Remote work is here to stay. If you’ve struggled through the last couple of years, you should consider putting together an effective long-term remote work policy.
1. Remote working here to stay in the long-term, and a remote work policy will help set your organization up for success no matter which stance or approach you take to it
2. Many companies allow remote working without a clear remote work policy. This can lead to confusion, frustration, and disenfranchised employees. These all take their toll on your culture
3. If you’ve got to include international workers in your remote work policy, a global PEO can help you achieve compliance with tax and labor laws in most countries across the world.
Building an Effective Remote Work Policy
Around a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic plunged our world into unprecedented uncertainty. As the virus began to take hold, thousands of people suddenly found themselves being told to stay at and work from home.
While vaccination efforts have brought the end of the pandemic closer for many countries, people are still going to continue working from home for some time yet. And for some, remote and flexible working is going to be a permanent reality.
If you’ve found yourself battling through the two years as your employees work remotely (and if you’re still struggling with it at this stage), you should consider putting together a thorough and effective remote work policy as part of your strategic workforce planning.
From this point, on managing remote work will be an important part of employee benefits administration within an organization.
Doing so will not only help to ease the “pain” of managing a remote workforce, but it’ll set you up for a future where a majority of the office-based workforce is likely to demand that you let them work remotely at least some of the time.
In this brief guide, we’re going to discuss flexible and remote working, why it’s the future, and give you some tips for planning your own remote work policy.
What is a Remote Work Policy?
Generally speaking, a remote work policy is an official organizational arrangement that permits all or some employees to conduct all or some of their work either flexibly or remotely at an approved alternative place of work.
We say generally speaking because not all remote work policies are the same. Companies are completely free to set their own remote work policy, meaning what’s in one company’s policy could be completely different from another.
Some companies, for example, may only permit flexible working (i.e., having some control over core working hours) whereas others will permit 100 percent unrestricted remote working at a pre-approved workplace. Indeed, some companies may go as far as to not set a “workplace” and give their employees the freedom to work from wherever and, operations permitting, even wherever.
Companies may wish to consider whether they should also create a policy on how to return to work safely, alongside their remote work policy.
Why You Should Have a Clear Policy for After COVID-19
While it’s not “compulsory” to have a remote work policy, it’s best practice.
Even if you trust your workers and are confident that they know the rules when it comes to remote working, that doesn’t mean caution should be thrown to the wind.
It goes without saying that remote working is a very different situation from having everybody together in one office. By chancing it and operating without a remote work policy, you’re leaving everything open to ambiguity. This can lead to confusion, frustration, feelings of unfairness, and disenfranchised workers. But nevertheless, companies are taking the risk—a recent study discovered that a shocking 57% of companies are utilizing remote teams without a remote work policy.
However, COVID-19 has put remote working under the microscope. It has shown us that many jobs can be carried out in the same way as (or even better than) they can in an office environment.
This has led many prominent companies to come out in support of remote working and say that when the pandemic is done, they will be switching permanently to partly or fully remote operations. With this, we’ll likely see remote working policies become more common and viewed as “mandatory” by a majority of people.
If you’ve got a clear policy that says everybody can work from home (or work flexibly or remotely in another place) provided that their job can be done outside of the workplace, then it spells everything out in black and white.
A Flexible vs. Remote Work Policy: Which is Best?
There’s a difference between flexible working and remote working (e.g., working from home.) The arrangement that’s best for your company depends solely on its operations and what will and won’t work.
- Flexible Work Policy
- A flexible work policy provides employees with the autonomy to set their own schedules or modify their work hours rather than work the standard “core” hours of 8 am to 4 pm or 9 am to 5 pm. They’re concerned more with when an employee works rather than where from.
- For example, a flexible policy might allow an employee to start working from home early in the morning, have a few hours of personal time, and then come into the office during the afternoon to finish off the day. Or it might allow an employee to work from 1 pm to 8 pm. This kind of arrangement is also known as hybrid working.
- What is and isn’t allowed is determined by the “rules” set out in your own flexible work policy.
- Remote Work Policy
- Working from home and remote working are often used in the same way. But while working from home is always working remotely, working remotely doesn’t always mean working from home.
- Remote working refers to any arrangement where an employee is working away from the office. This can be from home, from a co-working space, in an entirely different country, from a coffee shop, from a beach… you get the idea.
- A remote work policy might be used to define places where an employee is allowed to work from. For example, one company might only want their employees to work remotely from home whereas another company might allow employees to work from anywhere provided that they’re based in their home country. Some companies also allow for temporary working holiday arrangements where an employee might work an adjusted full-time schedule while on vacation domestically or internationally.
