In the media, the remote work debate is often portrayed as a battle between stodgy old companies resistant to change and a new generation of digital nomads. But the truth is a little more complicated: For every remote worker who feels more productive at home, there’s another who misses the stability and camaraderie of the workplace.
To create an effective remote work policy for your team, you’ll need to decide if remote work is an option for everyone, how you’ll foster a successful remote work culture, and whether your team will work best with a fully remote or hybrid work model.
While we think telecommuting is here to stay, figuring out what remote work means in a post-pandemic world can be a little trickier. Here’s how to develop a remote work policy that balances the needs of your employees and your business.
Step 1: Determine eligibility for your remote work policy
Not all job duties can easily be performed at home. But it’s important to play fair with your remote work policy. If some employees are required to come into the office and others aren’t, it can lead to rivalries or resentment.
Before creating a remote work arrangement, come up with an eligibility policy that can be applied clearly and consistently to all employees.
Maybe your remote work policy only applies to specific roles, or kicks in once workers have spent a certain amount of time working for your company.
But don’t create too many hoops for your remote employees to jump through. For instance, Elon Musk says SpaceX and Tesla employees can work from home after they’ve completed a 40-hour work week in the office – which isn’t exactly a recipe for a great work-life balance.
Another option is to allow individual managers to come up with eligibility requirements for their team, rather than developing a top-down policy. Still, make sure your human resources department has a remote work agreement template in place so you don’t have to iron out the details on a case-by-case basis.
What about compensation?
Should remote employeesget paid more or less than coworkers who come into the office every day? That can be a touchy subject, so tread carefully. While it’s easy to think of a flexible work policy as a benefit in and of itself, it shouldn’t replace other employee perks or compensation packages.
On the one hand, employees who work from home may spend less money on their commute, but other expenses, like heating or internet bills, may increase. There’s also the question of productivity: Do remote workers get more done than office workers, or less? Although there’s data to support either argument, the jury is still out.
One option is to provide the same compensation regardless of an employee’s work location, but tailor other benefits to their work environment. For example, full-timeremote employees could get a stipend for home office expenses, while in-person employees could get a reimbursement for using public transit.
Step 2: Discuss when and where remote work happens
Eligibility is just one part of your remote work agreement. You’ll also need to get clear on things like work schedules, work expectations, and confidentiality. Here are a few policies and procedures to include in your remote work policy template:
Work hours, attendance, and meetings
At some companies, a work from home policy means being available during the typical 9 to 5 workday. For others, a flexible work arrangement extends to work hours too.
This will depend on whether an employee’s job responsibilities require synchronous or asynchronous communication – that is, whether your team members need to be working at the same time or whether they just need to check in with each other occasionally.
If your team works mostly independently, consider letting your remote employees set their own hours. As long as they know how to be productive at home, who cares if they’re an early bird or a night owl?
At the same time, you’ll need to maintain some kind of system for tracking attendance or, in the case of customer service — response times — especially if your employees are getting paid by the hour.
You’ll also need to set guidelines for meeting participation: Are Zoom meetings optional, or are your remote employees expected to participate on a daily or weekly basis?
If your team members are located in different time zones, consider replacing video conferencing with asynchronous tools such as a project management calendar or a communications platform like Slack.
Are your employees required to work from a specific remote location, or can they work from anywhere with an internet connection? This might not sound like a big difference on paper, but your human resources department may beg to differ.
For example, your workers’ compensation policy might only apply to a specific location, such as your employee’s home office. Also, your legal or tax obligations may change if an employee spends time working in another state or country.
This is less of an issue for freelancers who handle their own taxes and health insurance, but it can be a consideration for full-time employees.
Step 3: Plan for security and confidentiality
Working remotely can introduce new cybersecurity concerns that may not be reflected in existing company policies. Although communications in the workspace may be secured by a virtual private network (VPN), home internet connections may not have the same protections unless you make arrangements.
Consider providing remote employees with company-owned devices, such as laptops and cell phones, and prohibiting the use of personal devices for work.
Ensure that all employees connect to a VPN when transmitting sensitive material, and that they don’t have confidential conversations in public spaces, such as in a coffeeshop or coworking space.
Step 4: Plan ways to build team relationships
Now that we’ve got the legal stuff out of the way, we can focus on how your remote work policy prioritizes employee wellness through team connectivity and work-life balance. It’s important to build this into your remote work policy from the start, or you can run into challenges with employee onboarding and retention.
Organizational behavior experts Michael Lee and Koen Veltman note that “virtual work almost completely abolishes informal interactions (e.g. coffee chats or water cooler talk)” and that “thriving teams created new rituals and practices to compensate for the loss of these valuable informal interactions.”
Although writing these interactions into your remote work policy can seem forced, it’s key to ensuring that your workplace norms and values carry over from the office to the virtual realm. Consider scheduling virtual happy hours, employee recognition and award ceremonies, and other fun team meeting ideas.
Step 5: Keep work-life balance in mind
Another thing to consider is work-life balance. Some companies value long hours and all-night work sessions, but this can be a slippery slope for remote workers who don’t have clear boundaries between their work life and their home life.
If your company values down-time, spell this out in your remote work policy by asking managers not to contact employees after hours, or by encouraging employees to turn off notifications and set up an away message when they’re off the clock.
Finally, consider scheduling at least one company retreat or town hall meeting each year. This is less important if your employees are on a hybrid work schedule in which everyone comes into the office occasionally, but it’s a must for fully distributed teams who have never met each other in person.
Keep remote meetings effective with note-taking software
Remote work is here to stay, and it’s important to implement a clear and consistent remote work policy for your team. By coming up with clear expectations and ground rules in advance, you can avoid the issues that arise when transitioning to a remote work culture.
As you host more virtual meetings, AI note-taking can help keep your workplace organized. Whether you want to transcribe the interviews of new employees or take notes during a virtual meeting, Anchor AI can do the heavy lifting for you.
Simply invite Anchor AI to your next meeting or upload the recording, and you’ll get a searchable, time-stamped transcript that you can share with everyone who needs it.