Having a clear and concise remote work policy can help you avoid miscommunication, uncertainty, legal problems, lowered work productivity, and more.
For those reasons, it’s important to create a specific policy that encompasses and regulates remote work. To assist you, we’ve created a list of the most commonly applied rules, guidelines, and regulations that you should keep in mind when creating the best possible remote work policy for your business.
Intention and Extent
At the start, identify the workers this policy will apply to (e.g., contractors, part-timers, interns, and such). Decide whether this policy will be an additional benefit for employees who have been with your company for a long time or whether it will apply to all of your full-time workers (i.e., you’re making a permanent move to remote work).
You should also decide whether this remote work policy is a temporary measure or a long-term practice for your business.
Every remote work policy should include some sort of eligibility criteria, even if your entire business operates on a completely remote basis. Can your employees live anywhere in the world, or do they have to be located in the city or state where your business is registered? This is an extremely important question to answer as it can have severe legal ramifications for both employees and business owners, depending on which region of the world you’re stationed in.
If your business is not fully-remote (meaning it’s either hybrid or flexible), try to define which of your employees are eligible to work from their homes and when. For example, you may add to your remote work policy that employees in your marketing department can work from home on days when their work obligations solely include building your social media presence or working on social media posts, engagements, and similar.
The exact norm or guidelines you include in your remote work policy will be completely up to you. If you want, you can specify the minimum amount of time your employees have to work for your company before they qualify for remote work. Or, the policy can state that only employees with certain KPI scores can work from their homes, and so forth.
Now, not every business and not every position can be done in a remote capacity. This typically includes job positions that require specialized equipment that cannot be found at home (e.g., heavy machinery, defibrillators, and more) or jobs that require face-to-face interactions with clients or customers.
If you find that there are positions in your company that can not, in any capacity, be performed remotely, try adding those as non-eligible positions to your remote work policy.
And lastly, elucidate in detail the entire process employees must go through to submit a request to work remotely, as well as how the approval process will function. These could be regular written requests, formal or informal agreements, an email chain, contacting the HR department, and such. Basically, the way you handle this is completely up to your discretion, as there are technically no wrong answers.
Expectations From Remote Employees
A remote work policy should include company standards and expectations of individual employees and teams. These norms will provide additional transparency regarding employee productivity, work obligations, and such. Here are a couple of things you can include in your company policy:
Decide early on on things like:
- Can your remote employees freely choose their work hours, or should they be present and accessible at certain hours of the day (e.g., 9 am to 5 pm)?
- If your employees work from different time zones, is there one “main time zone” they should adapt their schedules to (EST, GMT, and so forth)?
Some businesses allow for a "window of time” during which their employees can perform their work duties. For example, they can put in their 8 hours of work anywhere from 8 am to 8 pm. Other companies allow for a more flexible type of work whereby employees can choose their working hours on their own.
And, lastly, some companies insist on their employees being available during “peak hours” (e.g., 2-4 pm). Your “peak hours” will depend on your business endeavors, the nature of your work, and the location of your clients, enterprise, industry, and similar.
Set clear expectations or enact strict guidelines when it comes to your employees answering emails and queries from either you, their managers, or clients.
Put employee time zones and workload into consideration, as both of those can affect response time. Don’t hesitate to jot down an exact number for this. For example, you can add to your remote work policy that employees are obligated to answer all emails within 1 hour of receiving one.
Frequency of Communication
Recent studies aimed at looking into the quantity and quality of communication between remote workers and their managers have indicated that communication can impact workers’ productivity and engagement levels.
To increase the communication with your remote employees, you can add a provision in your remote work policy that dictates how often managers and employees should communicate with each other (e.g., daily, weekly…). Also, you can add specific rules that describe when to utilize a certain type of communication channel (e.g., email, video call, etc.) might be a good idea.
Tools and Equipment for Remote Work
Include clear guidelines on what tools and equipment your remote workers will need to perform their job duties and whose responsibility it is to provide them. Should they procure some of the gadgets themselves, or is that your responsibility? If there are certain pieces of equipment or resources that you will reimburse them for, add those provisions to the remote work policy as well.
For instance, you might want to provide your remote employees with a work computer with pre-installed tools, such as time tracking software and communication apps, but don’t want to pay for your employees’ internet connection and electricity bills. If that’s the case, just add that to your remote work policy. Alternatively, if you wish to pay for those types of expenses, include this in your policy.
Your remote work policy should also explain all the necessary steps remote workers should undertake in case they experience any sort of technical problems with their work equipment. If you have a dedicated IT support team, tell them how and when to approach them (e.g., via Zoom during regular work hours).
Another option is to let your remote employees deal with any technical issues on their own. Also, if you want to reimburse them for the costs of solving these types of issues, you could add a specific provision about it to your remote work policy.
Travel and Related Expenses
Some remote companies hold in-person meetings every once in a while (usually quarterly, semi-annually, or annually). Others operate in a fully-remote capacity and don’t require their employees to travel for a work meet-up. If your company does require periodic traveling, specify who’s in charge of covering these expenses.
In case employees are required to pay upfront and receive their reimbursement later, specify when exactly that will happen. Are they going to receive the money at the end of the year, of a specific quarter, or other?
The way you go about handling this issue is completely up to you. What’s important is to write it down and have it available to anyone inside your company that wishes to see it, so they’ll know what to expect in advance.
Disciplinary Actions and Penalties
Another important part of your remote work policy should include all the penalties and disciplinary actions that your employees could face if they don’t abide by the rules you have set.
You can include guidelines that encompass ways in which you aim to reproach remote workers who fail to meet their quotas and send deliverables on time or are experiencing low levels of productivity for an elongated period of time.
You could go with common HR practices or have a completely new set of rules that only apply to remote workers.
Why Include Time Tracking in a Remote Work Policy?