Remote Work Policies – Drafting Remote Policies

Remote Work Policies – Drafting Remote Policies

What is a Remote Work Policy?

Many companies from different industries are now realizing that offering more flexible work schedules and allowing remote work can offer many advantages.

Remote work policies are employer-employee agreements that clearly outline when and how team members can work from different locations instead of coming into the office. Having a remote work policy is the best way for employers to monitor progress and support team members from outside the office. The implementation of a formal remote work policy can either be a temporary or permanent solution, but the ideal policy would be well defined in the employee handbook to ensure everyone is on the same page and can easily reference it if issues arise.

Why are Remote Work Policies Important?

As of 2017 there are over 3.7 million employees in the U.S. working from home at least half the time, a number that represents an increase of 115% since 2005. This increase in remote workers has made having an effective remote work policy mandatory as opposed to optional for the success of most businesses.

While the expectation of being able to work remotely has steadily risen among employees, many employers are unprepared to support them with effective work from home policies. Instituting clear work from home policies and procedures is the best way to help keep employees as productive as possible in any situation. These policies help maintain peace of mind and productivity particularly during unexpected and uncontrollable situations.

Medical Reasons

For many today, the globally declared pandemic surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) have significantly impacted many industries’ ability to function.

The United States, along with almost all countries globally have mandated shelter-in-place protocols to slow the spread of the virus that effects our respiratory system. To protect the elderly and immunocompromised and to save lives, working from home for non-essential employees and social distancing has been implemented.

Unfortunately, in the wake of COVID-19, many companies who haven’t adopted a remote work policy and can’t function outside of their physical location have faced outrage from employees as they have been forced to burn through sick leave, or worse, be laid off. In many cases it’s been up to the ingenuity of business owners and managers to come up with ways of converting business to ones that can accommodate these new mandates. In Utah, a theater set-up pop-up screens and became a drive-in to stay in business, churches have been offering drive-up services, and many employees have been wondering why they were going into the office in the first place, sparking doubt that the workforce will ever be the same even after the swell of this pandemic fades.

A global outbreak of any new disease is something most people and businesses are unready for. It’s important to prepare for these unexpected situations by having a future proof plan in place, one with a work from home policy that helps lessen the sudden stress of navigating such uncharted territories.

Natural Disaster

While natural disasters are a lot more common than global epidemics, they are still often sudden, extreme, and could severely impact your employee’s ability to come into work.

Offering the ability to work virtually can lessen the financial burden and stress of not being able to physically come into the office. Although some natural disasters can be prepared for, should one effect your workforce, allowing employees to work from home shows compassion as an employer and gives the employee the ability to continue receiving an income during their unfortunate circumstances.

Familial Responsibilities

Most companies offer maternity and paternity leave, for newly expecting parents.

Childcare is essential for almost everyone who is a parent. But, should that childcare service fall through or should you have a sick kid on your hands, a dependent family member emergency, or any other unexpected family situation, knowing you can work from home can make a world of difference.  Giving your workforce the ability to pick up right where they left off at the office from home is a game-changer, not only for your business but also for your employees. Workplace flexibility supports employees who have unplanned circumstances impeding their ability to physically show up and still allows your business to function at 100% capacity. Win-win.

How To Start Drafting A Work From Home Policy

The first step when drafting an effective remote work policy is being aware of the legal pitfalls you may fall victim to if you aren’t vigilant.

Remote Work Policies – Drafting Remote Policies

Potential Legal Pitfalls

Potential FLSA violations

You are safe from this potential hazard if your workers are salaried. However, if employees are hourly and eligible, overtime violations are something to keep close tabs on.

Worksite closures

You will want to have clear protocols about what’s expected when the worksite is temporarily closed due to weather, power outages or accidents.

Discrimination / Disability-related issues

Employees who work from home can sometimes be overlooked as they are out of sight. It’s important to offer them the same resources available to any onsite workers so there is no opportunity for discrimination.

Work environment obligations

Even if they are working off-site, employers can still face legal consequences if injury occurs on the clock.

Data security issues

Being able to work from mobile devices also opens confidentiality and security concerns especially in companies dealing with sensitive information.

Drafting A Remote Work Policy: Steps to Take

An effective work from home policy will take into consideration your specific budget allowances and the tendencies and preferences of your team members.

Discuss How It Will Be Implemented

Take time to discuss how this will affect company culture, if it will require a shift in roles or responsibilities, and how working from home may affect employee benefits or taxes with your legal, finance, and human resources teams.

Provide Employees With The Right Tools

There are several reasons why it’s important to develop thoughtful and effective work from home policies and procedures including reviewing your organizations virtual communication infrastructure. Providing your employees with the proper tools to be successful will also be key in employee effectiveness. You need to consider:

  • Do your employees need new or different technology or equipment to maintain a solid channel of communication?
  • Are your workers equipped with the right software and knowledge to ensure your company is as cyber secure as possible?

Establish Clarity In The Rules And Expectations

You will want to establish clear expectations about when workers are expected to be available and the flexibility of their hours. Make sure people are well informed about performance reviews, new learning activities, and team meetings. This way everyone remains on the same page even if they are not in the same room.

What to Include in Your Remote Work Policy

  • Remote Work Eligibility – Your policy should clearly outline who is eligible and under what circumstances those privileges could be revoked.
  • Compensation & Benefits – Detailing how work from home situations will affect compensation and potential benefits.
  • Communication – Since employees will not be face to face. Understanding availability and responsiveness expectations is a cornerstone of any successful work from home policy.
  • Support System – Outlining where to go for support and what is expected in the wake of technical difficulties eliminates confusion down the line.

How to Measure the Success of a Remote Work Policy

It’s helpful to stay in touch and maintain open lines of communication by scheduling regular one-on-one check-ins and virtual meetings. Keeping employee visibility top of mind is highly advisable especially if your work from home policy is new. There will be a transitionary period as your employees become accustomed to working a full day at home. Using a project management application is one way of keeping team members on track and ensuring they are productive across the board.

Define what your businesses definition of success is and put KPI’s in place to measure that success. Actively collecting that data will allow you to improve and adjust according to any variable thrown at your team.

Offering the option to work remotely can be a serious advantage over competitors and may become the new normal. Creating, implementing and improving an effective remote work policy is important for managing expectations, monitoring performance and keeping things running as smooth as possible.

Thankfully, Skill Source Learning Partners has experienced consultants who can assist you and your business develop an effective remote work policy that can move your business into the future. If you’re interested in learning more about how to draft a remote work policy fill out our form or give us a call at 415-659-1833.