Remote work (or at least hybrid work) is a clear expectation for many employees moving forward. One in four employees would quit their job if they couldn’t work remotely after the pandemic, according to Owl Labs’ 2021 State of Remote Work survey. With this in mind, employers need to make sure they’re set up for success with a comprehensive remote work policy.
As long as you have employees working remotely at least some of the time, you need to have a remote work policy that helps your organization align expectations with performance. Make sure to cover these six essential elements while crafting a comprehensive, effective remote work policy to protect both you and your workers.
First, start by defining the scope of your remote work policy to clarify who is covered under it and for how long. This helps both the company and employees understand who is allowed to work remotely and when.
- Eligibility: Which employees are eligible for remote work? Is remote work available to everyone, or only specific employees by level, tenure, or other factors?
- Frequency: How often can employees work remotely? For example, three days a month, twice a week, every Friday, or fully remote.
- Permanence: Is the shift to remote work permanent or temporary for your company? Will it only be available until the office reopens? If so, how will your company implement a return to work?
- Requests: Do employees need to request certain days to work remotely? If so, how should they submit their requests, and who will approve them? Include a timeline within which employees can expect to receive approvals for WFH days.
- Adherence to other policies: Provide a blanket statement that all other policies on work expectations, processes, and responsibilities apply to remote workers as well.
2. Tools and equipment
Shifting to remote work can be overwhelming for both new hires and existing employees due to the sheer number of tools and websites they need to keep track of. That’s where your remote work policy can cut through the noise — create a list of all the resources and equipment you will provide for employees to enrich their remote work experience.
Define your tech stack. Your employees can then reference this list if they’re ever confused as to what tools are available to them and which ones to use for certain purposes. Your list should also include how employees can access these tools, such as via single sign-on through a Google Workspace account or by using a password. Frequently used platforms for remote work include project management, email, communications and messaging tools, knowledge management, video conferencing, HR and payroll, and more.
You should also explain what hardware and equipment you’ll provide to your remote workers so that they can do their jobs properly. Regarding company-owned assets, will you provide employees with laptops, phones, and tablets, as well as accessories like headsets, mice, and keyboards? How should remote workers request to use these assets, and how should they return them if necessary? What are the rules for using company equipment? For example, can employees download unauthorized software on it or use it outside of work purposes?
With all these tools and devices to handle, things are bound to break. Who should employees talk to when tools aren’t working properly, or if they need to request hardware repairs or replacements? Detail your IT support policy and what the process looks like for submitting a support ticket or request.
Additionally, clarify the company’s stance on BYOD — Bring Your Own Device — and whether you’ll permit employees to utilize their personal devices for work. On the one hand, some workers may prefer to work from their own computers because it’s more convenient or comfortable. Other employees and company decision-makers might prefer to keep work and personal devices separate for security and healthy boundaries between life and work.
Some companies may not want to own and keep track of hundreds or thousands of devices, instead letting their employees buy what they need and apply for reimbursement later. Others might want to supply their workers’ home offices with furniture or gadgets that help them work more comfortably and productively. If you offer a home office stipend — whether once or on a recurring basis— how much money is available per employee, and what expenses qualify for this stipend? How should employees submit for reimbursement?
One of the greatest concerns for companies in shifting to remote work is making sure productivity stays high, and there’s no negative impact on day-to-day processes. Your remote work policy should explain employee expectations while working from home, covering items such as:
Working hours and availability
When should people be online and available? State whether or not the company has specific operating hours in a certain time zone that all employees are expected to be online — such as from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. Otherwise, establish a standard on how many hours employees should work, and when. For hourly employees, clarify that they shouldn’t work more than 40 hours and explain how they can track their hours and request overtime if necessary. For salaried employees, set expectations so that they don’t overwork, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Flexible scheduling is one of the top benefits of remote work, but what that really looks like at your company is up to you to define. Can employees set their own hours? Should there be certain hours that everyone is expected to be available for meetings, like Wednesday mornings in Pacific Standard Time? Will everyone follow the five-day workweek, or can people experiment with nontraditional schedules? It’s up to you exactly how flexible you want your remote culture to be.
With all this flexibility, it can be difficult to know when colleagues are available for collaboration. Set expectations that everyone should change their Slack or Teams status to reflect if they’re online or out of office. Ask employees to set their working hours and availability on their Google Calendar. Then, make that information visible to everyone who needs to know — you can share your calendar with specific people, or make it publicly or internally accessible for quick collaboration.
There can be a lot of meetings on employees’ calendars — daily standups, all-company meetings, team meetings, one-on-ones, and more. What meetings are necessary for all employees to attend, and which ones can they skip? How should they send and accept meeting invites?
Describe meeting etiquette for your company — should employees “raise their hands” on Zoom with questions or leave questions in the chat? Are cameras required or encouraged for video calls, or can employees keep them off? Especially for client-facing work, you may want your employees to leave a great impression, so consider whether or not to implement an on-camera dress code, such as business casual, while on customer calls.
Working remotely requires a lot of active communication, often asynchronously. The key to successful communication is holding everyone to the same standards — which starts with spelling out what those standards are. How fast should people respond to others after receiving a message or @ mention — maybe within 24 hours, unless out of office?
