Remote work policies are a hot topic for workplaces these days. As remote work becomes the norm, companies are struggling to strike the right balance between blindly trusting their remote workers and controlling their every move.
While remote work is set to boost productivity for companies, it’s not without unique challenges. A remote work policy is a key part of getting your remote workers on the same page and creating specific measures for verifying work, encouraging communication and avoiding workplace conflict.
Think of a remote work policy as your company’s “DNA.” If you’re unsure where to start, check out our step-by-step guide below on how to create and implement a remote work policy.
By following these steps, you’ll end up with a personalized remote work policy that will have you and your remote workers jumping for joy - in the privacy of your home offices, of course.
Step 1: Brainstorm Your Company’s Needs
Every company is one-of-a-kind. Before you start writing up rules, take a step back and think about your company culture. Do you encourage collaborative work? Are your workers self-starters? How do they best communicate? Your remote work policy should go hand-in-hand with your company’s current culture and practices.
Step 2: Know Your Workflow
A huge part of a remote work policy is establishing processes. What does your workflow look like? For example, all your team members should understand how work should be submitted, how deadlines are communicated and extended, and how any problems are elevated to the right people.
Let’s say a remote worker has discovered a bug in the application’s code. Your remote work policy should make it clear who, when and how this worker should contact the rest of the team. In this case, perhaps the policy specifies that urgent technical problems should be escalated to the manager via Slack as soon as possible.
Step 3: Consider all Scenarios
Expectations are everything for remote and in-office employees. As much as we wish every person on the team could immediately understand the company's perspective on workplace matters, it's best to be clear from the start. Instead of leaving things up in the air, you should be precise and transparent. You’ll want to consider all the scenarios that a remote worker might deal with during work, and create fair policies to address them. Thinking through these “what-ifs” will help you lead your remote team, so that everyone’s on the same page. A few examples include:
- What if… your remote worker doesn’t respond to emails during working hours?
- What if… your remote worker shows up to a video call in his/her pajamas?
- What if… your remote worker is posting on his/her personal Facebook during the day?
- What if… your remote worker doesn’t have an antivirus program installed on his/her home computer?
You’ll avoid potential problems by addressing possible challenges of remote work.
Step 4: Draft Your Policy
Now that you’ve thought long and hard, it’s time to write up your policy. There are plenty of great templates out there to cleanly create remote work policies. Generally speaking however, your policy should include clauses about these main areas:
- Hours & Scheduling: When will your remote workers be available? Will your employees need to track their time (perhaps using tools like Toggl)? Are workers allowed to take longer breaks for doctor’s appointments or errands? How should remote workers communicate unavailable hours or days?
- Behavioral Expectations: Is there a dress code for remote workers during any video calls or meetings? Are remote workers allowed to check personal social media accounts during work? Can they do personal activities at work, like cooking lunch or walking the dog?
- Workspace Requirements & Tools: What tools will your remote workers need to be successful? Do they have high-speed internet? Will they need to install any specific programs? Are they required to have a business phone number or Skype handle?
- Communication & Processes: How are delays and/or problems communicated to the team? How responsive should employees be during working hours? What are the expectations for being logged into company programs like Slack?
- Personal vs. Professional Divisions: Can remote workers blend personal and professional time? Can workers use working time for errands or child care? Are there specific times that workers may not go offline?
- Security & Confidentiality: Do remote workers have a secure connection? Do they need tools to safely transfer documents or programs to other team members? Is there any risk of loss of confidentiality?
- Parameters of Success: What does it mean to be a successful remote worker? Are there feedback systems in place to improve issues? Do you understand challenges being faced by your remote workers?
While these are the main concerns for remote work, you may have other areas to cover in your remote work policy. Be sure to include any clauses that you think are relevant to your team, company and industry.
Step 5: Get Your Remote Workers to Sign it
After your remote work policy has been created and edited, it’s time to have your remote workers sign it. This will help set expectations and make sure the company policies are clear. You can do this using tools like SignEasy, or simply send an email to receive signed copies back. You might even ask workers for any feedback or clarification on the policy itself.
Step 6: Track Workers and Implement a Three-Strike Approach
Since your remote workers now understand the policies, it’s time to implement them. The best way to do this is to track your remote workers using non-invasive project management tools like Float or Toggl. Or, you can simply set deadlines and make sure they’re being met. You’ll need to find the right tracking system for your team, whether using a tool, a policy or a combination of both.
If you notice any issues with remote workers, it’s a good idea to give feedback and correct the problem. Most companies use a three-strike approach. The first time a rule is breached, the remote worker is warned via email or message. The second time, the remote worker is asked to attend a video call to talk about the issue. And the third time, the worker loses some of the privileges of remote working. Of course, this three-strike approach can be adapted depending on your company culture or industry. You may want to create a more formal feedback approach, or instead have an informal conversation to check in with the remote worker.
Step 7: Update Your Policy After Trial-and-Error
Working policies change all the time. You’ll need to regularly update your remote work policy, especially if new situations arise, or new technologies complicate current expectations. There’s nothing wrong with clarifying and updating the policy to make it work better. Just make sure your remote workers are aware of any changes. Ideally, they would sign the new version as well.
Step 8: Incorporate it Into On-Boarding and Review Processes
Finally, once your remote work policy is an established expectation at your company, it’s important to treat it with the same importance as other company practices. You should incorporate this policy into your on-boarding processes for new employees and also use it as part of your rubric for end-of-year reviews. The more you use and apply your remote work policy, the more your remote workers will feel confident about their work and expectations.
Remember that remote work policies can be adapted for both full-time and part-time remote workers, as well as in-office workers. The main areas of the work policy are shared across industries and office modalities. As a good rule of thumb, you can review step #4 and make sure the policies you set are relevant to different working modes.
Remote is the future of work.
As we continue to grow and adapt to remote work, it’s important to create clear best practices for how remote work should be carried out and managed. By clarifying the way forward, we can set ourselves up for success and reap the benefits of remote work without the hassle.
TECLA was extremely helpful in ensuring that the right developers joined our team.
We’ve had great results with TECLA’s recruiting. The developers we hired allowed us to drastically increase the pace of our development process and try new things more efficiently. This is crucial for us as we continue to grow!