The COVID-19 pandemic now requires millions of businesses to have a home-based workforce. This may not be an issue for businesses that already rely on work-from-home employees, but it can get complicated for businesses caught off-guard by the sudden change. Whether your business already has occasional work from home guidelines or you need to quickly manage employees remotely, you need to establish a comprehensive remote work policy.
So, how can you build a remote work policy from scratch? If you’re unfamiliar with managing remote teams, what does a good telecommuting policy look like? Finally, if you already have remote teams, how can you improve your policies to create a more efficient workflow?
In this guide, we will answer all of these questions and break down the most important aspects of a remote work policy for business owners.
6 Tips to Craft a Comprehensive Remote Work Policy
Developing remote work policies doesn’t have to be a huge pain. In fact, it’s a lot simpler than many business owners realize. In any case, here are 6 tips to help get your remote work policy up and running in the time of COVID-19:
1. Start With Your Existing Office Work Policies
Though working from home comes with unique challenges for both employers and employees, you should try to maintain continuity in your work policies. This ensures that employees can quickly get up to speed. Additionally, using your existing workplace policies gives you a template to work from, ensuring that you don’t have to completely start from scratch.
In order to do this, you will first need to identify the processes that must change. Depending on the structure of your business, you may not need to make any drastic revisions to your existing policies. However, the nature of work-from-home policies often requires you to adapt certain processes.
2. Identify Responsibilities for Exclusion
For millions of positions and job types, working from home simply isn’t an option. For example, if you have employees who need to physically handle materials, they would not be able to adapt their responsibilities to a home-based work environment. In many cases, employees may be able to do part of their job from home but would need to be physically present for some vital activities.
Identifying responsibilities for exclusion will save you time once you’re ready to establish your work-from-home policies point by point. Then you can focus on the employees who can work from home (either part-time or full-time). These positions will likely require some adaptation to their work processes, which will form the basis of your remote work policy.
3. Establish Clear Protocols for Communication
One of the main differences between working from home and working from the office is how you communicate with coworkers and clients. If your business primarily corresponds via email, text, or project management applications, then you won’t need to change much. You’ll simply need to educate your coworkers on the best remote work practices and the importance of communicating promptly.
However, if you’re accustomed to conducting in-person meetings, sales pitches, or more general business interactions, you will need to establish an entirely new WFH policy to allow for communication from a distance. Typically, this will include establishment of secure applications for instant messaging and video calls. For some businesses, communicating via personal devices (like smartphones) is sufficient, but it may not be a viable option for businesses with a larger workforce.
4. Prioritize Data Security
A remote workforce can open up your business to new cybersecurity risks with confidential information. If employees need to access sensitive information from their home network or personal devices, your business will need to ensure that every employee follows the necessary security protocols. Otherwise, you could experience a data breach that could leave your business exposed at a particularly difficult time.
There are numerous ways to beef up your cybersecurity. You will want to use encrypted data transfers, antivirus software, secure WiFi connections, and multi-factor identification. Most importantly, you will need to educate your workforce on these protocols and regularly check in with your employees to ensure that these rules are followed at all times.
5. Set Required Work Hours
Many business owners worry about the availability and responsiveness of a remote workforce. When workers are physically present, it’s easy to ensure that they show up on time and remain productive and available during work hours. However, when your employees work from home, there’s an increased risk of absenteeism and delayed correspondence.
The easiest way to make sure your remote employees are available and responsive at home is to establish set working hours. This is normal in an office environment, so keeping the same schedule will help you minimize issues as your workforce shifts to a remote environment. Using a project management app that shows active users in real-time can also help you see how and when your remote workers are engaged with work-related activities. Alternatively, some positions (like virtual receptionists) can be outsourced to avoid work hour issues entirely.
6. Provide Employees With the Tools They Need
Finally, team members cannot provide value to your business without the right tools. If you need employees to work from computers or mobile devices, you may need to provide equipment for them to use exclusively for work. Additionally, business owners will need to give employees access to the right security and project management software.
While employees are generally expected to have a reliable remote work environment, you will need to help those who do not have access to stable WiFi or phone service. In any case, you must develop a process to approve work-at-home environments. This will help you ensure the security of your business data and the productivity of your stay-at-home workers.
Sample Work From Home Policy
While the tips above should help you get started, looking at a remote work policy sample will provide a template for your own business. Thankfully, your formal policy plan does not need to be complex. There are a few basic requirements for a remote work policy that just about every small and medium-sized business will need to include:
Eligibility – Your employees need to know who is eligible to work from home. Additionally, employees must know if they are allowed to work from home for some or all of their assigned work activities.
Schedule – Some businesses require workers to be present on certain times or days of the week. Establish a set schedule for your employees, but leave it open to change as needed. If you need workers available outside of normal working hours, you’ll need to consider a rotating schedule or flexible schedules for some workers.
Communication – Decide how employees are required to communicate with coworkers and clients. This means setting safe methods of communication and educating employees on how to use them. Many businesses use video chat and call software like Skype for Business and Zoom.
Work-From-Home Requirements – Set standards for the environment in which your employees work. This can cover a wide range of requirements, from reliable WiFi to a quiet work environment.
Compensation and Benefits – Since employees may not be able to perform all of the same duties from home, there may be a change in their compensation and benefits. This can also account for purchases that employees need to make for their home office.
The Coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for businesses around the world. In addition to the obvious threats to health, COVID-19 has also fundamentally changed the way people work. Since there’s no timeline for an end to Coronavirus lockdowns, businesses will need to work on the assumption that some or all of their employees will work from home indefinitely.
As a result, you should prioritize a remote work policy for both the vitality of your business and the benefit of your workers. This will help you reduce the issues of transitioning from a physical workforce to a virtual one. With comprehensive protocols in place, you can rest easy knowing that your business can remain up and running, even when no one is at the office.
If you’d like to learn more about establishing a remote workforce or acquiring a virtual receptionist, consult Nexa today!
Why have a work from home policy?
Coronavirus has changed the way businesses operate. Working from home will likely be the “new normal” for millions of employees, so having a work from home policy in place will help you get ahead of the curve. It will also help save you time and money in the long run.
Are remote employees more productive?
The jury is still out on whether remote employees do a better job than in-person employees. However, one study indicates that remote employees provide up to 1.4 more days worth of work per month. Remote employees often show greater satisfaction with their work.
How do you engage employees who work remotely?
A remote work policy helps ensure that you and your employees stay in regular communication. Businesses can engage with their remote employees in a number of ways, including video calling or messaging apps, emails, and project management software. No matter how you choose to engage with your employees, you’ll want to make sure that everyone is working under the same guidelines.