remote work policy
Management

How to create (or review) your remote work policy

By March 12, 2020 3 min read

Many companies are finding themselves in position of having to go remote with a very fast turnaround.  We wanted to make some of that process easier by giving some guidelines on creating (or updating) a remote work policy.

Here you will find the following:

  • What is a remote work policy?
  • Why should you have one?
  • What should it contain?
  • Creating the policy
  • Free Resources

What is a remote work policy?

This is a HR agreement between the company and an employee on when and how they can work outside the office.  It is also a checklist of expectations and guidelines.

The policy should outline the legal rights of employees that are working remotely and who are eligible to work remotely.  

It should also contain best practices, therefore making the transition easier and reducing uncertainty.  A policy such as this can be temporary or permanent.

Why should you have one?

It’s a legal requirement.  The documents you require will be different depending on local laws, make yourself familiar with what you require and don’t be caught out.

It’s protection for a company from breaches of employment and equal opportunities legislation and helps employees to know what the correct procedure is to follow.  It is recommended that you review your policy at least once per year.

In a great article by Laurel Farrer she outlines these 6 areas in which a company can unknowingly be outside the law regarding remote work:

  1. Work contract – scope of work must match the documentation
  2. Occupational Health and Safety Standards
  3. Information security
  4. Employment and labor laws
  5. Tax regulations
  6. Immigration laws

Also, it helps employees to know:

  • How to handle communication
  • Steps to keep data safe
  • Their legal rights
  • Advice on wellbeing
  • How their interactions with management might change
  • That their career won’t be at risk by being remote

What should it contain?

The contents of the policy should help make it clear what expectations there are for both employee and employer.  While the document is there to protect both sides legally, it should also help in the smooth operation of the business and help the employee to understand how remote working might differ from them doing their role in office.

  • Working hours
  • Legal rights
  • Insurance
  • Cybersecurity requirements
  • Tools
  • Expenses (if applicable)
  • Strategies
  • Termination

Creating the policy:

Before you start to craft your policy take time to consider the following:

  • Audit current work practices
  • Include employees in the process 
  • Use clear language
  • Update the policy regularly

Work alongside HR, legal and financial departments in creating a remote working policy.

  • Outline how different roles will work remotely
    • Different requirements for HR vs a developer
  • Clear rules about working from home
    • Consider various scenarios and plan communication tools and processes for each:
      • Team all-hand meetings
      • Client kickoff meeting
      • Manager 1:1s
      • Performance reviews
      • Employee learning and development activities
  • Supply employees with the right tools
    • And ensure they are comfortable using them
    • Will you offer a stipend or reimbursement so they can purchase equipment?
    • Tools and software have both communication and engagement implications, as well as cybersecurity aspects
      • Tools to include:
        • Team communication
        • Video conferencing – hardware and software
        • Collaboration software

Things to consider:

  • What are the legal requirements around remote working in your jurisdiction?
    • Legislation differs from country to country
  • Is the role suited to remote?
    • If not, how can you adjust to suit this role via remote
  • Are management prepared?  Will they require further training or support?
    • If a manager has no previous experience with a remote team training is advised
  • Are there implications to taxes or benefits?
    • This differs across states and countries.  
  • Give guidelines on the use of Wifi and VPNs
    • Ensure these are tested
  • Make space for work relationship building and maintenance in the policy
    • Have a virtual water cooler and help management with improving engagement remotely
    • Schedule this monthly, quarterly and yearly
    • Ideas to use:
      • Office hours
      • Video hangouts (non-work)
  • If an employee is 100% remote ensure all other relevant policies are also signed, like their in-office colleagues

In a great article by Macy Bayern of TechRepublic she outlines 10 rules for your remote work policy:

  1. Eligibility
  2. Availability
  3. Responsiveness
  4. Productivity measurements
  5. Productivity measurements
  6. Tech support
  7. Rightful termination
  8. Physical environment
  9. Security
  10. Client confidentiality

Free resources:

Remember that your remote work policy should be tailored to fit your company.  Use these resources as guidelines in crafting the ideal policy for you and your employees:

A Sample Remote Work Policy for Employers from Remote.co

Crafting Remote Work, Flexible Schedule, and Working from Home Policies [+ Templates] from Owl Labs

How to Make a Remote Work Policy Work for Businesses and Employees from Smartsheet

Guide to Writing a Telework Policy from The Telework Pilot Project

Telework policy and process from University of Washington HR Department

Telework Guidance from Telework.gov, official website of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Resources for companies embracing remote work from Gitlab

Remote Working Policy Template – Local Authorities, United Kingdom

Telecommuting Policy Sample from EnterpriseSeattle 

Handbook of Operating Procedures – Telecommuting from The University of Texas at Austin

The policy is only one part of going, or having, a remote team.  Things like trust and deliberate communication are key in keeping your remote team engaged and productive. 

Ensure you give time to these other areas of how you approach remote, and help relationships and communication to be front and centre of how your team operates. 

Rose Barrett
@remoterose
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