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We live in an era where work mobility isn’t only made possible by technology but is also a viable business operations model. Businesses are seeing the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely and are gearing towards introducing more flexible work arrangements. But while remote work isn’t a new concept, many businesses struggle to transition from the traditional office setup to a remote working environment. Transitioning to remote work can be overwhelming but it isn’t impossible to achieve. A remote work policy will help leaders to transition their business and prepare their employees to work remotely. If you’re new to remote work and have been cracking your brains on what your remote work policy should have, don’t fret. In this article, we share the 10 must-haves every remote work policy should contain. 

Why Remote Work Policies are Important

People may think that to be successful in remote work, all you need is a laptop and internet connection. While these tools are essential to work remotely, supplying your employees with a laptop and making sure they have WiFi in their homes are not enough. You need to foster a remote work environment where collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation can still thrive, much like it does in an office setup. To successfully implement a remote work setup, you need to make your expectations clear and provide the appropriate channels and framework to support your employees.

A remote work policy outlines the company’s expectations, requirements, and responsibilities for employees who work remotely. It also outlines the company’s responsibilities in ensuring employees have what they need to be productive and successful in their jobs while working remotely. Having a remote work policy removes the guesswork and prevents possible confusion between employees and employers. This will also help prevent your remote work setup from failing. When crafting a remote work policy for the first time, it will also serve as a way for business leaders to review their current infrastructure and assess whether it adequately supports remote work. 

Remote work policies provide the structure needed for employees to effectively work wherever they are. Without a remote work policy, things can get messy and may affect the productivity and job satisfaction of your employees.

10 Things Every Remote Work Policy Should Have

Remote work isn’t only beneficial when there’s a public health crisis. Whether it’s providing employee flexibility, ensuring business continuity, minimizing overhead costs, or investing cost savings on other revenue-generating projects, having a remote work policy is essential when thriving in today’s work landscape. A good remote work policy will have these 10 things. Let’s see what they are.

Purpose

Define why and when your remote work policy should be activated, especially if you are not a fully remote company. This will help your employees understand why the business is pursuing remote work and what business goals it aims to support. 

Eligibility

Clearly specify who is eligible to work remotely. While most jobs can be done outside an office, there might be some functions or operations that would still require employees to conduct their business in the office. Take the time to assess if working remotely will hinder job success or if there are ways to augment the current setup to fully transition to remote work. 

Save from public health crisis scenarios, you may opt to have tenure requirements for remote work privileges. For example, only those who have worked with the company for more than 6 months are eligible for remote work. 

Request and Approval

If your company is not fully distributed and employees can only work remotely in certain circumstances, you need to establish a request and approval process in your remote work policy. Outline how and when the request should be filed and who will approve it. 

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Attendance and Availability

While remote work may offer more flexibility for employees, letting employees work on their own convenience may not be ideal for all job functions. Having an availability and schedule clause in your remote work policy will allow predictability for when your employees are expected to work. This will also help support schedules of interaction between their teams and managers. Your remote work policy should also indicate how employees are going to clock in and out of work. 

Communication and Responsiveness

One of the challenges managers may experience when managing a remote team is communication and responsiveness. Your remote work policy must clearly indicate how responsive an employee should be during your set work hours. It should also specify what the main mode of communication will be used. 

With one of the teams I handle, we use Slack as our main communication tool. In our remote work policy, we require each team member to indicate their schedules on their Slack status and whether or not they are at work. We expect that when they are available on Slack and have their status as Working that they can answer queries immediately. If they’re out on a break, they need to reflect that in their Slack status.

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This prevents managers from feeling that they’re constantly looking for their direct reports. It also helps establish ground rules for communicating with a team and instills discipline for employees to respond in a timely manner.

Remote Work Tools and Support

Your remote work policy must clearly enumerate what tools will be used and for what purpose. This helps ensure everyone has access to these tools and knows how to use them effectively. If you’ll be introducing new tools, make sure to allow time for training. If you’re wondering what tools you need, here’s a list of remote tools that you must have in place before you even think of implementing a remote work policy. 

Apart from the tools, your remote work policy should also indicate who your employees can reach out to if they encounter technical problems and any backups or contingency plans where available.

Data Security

Another challenge when dealing with remote work is data security. If you are dealing with confidential or proprietary data, you might need to install and provide your employees with additional security tools, like a VPN, to ensure that company data they’re accessing remotely are safe. This will also mean that your employees can only conduct work on company-approved or issued devices. It’s also recommended to require your employees to only join encrypted hotspots or private WiFi networks to connect to the Internet. The same level of data security you have on your office should be translated to wherever your employees might be working.

Legal Rights

I encourage you to consult with your HR, finance, and legal teams and check for any labor rights and policy issues that need to be addressed when adopting a remote work arrangement. This is especially important if you are a highly distributed company. There can be labor regulations in specific countries that you need to be subjected to because that’s where your remote workers are. This ensures your business is compliant and won’t have to deal with legal issues down the line. Your policy should also clearly state that employees won’t be terminated just because they are working remotely. Remote workers should be entitled to the same benefits, employment laws, processes, practices, and rights as their in-office counterparts. 

Benefits

Your remote work policy should state if remote workers are entitled to any additional benefits. Can they reimburse any expenses incurred due to working remotely, such as their monthly broadband subscription fees? Will you be offering health plan funds or gym membership perks to support the overall health and well-being of your employees including remote workers? These are just some examples of remote work benefits that companies can offer their employees. While nothing is mandatory, consider how you can best support your employees and how much you can spend on these programs. 

Measures of Success

Measuring the success of your remote work policy may vary from job to job or from team to team. It depends on the metrics that would make sense for the job or team in consideration. Determine what metrics would make sense for the job at hand. I recommend you focus more on results-focused metrics over superficial ones such as hours worked. Working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean higher levels of productivity. It can even mean the opposite. Instead, focus on the desired outcomes of the business and assess whether your teams can achieve those outcomes using the remote work policies you have in place. 

Review Your Remote Work Policy Regularly

Don’t expect your remote work policy to stay the same all throughout. Engage with your employees and ask for their feedback as well. There might be policies that need to change with specific teams or jobs. There might be policies that are too restricting or lenient. There might be policies that are lacking. You need to find the balance in providing the best remote work experience for your employees where they can remain engaged and satisfied with their jobs while meeting business expectations and goals. You can get feedback from your employees through one-on-one meetings, surveys, or anonymous feedback forms. This will provide multiple channels for your employees to talk as freely as they can.

Your remote work policy also needs to change with the times. Take into account market changes, technology advancements, and changes in legal compliance protocols when reviewing your remote work policy at least yearly. When implementing changes to your remote work policy, make sure to have it documented and communicated to everyone concerned.

Communicating Your Policies and Guidelines for Remote Workers

What’s most important in making remote work policies successful is proper communication. Making sure that everyone properly understands the policies and is on board the program will help your remote work policy be as successful as it can be. 

Remote work is going to stay even after a health crisis or a recession is over. Work is becoming more borderless and companies will continue to see and reap the rewards of operating remotely. Consider making long-term remote work policies and cultivating a culture that adequately supports hybrid or fully-remote teams. And as you scale your business to new heights, review these 10 must-have points and consider how your remote work policy needs to adapt to your new business goals and objectives.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.