The Slice

What is a Remote Work Policy? (And How to Create One)

June 2, 2022

Whether you're thinking of letting your workers sign on from home on Fridays or if you want to have a fully distributed team, having a remote work policy in place is essential. When you don't have a policy that outlines your expectations for employees who work from home, both the brand and your workers will likely suffer. So what is a remote work policy, exactly, and how can you make one? Let's dive in to give you all the important details.

According to a study conducted in 2020, 74% of professionals expect that remote work will become the new normal. A number of the biggest companies globally have since announced that they are adopting remote work or hybrid models, including Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Salesforce, and Shopify.

Whether you're thinking of letting your workers sign on from home on Fridays or if you want to have a fully distributed team, having a remote work policy in place is essential.

When you don't have a policy that outlines your expectations for employees who work from home, both the brand and your workers will likely suffer. After all, communication is key in business, and it's all the more critical when your whole team isn't in the same office.

So what is a remote work policy, exactly, and how can you make one? Let's dive in to give you all the important details.

What Is a Remote Work Policy?

Sometimes referred to as a telecommuting policy or a work from home policy, a remote work policy is a set of guidelines that help outline what is and isn't allowed when working outside the office. For example, this policy might include how and when it's appropriate for employees to work remotely and which workers are allowed to work from home.

Your remote work policy can apply to full-time remote workers, temporary remote workers, or hybrid workers. It can be a policy you put in place for the short-term or a permanent policy regarding working outside the office.

What Should You Consider When Creating a Remote Work Policy?

Anytime you're creating a policy for your company, you'll want to be pretty thorough when it comes to considering the question from all angles. By putting your thinking cap on from the get-go, you'll have the best possible chance of creating a policy that works well for your employees, your management team, and the brand as a whole.

Which Employees Can Work Remotely

Maybe you run a digital marketing company that's 100% distributed, or maybe you operate a candle manufacturing plant that can only realistically have some of its employees working from home.

Either way, if you don't have a hard and fast rule that all or none of your employees can work from home, you'll want to outline the criteria that make a worker eligible for remote work.

You'll also want to think about what it means for your employees to work outside the office. Do you want your employees to live in the same city or state where your HQ is, or do you want them to feel free to island-hop in the South Pacific? Depending on your industry and the company culture you promote, you'll likely find it makes sense to have some restrictions regarding where people live while working remotely for your brand.

Whether Pay, Benefits, or Taxes Will Be Affected

If you are newly implementing work from home policies, how will it affect pay, benefits, or taxes at the company?

For example, if your HQ is in a high cost-of-living area, you might allow employees to work anywhere in the world but with a salary related to their local cost of living. This means that someone moving from San Francisco to Toledo, OH, might take a pay cut, but they might find that it's worth it to them, all things considered.

Some companies also give their remote employees a stipend for getting themselves fully set up for optimal remote work. 

Of course, like with pretty much everything you do in business, you'll want to think of the tax implications. What does it mean for you to have employees that live in different states or even countries?

The Distribution of Resources for Remote Work

Another consideration is whether you'll be giving all of your work-from-home employees the resources they'll need to do their job or if they'll need to outfit their own office. This might include laptops, computer accessories, software, and more.

Your Availability and Scheduling Expectations

Do you expect your employees to be online during the normal 9 to 5 schedule, or are you willing to offer more flexibility than that? For example, maybe you want to choose an in-between strategy, where employees are expected to be online for specific hours during the week but otherwise can get their work done during their chosen hours.

Whether or Not You'll Have an Office Available

Increasingly, brands are choosing a completely remote strategy where there isn't an office that employees could go to even if they wanted to. In other cases, companies will have an office space with some employees that work in-office and others that work remotely.

In the latter case, will remote workers have the opportunity to work in the office if they want to? If not, will you offer stipends for finding a coworking space in their area, or are they on their own? Again, there are a lot of different possibilities in this realm, and you'll want to consider what makes the most sense for your brand and your workers.

Who Will Manage Your Work-From-Home Team

One of the big questions surrounding the concept of remote work is how employees are held accountable for their work. Some brands might choose to have a direct superior in charge of managing remote teams, while others might feel that their work from home team is self-directed enough to manage themselves.

If you're worried about how your workers will stay engaged when they're working from home, check out this article full of tips and tricks to boost engagement.

How Flexible Your Remote Work Policy Is

Can workers clock in remotely whenever they want, or do you want to have rules about when they can work from home? Do you want everyone in the office on Fridays but otherwise they can choose where they work, and do people need to ask permission in advance before working from home?

To What Extent Your Remote Work Policy Will Change the Company Culture

If everyone has been showing up at the office at 8:30 for the last twenty years and you're implementing a remote work policy, it's important to recognize that it will impact your company culture. Of course, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is worth considering.

