As someone who manages a business, you need to consider many things when switching to remote work. To name a few, there’s: figuring out the costs involved, planning for the challenges your employees may face, and selecting the tools needed for remote work. But are you forgetting the most important task? Creating a remote work policy!
A remote work policy is not only a legal requirement but also a necessity for your employees. Without it, they may be left guessing about the changes telecommuting will bring. They may have questions about team collaboration, their performance review process, or changes to their compensation or working hours.
A well-designed remote working policy will help you address all of these concerns. It’ll lay down how remote work processes will be conducted, down to the smallest detail.
In this article, we explain how to create a remote work policy and the key considerations to keep in mind during the process. We’ve also included a free downloadable remote work policy template to help you get started.
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy, also known as a telecommuting agreement, defines the terms and conditions of remote work between you and your employees. It defines the various aspects of remote work processes and how they are to be executed. It clearly states, for instance, which employees can work remotely, how their performance will be measured, and what legal rights they have.
5 steps to create your remote work policy
1. Decide how you would like your employees to work remotely
Firstly, answer the question, “What is my approach to remote work?”
Are you a remote-first company that allows employees to work remotely full time or a remote-friendly firm that lets its staff work remotely for a few days? Or are you somewhere in the middle—a few employees working full time remotely, and others working remotely for some days? Whatever the case, you’ll need to clearly state it in your remote work policy.
You’ll also need to explain—after examining factors such as organizational structure and collaboration needs—which teams or employees qualify for remote work. Here are some questions to identify if an employee or a team can work remotely:
- Can the team complete its daily tasks remotely, without any significant challenges?
- Can the team collaborate online using a collaboration tool, or are in-person meetings required?
- Will working remotely affect the team’s productivity?
- Is it possible to switch some roles within the team to remote while others continue to work from the office? Does it lead to challenges in productivity and collaboration?
Is your organization ready for remote work? Read this article to find out.
2. Mention the cybersecurity measures employees will need to follow
When employees work from an office, they use secure company networks, which means your business data is protected. But a remote work arrangement presents various security and privacy risks. For example, an employee could click on a suspicious link or use an unprotected internet network on a personal device, exposing sensitive business data to hacking or malware attacks.
To avoid such security mishaps, clearly state in the telecommuting policy the privacy and security policies a remote worker will need to follow. You may, for instance, specify the use of a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure a secure network connection for all remote teams.
Here are some other cybersecurity-related topics to mention in your remote work policy:
- If you’re providing employees with laptops or paying for their Wi-Fi, state the guidelines they’ll need to follow for their use.
- The data security and privacy tools employees will need to install, such as password or identity management apps, for protection against phishing or malware attacks.
Not sure which IT tools you’ll need for remote work? Read this article to learn more.
3. Clearly state if remote work policies will impact employee compensation and performance assessment
Changes to compensation, benefits, and performance measurement criteria, if not communicated clearly, can lead to panic among employees. So, if you’re planning to modify any of these, clearly state the changes in your remote work policy.
For example, if you’re planning to revise employees’ insurance coverage, the expenses they can claim, or their take-home pay, mention these changes in the policy. Follow the same process if you’re also modifying their performance measurement criteria. For instance, if the marketing team should be publishing six instead of the usual four posts per day, clearly state this in the policy.
Here’s a quick rundown of items to include in your remote work policy:
- Changes to employees’ compensation or benefits
- Paycheck delivery requirements and overtime or payroll tax calculations
- Work targets employees are expected to achieve
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) of employees
4. Share updated collaboration and communication guidelines
Switching to remote work doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in collaboration. With a well-designed remote work policy, you can have guidelines to educate your employees on how to collaborate effectively, even when working from a remote location.
To improve remote collaboration, you can set up regular team meetings or increase the number of one-on-one interactions between managers and employees. You can even lay down new guidelines for tracking the progress of tasks or projects.
You can also explore collaboration and communication tools that provide a digital platform for remote team members to communicate and share updates in real time. If you need specialized remote work management software, check out tools such as project management, video conferencing, virtual meeting, and task management.
Here are some communication and collaboration guidelines to specify in your telecommuting policy:
- The time period within which you expect a remote worker to reply to an email.
- The procedure, if any, for giving virtual presentations to clients.
- The process a remote employee should follow for reporting technical difficulties.
Did you know you can use your project management software for collaboration as well? Read this article to learn how.
5. Ensure compliance with local and global regulations
Legal compliance is an obvious box to check, but, surprisingly, companies often miss out on ensuring proper compliance and documentation. It’s important to comply with industry and state laws as well as outline the legal rights of employees per these laws in the remote work policy.
We’re talking about occupational health and safety standards, labor laws, information security laws, tax regulations, and immigration laws, among others. For example, occupational health and safety laws require you to ensure employees’ work location is free from hazards likely to cause physical harm, even when working from home. You should, therefore, clearly state in the policy document that employees should ensure their workspace is free of electrical or physical hazards.
Here are some compliance-related things to keep in mind when creating your remote work policy:
- Check with your existing insurance provider to ensure coverage applies to your remote workforce.
- Laws in states such as California require employees to be relieved of all duties during breaks, even when working remotely. Spell out such terms in your remote work policy, and encourage employees to take breaks as needed.
- If you’re monitoring a remote employee’s communication or activities, ensure it’s compliant with established workplace policy.
- Provide disability accommodation to remote employees, similar to the one provided at the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A few things to consider to create a well-rounded remote work policy
Besides the above-mentioned factors, here are some tips to create a robust remote work policy:
- Get comprehensive feedback by including stakeholders from all departments in the policy making process.
- Use plain, clear language, and make the document as concise as possible, so it’s easy for employees to understand and follow it.
- Review the policy document periodically to ensure it’s up to date with changing regulations or business needs.
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.