We're now several months into the global remote work experiment that has been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies and professionals around the world are settling in for the long haul, and many tech giants are leading the charge by shifting to full, permanent remote work policies.
According to a recent report commissioned by Recruitee, some 94.6% of surveyed participants currently work from home. Unfortunately, a slight majority of those companies do not currently have remote hiring or remote onboarding policies.
While this report is skewed toward recruiters and remote hiring, these statistics are telling of the overall systemic adoption of work from home policies amongst global businesses. It stands to reason that, if this pool of companies does not currently have policies that support remote work and onboarding, then many other companies outside of hiring organizations are likely in the same boat.
Working remotely while not having the policies in place to support it should be a concern for anybody who finds themself in that situation. Luckily, this issue can be solved by developing and deploying a clear remote work policy for your team.
This article will outline what a work from home policy is, why they are necessary, and ten rules you should include in any remote work policy template.
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy is a set of rules, legal requirements, expectations, and guidelines for employees who work from a location other than your offices. They serve as a formal agreement between the employer and the remote worker about what is expected of them and what their rights are when working from home.
Ideally, remote work policies should outline the following:
- Communicating securely between team members and candidates.
- Task assignments and team responsibilities.
- Launching new job openings.
- Communicating with hiring managers.
- Initiating collaborative hiring conversations with team members.
- Key performance indicators that the hiring team can measure their activities against.
- Changes in process, activities, and communication from in-person hiring.
- List of preapproved (whitelisted) tools and platforms.
- IT directives on how to maintain security on all platforms and to spot potential phishing attacks.
This is a simple work from home policy example that should serve as a guideline for your own template. We'll dig a bit deeper into what you might include in each section later in this article.
Why is a work from home policy necessary?
Put simply, if your company employs remote workers, then you should have policies and documents in place that govern their rights, your rights, and what is expected from both parties.
More specifically, work from home policies:
- Ensure consistent workflows and processes, regardless of location.
- Ensure performance expectations are communicated clearly and met.
- Help companies avoid legal problems and regional employment issues that may arise from remote work.
- Ensure that all employees receive the same level of support from the company.
- Establish baseline expectations for equipment, work environment, working hours, and availability for all employees and regions.
- Protect the employee and the company by having clear, written policies that address any and all concerns from both parties.
Without a remote work policy, all of the above are left open to interpretation or are handled on a case-by-case basis. This is far from ideal from an employee management perspective and could open your company up to legal liability in some cases.
What to include in a remote work policy
Here are ten common rules that you will likely find in most remote work policy templates. The specific language for each rule will, of course, vary depending on your company and remote work situations. We recommend that you use this as a sample work from home policy, and expand and adapt it to your needs.
1. Who the policy applies to
First and foremost, your remote work policy needs to specify who is a remote worker, and who is not. Create clear parameters around what it takes to classify an employee as "remote," and outline it at the start of your work from home policy.
For example, you might specify that remote workers:
- Have a permanent work location that is not one of your offices, or
- Are people who work 30+ hours per week at home.
You should also make distinctions between permanent and temporary work from home employees. If the expectation is that employees will return to work when allowed, then this should be specified in your policy.
Likewise, it's a good idea to outline which positions or departments can and cannot be remote. Some roles require an on-site presence, and being clear about that expectation will help ensure there isn't confusion or push back in the future.
2. Responsibilities of a remote worker
This can be either specific to each employee or a general list of responsibilities for all staff (or both). Typically, this part of the remote work policy template will include a job description, a list of goals agreed upon with management, and a general list of tasks and responsibilities that the team member must adhere to.
This likely won't vary too significantly from existing job descriptions you have for on-site team members. Ideally, your team should be able to maintain the same level of performance as they do when in the office. For new remote workers, however, being clear about expectations will help ensure that all staff, regardless of location, operate at the same level.
3. Options for switching to, and from, remote work
It's a good idea to include guidelines for employees who may want to switch to or from remote work on a permanent basis. If your company is willing to offer this flexibility, you should outline any steps or channels that the employee and manager should go through to change that workers' status.
This part of the work from home policy should also include an overview of any tax, legal, or benefits changes that might accompany a change from or to remote work.
4. Guidelines for suitable work environments
Just because your remote workers are out of sight, does not mean that you're off the hook for ensuring that they have an adequate working environment. All remote work policies should have clear guidelines and standards for what constitutes an acceptable workspace for remote workers.
This might include ensuring that remote workers have:
- A quiet, distraction-free workspace.
- Adequate internet connection.
- All required software and hardware.
- Ergonomic seating or standing desks, if needed.
If your company is willing to provide funds to remote workers that will help them re-fit their workspaces to meet these guidelines, you should outline any relevant information in your work from home policy template.
5. IT policies for confidentiality, data protection, and cybersecurity.
Your IT team will likely have a lot of suggestions on how to ensure that remote workers are adhering to company policies around confidentiality, data protection, and cybersecurity.
Consult with your IT to develop guidelines, rules, and required tools to mitigate any security risks associated with remote work. It's likely that your company will already have a similar policy in place for on-site workers that could be adapted.
6. Compensation and benefits for remote workers
Remote workers may not receive all of the same benefits as your office staff does. For example, if you provide catered lunches or transportation subsidies, those will not apply to your work from home staff. Therefore, it's important to review the benefits that you offer remote workers and make sure that they are receiving the same support as other staffers.
This could include offering remote workers office or equipment allowances, professional development funds, travel expenses, meal subsidies, and so on.
7. Availability expectations
It's imperative that you clearly outline your availability expectations for remote workers. This is important both from a legal perspective and for the overall wellbeing of your employees. Be clear about when you expect remote workers to be available and what options they may have for alternative hours, if any.
Do you have a blanket 9 am to 5 pm policy? Do you offer flex hours, or choose your own hours arrangements? Clearly outline your expectations in your remote work policy.
8. Responsiveness expectations Likewise, it's critical that you give clear expectations for how and when you want remote workers to respond to their colleagues and managers. Tell employees when they should be available for contact, and set standards for how promptly they should respond to requests.
This will help you maintain your desired level of communication and transparency amongst remote workers, even if they work across multiple time zones.
9. Performance and productivity expectations
Similarly, you should set guidelines for how managers and remote workers can set and monitor their performance and productivity goals. While all remote work policies should set general expectations of all staff for performance, they should also outline how to manage individual goal setting and tracking.
Outline any processes or performance tracking tools that your staff should be using and set expectations for how and when they should be reporting their progress.
10. Equipment requirements
Lastly, you should establish clear guidelines about the equipment that remote workers should have access to in order to complete their work, and communicate with their colleagues. This might include specifying must-have communications tools like MS Teams or Skype, hardware requirements like a webcam and headset, and any software that is required to work at a high level.
Take a look at some remote work policy template samples from Time Doctor.
When developing your own work from home policy, you will likely need to consult with numerous departments within your organization, including HR, legal, IT, and executive management. Some of these rules are likely already outlined in your existing employer policies and can be adapted to a remote work situation.
What is clear from recent global events is that remote work is here to stay for many companies into the foreseeable future. Investing the time required to develop clear policies and expectations for remote workers will help you lean into this new change, and hopefully benefit from the many advantages that this type of work brings.
To help fine-tune your remote work policies and master the art of working from home, check out Recruitee's industry report on "The current state of hiring from home".