How You Will Deal With Security Concerns

Another part of creating a remote work policy that you don't want to overlook is how you will make sure that all of your business data is kept secure if you have workers signing in from Wi-Fi networks around the globe.

In your remote work policy, you'll want to include information about:

  • Use of multi-factor or two-factor authentication

  • The rules surrounding using personal devices to do work

  • Use of a VPN when connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi network

  • Rules about automatic device locking

Keeping all of your business data safe should definitely be one of the aspects of your remote work policy that you determine with careful consideration. Depending on your industry, you might want to consult with internet security experts to ensure that you aren't compromising your company's sensitive information, your clients, or your employees.

How to Create a Remote Work Policy

The remote work policy you create for your brand will be unique to your company. However, we've put together some tips to help you create a work from home policy that best suits the needs of both your organization and your workers.

Start Early

The best time to implement your remote work policy is before employees start working from home. However, this might not always be possible, as evidenced by the past few years.

If you already have people working from home, you'll want to prioritize creating a policy. The longer people work remotely without one, the harder it will be to change their behavior and expectations to fit your new company policy.

Incorporate Your Legal Team

When you're dealing with rules, expectations, rights, and consequences in the workplace, it's always good to have a lawyer review your new policy thoroughly. The last thing you want is a document with holes, weak points, or that requires something of employees that is technically illegal.

Elements to Include in Your Remote Work Policy

There's no hard and fast rule when it comes to remote work policy outlines, but some of the elements you might want in your document include:

  • Introduction: Here, you can outline the purpose of this new policy and how you expect it will benefit the brand and its employees. This is also a good time to mention that you could update the policy in the future and that workers are responsible for staying up-to-date on the work from home policy.

  • Primary Expectations: In the first main section, you can talk about the basic expectations you have from your employees concerning remote work. This can include information about availability and scheduling; training and resources; pay, benefits, and taxes; meetings and communication; tools and technology; and onboarding and documentation.

  • Security, Tools, and Resources: This next part of your remote work policy can discuss security and privacy expectations.

  • Rules and Consequences: Of course, switching to a remote work policy runs the risk of all of your employees "phoning it in" and mostly just lazing about in their PJs. For this reason, you'll want to outline the rules that workers must follow and the consequences that occur if they don't.

  • Collaboration and Company Culture: How will workers communicate with each other once they're remote? What are your plans for maintaining a positive culture with some or all of the workforce switching to a work from home model?

  • Any Required Travel: If any company-related activities are happening IRL, you'll want to mention your expectations about travel and in-person attendance here. You can also talk about how people will be reimbursed for their expenses while traveling.

  • Employee Rights: Finally, you'll also want to outline your employees' legal rights regarding remote work. Make sure they understand their rights to benefits, the rules about hours and overtime, any policies you have about monitoring and privacy, and what are considered legitimate grounds for termination.

Are you wondering how you're going to communicate with your employees once they start working from home? Check out this article about some of the most effective ways to communicate with remote workers.

Keep It Up to Date

As your company grows and evolves, your remote work policy will likely have to as well. Make sure that the document stays up to date with the actual expectations you have of employees. If new hires see that your policy doesn't reflect how things work in practice, they'll be less likely to take it seriously.

Why Bother Having a Remote Work Policy?

Having a remote work policy for your employees is in the best interest of your brand, your management, your employees, and your customers. Basically, you are just creating a clear outline of all of the details surrounding remote work. Writing out what you expect, what's allowed, what isn't allowed, and so on offers everyone the opportunity to be on the same page.

Without a remote work policy, your workers might not even realize that they aren't fulfilling your expectations. For example, if you don't have the security protocol outlined in an easy-to-access document, your employees might be logging on from public Wi-Fi and potentially compromising sensitive client data. Similarly, if you don't communicate to your workers that you expect everyone to be present in the office for weekly meetings on Fridays, you're going to face some reasonable pushback when you try to dole out consequences for low attendance.

A remote work policy should be a living document. You don't have to feel like you're creating the final say on the rules and guidelines of working from home when you create your policy. Instead, it can be a document that you revisit from time to time and continue to tweak so that it perfectly fits with the needs of your company and workers.

Do Your Remote Workers Need Pizza?

We mentioned the importance of maintaining a positive company culture when you go remote, but we didn't talk about how important pizza is to your workers' happiness. In an office, your company culture can naturally emerge, with everyone heading down to the local pizza joint after work on Fridays to relax after a hard day's work. When your employees are remote, you're going to want to create opportunities for them to enjoy a delicious slice together from time to time, no matter what time zone they're in.

Do your remote workers seem hungry for some time together? Do they like pizza? If so, let us organize a pizza party for you today.

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