Now that we are several months into the pandemic, many companies are looking to codify their whirlwind remote work implementations into policies that can serve them over the long-term. Unfortunately, for those organizations that did not previously have a remote work policy, it can be difficult to know where to start. There are many issues to take into account when assembling a comprehensive remote work policy, so we’ve dug into the research and summarized five of the most important below.
Why your organization urgently needs a remote work policy
According to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, the pandemic caused the U.S. to become a “working-from-home economy.” Late last year, prior to the pandemic, a survey by LinkedIn found that 82% of working professionals would like to work from home at least one day per week. At the time however, fewer than half of them were able to do so. Moreover, just 18% of people were fully remote.
By June though, Bloom notes that the percentage of people working from home full-time more than doubled to 42%. With 33% not working due to the crushing impact of the lockdown, and therefore just 26% working on business premises, the number of employees working from home is more than 60% greater than the number of those onsite. He furthermore writes that the working from home population now accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
With such high demand for work flexibility prior to the pandemic, and the smashing success of transitioning millions of people to full-time remote work overnight, it will be almost impossible for employers to revoke this privilege as they begin to return to the office. Accordingly, it’s critical that companies begin to put some formal infrastructure around what remote work will look like for their organizations over the long-term. Read on for suggestions of key issues to take into account.
Key issues to consider when assembling your remote work policy
Hopefully at this point it’s clear why you need a remote work policy. Just as policies are necessary for governing onsite employees, remote workers need support and guidance to help ensure they can succeed in their roles. When assembling your remote work policy, consider the following factors:
- Logistics. As with any other undertaking, designing a successful remote work policy should begin with the basics. Determine and clearly lay out who is allowed to work from home and how frequently. If the same rules do not apply to everyone, be sure to explain why. In addition, be explicit about how work will be tracked and evaluated, so employees aren’t met with any unexpected surprises. Lastly, ensure that you have tools in place to keep everyone looped into all necessary communications.
- Work environment. Many companies pump a great deal of money into optimizing their office environments and ensuring that employees have the furniture and equipment they need to be productive. The same should be true at home. Consider including a remote work stipend or similar as part of your new policy to help your employees equip their home offices as needed. In addition, once remote working is no longer necessary for public health reasons, your company may want to review and approve remote work setups over Zoom to ensure they meet your working standards and requirements.
- Data Security. Data security is always a concern when employees are working off-site. Ensure that you have clear policies for how data is to be stored, transmitted, and managed, both digitally and for hardcopies. Thoroughly train all your employees on the tools needed to keep your data safe, and put systems and checks in place to make certain that they’re being used effectively and appropriately. Don’t put your employees in a position to cause a data or security breach because you didn’t properly design, structure, and communicate your remote work policy.
- Compliance. There are more potential flags here than we can cover in this article, across fair labor laws, ADA requirements, and more. Suffice it to say that you should thoroughly research all the potential legal issues you may come across with remote workers, and address them in your policy. This is not an area where you can choose to be lax without the potential for serious consequences.
- Equality & Equity. Last, but certainly not least, it’s crucial that you keep a strong focus on both equality and equity when authoring your policy. To the extent possible, employees should be treated the same, or at least the same as others at their level and/or in their position. The remote working policy should consider every employee and strive to enable the most flexibility for every worker within your company’s particular constraints. In addition, be mindful of prioritizing equity as well. If some of your employees may not be able to afford the same level of work-from-home setup as their colleagues, consider increasing their stipend or providing company resources to help support them in getting their workspace up to par and ensuring that they are not disadvantaged compared to their peers.
There are many issues to consider when putting policies in place for long-term remote work. The list above highlights several of the most important ones, but be sure to consult your employees to confirm you’re covering all the necessary bases. Of course, in addition to policies, your remote work strategy should include plans for how to engage employees no matter where they work. If your company could use a streamlined tool for employee communications, engagement programming, and people analytics, check out Workrowd. We’d be happy to discuss how we can help make a hybrid or even an all-remote work model work for your business.