Creating a Remote Work Policy: Where to Start

Before the coronavirus pandemic created the current need to minimize physical and social contact, you probably didn’t think you needed a remote work policy. You either had no remote workers or you considered yourself too small of a business to draft a formal document.

Now, with the need to act quickly and move your workforce to a remote location to keep projects moving forward, you may find yourself having to create one in a crunch. We’ve got you covered with a step-by-step action plan to develop a remote work policy for your small business.

Process

First, decide on the process of remote work for your team. This includes establishing a chart that reflects roles, responsibilities, and reporting for all team members.

Even if that process is exactly the same as your usual workflows, it’s still important to create a visual structure as a reference for your team members. It can be reassuring for those who have never worked remotely to know exactly what’s expected of them. Defining the process creates purpose in an uncertain time.

Tools and technology

Next, provide the right tools for your remote team. Right now, this may mean that they need to check out equipment from work to ensure better security rather than relying on their own personal devices.

Make a list of other software and apps that will be used for remote work, defining these tools by department and function. Include instructions on how to access each tool and what each one does. Some of these tools may already be familiar to your team if you have used them previously, such as Slack for collaboration or GoToMeeting or Zoom for video or audio conferencing.

If team members have not worked with these remote tools before, include links to useful training videos or online manuals. Also, provide contact information to anyone on the team who might be able to help their teammates figure out certain technology.

If you’re able, consider a reimbursement policy to allow employees to purchase certain tools, technology or other items that can make their WFH environments more favorable.

Rules

Next, define the rules for working remotely. These rules may include the time that should be devoted to working, as well as how to ensure regular breaks and how to avoid distractions. For many, working from home is a new experience, so it could be helpful to create guidelines for what they should and shouldn’t do as part of their workday.

For instance, you could establish social media guidelines, if those aren’t already in place. Remind the team of the existing policies and how those can be applied to the remote workspace.

For example, security is critical, so your rules should dictate how remote team members protect their computers during work-related use. This should include mandating that employees add security measures, where possible, like two-factor authentication, encryption and security software suites.

Schedule

Designate times and situations to encourage virtual communication, meetings and socializing. Providing a workday schedule can also help your team remain focused and productive while encouraging them to ramp up their virtual interactions. Ask managers to set regular one-on-ones with their direct reports if they haven’t already.

Suggest ways to also encourage social time by listing activities in the remote work policy, such as virtual “spirit” weeks to encourage participation and engagement. You may also want to organize online exercise classes, virtual get-togethers, and online gaming competitions. Make sure your remote work policy encourages feedback and suggestions.

Legalities

Your policy must also address the legal rights that come with working remotely. Depending on your workplace, this could mean addressing one or more of the following issues:

  • Check all payroll information for any necessary updates now that the company operates remotely. This includes payroll frequency and delivery.
  • If any of your remote team has moved to a different state or country, then your remote policy must address changes in employment, payroll or other laws that may apply.
  • Health and safety are still important, even if your workers are not physically present in your workplace. This means your remote work policy should still address ways to mitigate hazards, illnesses and injuries. From there, it’s up to the remote workers to be responsible for their health and safety by following the guidelines presented in your remote work policy.

A flexible document

This is a starting point for your remote work policy. Over time, you may need to revise it to address new situations or remote work best practices you’ve learned along the way.

 

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