- A remote work policy may be combined with a flexible work policy that allows an employee to work from anywhere at any time as needed depending on their schedules and any solid commitments such as team or client meetings.
- While flexible work policy is concerned more with when an employee is working, a remote work policy looks at where an employee is working from.
Tips for Figuring Out the Specifics of Your Remote Work Policy
The whole point of a remote work policy is to set everything out clearly. Doing so will help build better relationships between you and your employees and foster a positive culture.
Your policy should include everything that your company will allow and provide for employees who decide to work flexibly or remotely. Here are some tips for deciding what to include:
- 1. Who Can/Can’t Work Remotely?
- Not everyone can work remotely—the office’s maintenance worker or cleaner, for example. For many purely office-based roles, however, working remotely a few days a week (or even permanently) won’t have a negative impact on operations in any way. You could say that the goal is to go ‘remote-friendly‘, rather than ‘remote-first’.
- Consider each role within your organization, its responsibilities, scheduling needs, and any equipment required when assessing its suitability for remote work and building your policy.
- For example, a copywriter working on a marketing team can get their work done from anywhere with an Internet connection. They can write everything up on their laptop and join meetings via video conferencing tools. In contrast, a HR executive may only need to come into the office to carry out inductions for new employees or interview candidates.
- 2. How Will Remote Employees Communicate?
- This is a big one—communication can make or break a remote working arrangement.
- Before an employee can work remotely or flexibly, will they have to lodge an official request, or will it be up to their own discretion on an as-and-when basis? Decide how far in advance you want notice (if any) of your employees’ intentions to work away from the office and include this in your policy.
- You also need to decide how your employees will communicate while working remotely. Will employees need to take it upon themselves to check in, or will supervisors and managers be tasked with reaching out each day? And when “official” communication takes place, where should it happen? Slack? Email? Skype?
- 3. Invest in the Right Security
- Remote working creates a whole load of potential security problems, and the security measures and technologies that you have in place can have a huge impact on what can and cannot be done remotely.
- When designing your remote work policy, consider the impact that security (or a lack of it) could have on remote operations.
- At the start of the pandemic, we saw story after story of cyber criminals trying to exploit the uptick in people working from home. Unfortunately, you’re only as secure as your weakest security link, so investing in strong Internet security tools and employee training is crucial, especially if your company works with sensitive information or has sensitive products/IP.
- 4. Build Remote Work into Your Culture
- For long-term success with remote working, it’s important to make sure that remote workers can participate in your culture and feel like they belong. When getting started with remote work, you need to ask yourself questions such as:
- Is speed or quality of work more important?
- How does our team prefer to communicate?
- How much time does our team spend working per week?
- How will meetings impact remote working?
- Could remote working potentially prevent employees from progressing?
- How important is visibility?
- How can we fit remote team activities in to the day-to-day?
- Answers to questions like these will help to shape a policy that works for your organization and ensures your remote workers are fully engaged in their work.
- 5. Consider How International Employees Will Fit In
- If your company utilizes an international workforce, how will this fit in to your remote work policy? Chances are that international employees are already working remotely unless you have an office in each country where your international employees are based.
- In this situation, you should work with team members in departments like human resources and legal to figure out the employment and tax ramifications (if any) of deploying a remote work policy in different legal jurisdictions. You may also want to consider working with a global or international Professional Employer Organization (Global PEO). Global PEOs take care of all employment and tax compliance issues for businesses operating overseas.
- 6. Other things to consider
- Your remote policy sets out the “rules” and expectations for people working outside of the traditional office environment. Because the home office is essentially an extension of the business which your workers represent, you may want to consider including the following in your remote work policy, too:
- Technology policies (e.g., only using company devices to do your work)
- Standard codes of conduct
- Social media use during work time
- Confidentiality agreements
- Health insurance for remote workers
- Security and data protection
- Remote access & VPNs
- Dress codes
- Attendance at certain meetings
- The ‘Right to Disconnect‘.
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Remote Working is the Future
There’s no doubt in our minds that remote working is the future. Organizations and employees alike have realized far too many benefits of “the new normal”, and this will undoubtedly lead to a remote working trend that will continue on possibly forever.
The extent to which people will work flexibly or remotely, however, will depend on their jobs and the individual agreements they have with their employers.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to start thinking about your stance on remote working and how you want to proceed when the pandemic is over. Whatever you decide, a clear remote work policy is the right way to set out your rules and expectations surrounding remote working, even if it’s something that you decide isn’t right for your operations.
Horizons can provide advice on international remote working arrangements and, where appropriate, take over all compliance responsibility for remote workers based overseas through its comprehensive Global PEO solutions.