How should people communicate — more specifically, through what medium? Does your company fully commit to one solution or suite like Google Workspace, or spread its comms across a full stack of products? If it’s the latter, it’s important to describe which communication method is best for each type of message. For example, some companies may use Slack or @ mentions for urgent matters and emails for less time-sensitive matters.
Some companies might prefer fully async communication. Others may prefer video-based, face-to-face communication, whether async (such as Loom or Wistia) or in video calls. Either way, your remote work policy is your chance to define your company’s unique communication style.
4. Remote work benefits
Some companies pass on the cost savings provided by not maintaining an office space to their employees in the form of remote work stipends or benefits. These perks contribute to your remote culture and show your employees that you truly value them by providing critical support. If you offer any remote work benefits, be sure to list them in your remote work policy for visibility.
In addition to the home office stipend mentioned previously, some companies may offer a coworking space stipend. Not everyone likes to work alone or in the same environment every day. Coworking spaces offer an “office away from the office” experience that some employees find beneficial for productivity, whether in a physical location or a virtual space. Some companies also offer child care stipends or subsidies for their remote workers, helping working parents take care of their families while on the job. If you offer any sort of stipend, explain how much money is available for employees, how frequently, and how they can apply for reimbursement or expensing.
Remote work has its own unique challenges, so you need to offer targeted support to help employees tackle monsters like burnout, loneliness, and stress head-on. One way to do so is by offering an employee wellness program that could include access to an employee assistance program (EAP) or mental health resources like teletherapy. That extra support goes a long way in protecting and uplifting your employees.
5. Physical work environment
Even though they’re not in the office, remote workers are still protected under OSHA if they get injured at home while still on the job. You can’t control what your remote employees’ work environments look like, but you should provide safety guidelines and tips in your remote work policy. Help employees protect themselves and minimize potential on-the-clock injuries by defining their workspace and asking them to keep it tidy and safe.
When defining a workspace, you can’t strictly limit employees to one room, like a home office, as the only place you’ll permit them to work. This is especially true because not every employee may have the luxury of having their workspace separate from their living space. But you can define whether you cover their entire home or just the area around their laptop as their “workspace” for OSHA coverage. No matter how large your coverage area, you need to provide guidelines telling your employees to keep their workspace as clean and safe as possible to avoid workplace accidents. Here are some examples:
- Keep your walking surfaces around your workspace dry and clear of clutter to avoid tripping or slipping hazards.
- Don’t allow power cords to track across walkways. Secure any loose electrical cords under your desk or along the baseboards of your walls.
- Minimize fire hazards. Ask employees to keep flammable materials like paper away from hot surfaces in their office, like the bottom of their laptop, a coffeepot, or a space heater.
- As an employer, do whatever you can to mitigate risks. For example, you might send employees surge protectors to protect their devices and advise them not to daisy chain power strips to reduce electrical hazards.
6. Security and privacy
While working remotely means employees can work from anywhere, that also means sensitive proprietary information could be more vulnerable to exposure than it would be under a company intranet. Still, that doesn’t mean privacy issues are inevitable. Here are a few things you should include in your remote work policy to keep your employees and company as secure as possible:
- Require employees to password protect any company-provided laptops and mobile devices. You also might ask them to use a secure, unique password for each login to a company tool or to utilize single sign-on with Google, Apple ID, Auth0, or other services. You could also recommend or provide subscriptions to a secure password manager like 1Password or LastPass.
- Require two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) for any password-protected login wherever possible. This will protect your employees from getting hacked in the event that someone gets their login info.
- Ask employees to lock their computer screens when away from their keyboard to prevent unwanted eyes on sensitive company info.
- Clarify whether employees can use public, unprotected wi-fi while working remotely. Consider providing a company-sponsored VPN service — and document how employees should access it if you do so.
- Define the company’s policy on downloading and installing unapproved software.
- Offer tips on how to avoid phishing. If you’re able to, run phishing tests or simulations on your employees to evaluate the company’s security. If doing so, let employees know in your remote work policy that there will be tests.
Downloadable: Remote work policy checklist
Want to check off items on this list while you work on your company’s remote work policy? Download our remote work policy checklist here.
Communicate your remote work policy
Your remote work policy should deliver results: it should fully answer any questions your remote workers have about what’s expected of and offered to them. But the work doesn’t end after drafting your remote work policy; you have to distribute it to your employees and make sure they read it. Make your remote work policy permanently accessible and visible. Post it in your internal wiki, pin it in a Slack channel, send it out as a regular email blast — or all of the above. If you’re particularly serious about it, you can require employees to sign off on your remote work policy. By making sure that everyone is on the same page about resources and expectations, you’ll set the entire company up for successful remote work for years to come.
Here at Pilot, we care a lot about remote work and the companies who work remotely with talented folks all over the world. We help these companies hire and pay international employees and contractors, taking care of all the nitty-gritty details like global compliance and international payroll. Check out our blog for even more resources and insights about the future of work and international payments.
Need some help with payroll, benefits, and compliance for your remote team? Schedule a demo of Pilot with our experts.
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Cover photo courtesy of Brooke Cagle on Unsplash