9 Best Practices For Remote Working Agreements, Policies And Procedures
In 2020, tens of millions of people started working from home, not because they wanted to, but because their companies shut their offices out of concern about Covid or were required to close by the government.
Ironically, some employees have enjoyed working from home so much that they'd rather quit their jobs than go back to the office full time, according to a recent survey.
Not For Every Business Or Individual
Jeff Seibert is the co-founder of Digits, a business analysis platform. The company is fully remote and has no offices or conference rooms. “To be sure, working remotely is not for every business, and not for every individual,” he noted.
“If your team needs to huddle together to prototype a physical product, that will be tricky. Or if you work for a biotech startup with special lab equipment, it’s likely infeasible to provision it for every home office. Or if you’re a big-time extrovert who lives for lunchroom gossip and 5 pm team socials, this workstyle may not be your cup of tea,” Seibert observed.
He explained that, “Every new Digits employee gets the choice: if you’d rather work from home, we give you a $2,000 budget to outfit your home office. A great chair. A new desk. House plants. A side-table with a coffee bar. Really anything you feel would make your day-to-day more enjoyable. Conversely, if you’d rather go the co-working route...[then] pick your favorite spot and we’ll cover your monthly membership fee for a desk.”
Johanna Lyman is the principal consultant and practice leaders for culture and inclusion at Kadabra, an interdisciplinary team of leadership and culture experts. She noted that, “With in-person work, managers tend to rely more on "’ticks’ than ‘carrots.’
“To effectively lead a remote or hybrid team, you have to understand the intrinsic motivations your employees have for getting their job done. They also need to think about implementing continuous feedback loops vs. annual reviews so there's not an "out of sight, out of mind" for those who remain remote,” Lyman said.
Business leaders who allow—or are considering allowing—employees to work remotely, should not leave anything to chance. That means thinking through and implementing appropriate guidelines, protocols and other safeguards to ensure they and their companies are not in for any surprises.
It may be necessary to provide additional training to your staff. As I noted last month, if company executives assume they can trust all of their employees to properly handle the tech-related duties, obligations and responsibilities associated with working remotely, the results of a new survey could force them to reconsider those assumptions.
According to a Vyopta/Wakefield Research survey completed in August, executives did not fully trust one-third of their workers to correctly navigate the remote collaboration technology needed to make remote work successful. In many cases, employees were disciplined or fired because of their mistakes.
Adopt And Apply Existing Policies
Confer with the company’s CPA, lawyer, HR adviser, IT staff and others to determine how existing corporate policies and practices should or will apply to remote workers and whether any policies need to be changed, modified or created.
Put It In Writing
Nina Ross is a business operations expert who has prepared remote working policies for employers. She said that, “When discussing remote work policies, procedures and agreements, outline expectations in writing so there is no confusion between management and employees. Each company has its own unique set of circumstances.”
Establish guidelines for employees to qualify for the employee perk of remote working. “If you have a problem employee—someone with attendance or other issues—remote working for this type of employee is not going to end well,” Ross advised.
Designate Home Workspace
For insurance purposes, she recommended defining the designated workspace by describing the area in writing and including clear photos of the area. “I’ve read a number of stories that describe employees attempting to file worker comp claims for falls outside or in other areas of the house,” she recalled.
Ross recommended requiring that home workplaces “be safe and free from any trip or other hazards that may cause injury. Management must approve of all designated remote workplace areas. Ask your licensed insurance agent to assist your company with creating a safety check list.”
Work Hours and Requirements
Ross said that during established working hours, “employees must be readily available for (camera) face-to-face teleconferences, phone calls and respond to emails in a prompt manner. The company should define all generalized terminology such as ‘prompt.’
“This is where a great amount of confusion between management and employees arises. Great care should be used when outlining this information and conveying it to employees,” she counseled.
Ross recommended that, “Remote employees should be instructed to exclusively work on all company tasks and company projects on equipment supplied and owned by the company. Under no circumstances should company-owned equipment be used for personal reasons…[or] should documents be created on a personal computer, then transferred to a company computer.
“This policy reduces the chance of [a] virus contaminating files, company servers and other company computers. It also helps control company documents,” she noted.
Ross advised that, “Company IT professionals should designate what type of internet connection is required for remote employees. Will internet redundancy be required? Will employees be reimbursed for internet expenses? Using hotspots or slow speed internet connections may slow down productivity. Having a backup internet connection ensures no interruptions during meetings, projects, etc.,” she said.
“How will employees communicate with management? With each other? What will the response time be for returning management and client communications?”, Ross asked. “This should be clearly defined,” she advised.
“Employees who are granted remote working privileges assume that remote work is permanent. Clearly state to employees that remote working setup will be evaluated on a regular basis for each individual employee and can be altered, changed or completely revoked,” Ross said.