Many Americans have been working remotely since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and according to the latest forecasts, they will continue to do so until Spring 2022. Adjusting to the new normal for businesses will mean developing a successful work-from-home rule. Such rules will establish expectations for both employers and employees and will be advantageous to increasing productivity at work.
A recent survey indicates that more than half of employers agree that working from home lead to improved productivity (Statista, 2020). With a policy guiding this work setup, employers can be confident that systems and processes are optimized for achieving company goals.
This guide will walk executives and business owners through work-from-home policy best practices. It will discuss the essential components of a work-from-policy, give tips for implementing it, and provide templates to help employers craft their own.
There are many benefits a work-from-home policy can offer. Implemented correctly, it allows companies to increase employee productivity, reduce office space expenses, and gain access to a wider talent pool. These benefits will be discussed in more detail in the following sections.
Work-from-home opportunities allow employees to take control of their time and work environment. They can arrange these so as to allow for maximum productivity. Work-from-home setups also eliminate distractions that are common in an office-based environment, such as water-cooler chats, extended lunch breaks, and the like. This can help employees focus on getting things done. In the process, they also take complete responsibility for submitting their deliverables in a timely manner.
Several studies have already been conducted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic on the correlation between working-from-home and productivity. Most turn out a positive result. In particular, knowledge workers are more productive working from home.
After transitioning to working from home due to the pandemic, experts are now questioning whether businesses really need extensive office spaces. They add that in cities like New York, San Francisco, and London, less than 50% of the workforce have returned to the office in 2021, citing an article from Bloomberg.
Hybrid work setups or telecommuting can lessen, if not completely eliminate, the need for a physical office space. Work interactions in industries like management consulting and professional services can be done 100% remotely. This lessens company expenditures on rent and utilities, a budget that can then be allocated to more profitable endeavors.
According to the October 2021 Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes, 40% of employees would quit or undertake career exploration just to find another job that offers a work-from-home arrangement (Barrero, Bloom, & Davis, 2021). This kind of work setup is highly sought by employees nowadays. Offering it can attract the most qualified applicants from all over the world for open positions in your company.
In case you would like to hire foreign employees, you can do so by allowing them to work from the country where they currently reside. The parties involved will just have to be mindful of time zone differences.
Source: Statista, 2020
There are many essential components of a work-from-home policy, from terms of eligibility to employee feedback. This section will lay out relevant statistical data, software applications, and tips for drafting the document.
There are job roles that can work from home 100% of the time and there are workers who need to serve on-site, like frontline workers. In your work-from-home policy, create eligibility criteria for deciding who can work from home and when. One option you can consider is to require only a percentage of employees to be present in the office at a time. You can set a shifting schedule, for instance, of 50% employees working from home and 50% working in the office.
What shift hours should your employees working from home follow? There are organizations that allow employees to work flexible hours, which means they can choose their preferred work hours.
If you require your employees to work regular hours, clearly state this in your work-from-home policy. Also mention the ways for them to track or record their work hours. Your company may benefit from using time-tracking applications like Time Doctor, Toggl, and RescueTime.
Companies like Google are considering pay cuts for employees who want to shift to working from home permanently. If you decide to implement the same change, you should indicate it in the work-from-home policy along with how it can affect employee compensation or benefits. It may be that the company will be shouldering the additional technological costs of remote working or providing employees with the hardware they will need. On the other hand, this could also mean reductions in transportation allowance or other fees that are generally associated with office-based work. You may also outline what benefits the change can bring not only for the company but for the employees so they can see the merit of switching work setups.
List the technological support and resources that employees can ask from the company. Companies typically offer an internet connection service fee and work-from-home gadgets to remote employees. This can be listed as one of the reasons to work for your company. It demonstrates that you care for your employees. By providing the essentials, you will also be assured that everyone is equipped to perform their tasks efficiently.
Let the employees know when and how they should file work-from-home requests. Further, indicate the requests that the company will be open to considering. Are you open to allowing employees to work regularly from home? Is there an option to work from home temporarily given valid reasons? Perhaps you will offer work-from-home opportunities only after a successful trial period? Consider these options and list down the ones you are willing to offer your employees in the work-from-home policy.
Note also how much time it takes to process the requests and who are the ones in charge of approving them. You may pattern the procedures to the sick and vacation leave protocols already in place in your company.
