Regular, targeted, effective, and personalized two-way communication is essential so that organizations can keep employees informed. This way, they know what’s going on, can ask questions or provide feedback in real-time.”
When you empower your employees to work from anywhere with effective communication strategies in place, you are knocking down barriers for your organization and ensuring your company will be able to overcome future challenges.
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Increased flexibility and productivity
According to an International Workspace Group (IWG) global survey, 85 percent of remote workers say that flexible remote policies have increased their overall productivity.
As we have mentioned before, if your employees are clear on your company rules surrounding flexibility with factors like work schedules and paid time off, they will perform better. For example, working parents who have a good understanding of their company’s remote work policies will be able to plan out their day with less stress, which means happier and more productive employees.
Better employee engagement
Having a remote work policy shows your employees that you are committed to creating a better work environment. When employees see this, they are more likely to reciprocate this commitment and go that extra mile every day.
Companies often overlook the importance of employee engagement. Choosing to promote engagement means reducing employee turnover, which translates to fewer expenses in the long run.
A study by USI Insurance Services found that employee turnover costs six to nine months’ salary on average. Every time a company replaces an employee making 60,000 U.S. dollars per year, for example, it may spend between $30,000 and $45,000 in recruiting and training.
Improved onboarding process
In a remote-first business world, the onboarding process has become a crucial — and more challenging — part of the employee lifecycle. You must have a solid framework in place to set up your remote employees for success, and establishing a remote work policy will make creating this framework much simpler.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), organizations with poor onboarding processes only position employees for an early exit.
Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal of consulting firm The Interchange Group in Los Angeles, tells SHRM, “Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged.” While this may be challenging in a remote environment, it is even more critical without any in-person interaction to supplement.
Attract top global talent
Having a remote work policy is a sign of a serious company committed to its employees. These details make all the difference when the best talent is looking at your company.
International talent may be wary of remote global companies because their careers and success depend on whether your company has a structured and formal approach to remote work.
Creating a remote work policy is just one of the steps toward successfully hiring international employees and growing globally. The right approach to remote work can allow you to create a confident and reputable organization without borders.
Can a remote work policy help your company grow globally?
The short answer is yes. Today, many companies are taking advantage of our fully remote world by hiring international employees, even for local jobs. Do not look at a remote work policy as something to get you through the pandemic, but rather as a blueprint for your company’s future.
Creating a framework for remote workers may be the first step towards a more agile and adaptable organization where business can occur anywhere in the world, regardless of time zone differences.
What is the best way to build a compliant remote company?
Many companies still see global expansion as a series of obstacles that involve registering with local authorities, setting up an international legal entity, and dealing with global compliance. However, there are solutions that can empower global, remote growth and streamline the process, such as an Employer of Record (EOR).
The EOR model was created to help companies like yours grow globally by removing the challenges that stand between your local and global potential. The EOR has global entities that handle payroll, taxes, benefits, and HR 100 percent compliantly.