In order to increase productivity at work, it is important that employees are informed about the key performance indicators for their job roles. The management should establish ways to track task progress and make it visible to the employees involved. Applications like Asana, Workzone, and Trello can help make this possible.
Another way to track performance is to make employees submit a weekly or monthly achievement report stating the tasks they have completed and the number of hours it took them to perform each task.
Indicate a time when all remote employees are expected to be available for purposes of coordination and collaboration. During these set hours, employees must keep their communication lines open. They must be ready to take calls, participate in online meetings or even virtual team building activities, and answer e-mails and messages from established communication software tools.
Establishing availability standards can help remote employees structure their work time around a routine. It can also help foster better communication among employees.
According to HP Wolf Security’s Rebellions & Rejections Report (2021), more than nine in 10 companies updated their security policies to account for work-from-home. Still, 83% of IT team members believe that work-from-home is a “ticking bomb for a network breach.” This is reasonable considering that according to the same report, 39% of employees are unsure about the existing security policies in their organization. It is important to include these policies in the work-from-home policy to keep your organizational data safe and secure in the hands of remote employees.
An acknowledgment receipt for the signature of employees will indicate that they have read, understood, and agree to the terms and conditions laid out in the policy. This will allow employees to take accountability should issues arise in the conduct of their remote work.
Allow space for negotiation between management and employees. Perhaps you can also gain insights by hearing what the employees have to say about the new setup. Encouraging feedback is one way you can motivate your employees to be active participants at work.
After gathering and reviewing feedback, you can consider revising the work-from-home policy as needed. Repeat this process a few times to come up with the perfect work-from-home policy for your company.
Possibly the most challenging aspect of remote work policy is its implementation. With feedback, revisions, and iterations, you can craft a policy that will work and fit the goals and vision of your company. Here are some tips to help you with that:
For many businesses, the trial run already happened without much preparation when the COVID-19 hit, and working from home was made mandatory for health and safety reasons. If you are a new business that has run 100% onsite up to now, you should consider doing a trial run first before transitioning to a fully remote or hybrid setup. A trial run can also help you decide which of these two options is best for your business.
With the WFH advantages in mind, companies should understand that going remote is not a zero-sum game. Often, the best work arrangement is one that combines the traditional with the WFH setup, as highlighted in a study titled “Researchers working from home: Benefits and challenges.” Published in PLoS ONE, researchers noted that “They [subjects] indicated that in the office they are better at sharing thoughts with colleagues, keeping in touch with their team, and collecting data, whereas at home they are better at working on their manuscript, reading the literature, and analyzing their data” (Aczel, et al., 2021).
Before implementing the trial run, you should disseminate your work-from-home policy, make the employees sign the acknowledgment receipt, and ask for their feedback. You can revise the policy accordingly and repeat the next processes.
During the trial run, you can use key performance indicators, set a passing grade, and measure your employee’s performance when working remotely. You can also make a comparison between their performance rates while working online and working onsite. From there, you can decide if you can and should allow an employee to work remotely.
You should decide the technological resources the company is willing to provide the employees. You can include this in the list of employee perks in your company. If you are in the process of transitioning, you can issue these resources while the employees are still onsite. Make sure the following are all set before allowing your employees to work from home:
A survey by Gallup (2019) found that only 12% of new hires feel satisfied with the onboarding process of their companies and only 29% feel ready to take on their new role after going through the process. According to that study, there are five questions that, when addressed, make the onboarding process exceptional:
Employees who agree that their onboarding process was exceptional are 2.6 times more likely to be satisfied with their jobs (Gallup, 2019). The first few months of a new employee are also the most important for them in determining whether they want to stay with the company for the long haul.
Only 20% of employees are engaged in their work (Gallup, 2021). With the work-from-home setup, engaging employees can be much harder. Regular online meetups can help solve this problem. The frequency and length of these meetings will vary depending on company culture and priorities.
Here are some tips for conducting successful online meetings:
Source: Gallup, 2021
Employees’ remote work locations may have business tax implications. For this reason, it is best to include rules and regulations around this matter in your work-from-home policy to avoid tax surprises. Make sure to take note of the following:
Provided below are two work-from-home policy examples that you can use and modify to better match your organization. The first is designed for full-time remote work employees and the second for hybrid workers.
This document outlines the rules and regulations that apply to employees who are working from a different location than our office at [Company Address].
Requirements. Employees must have the following to be eligible for full-time remote work:
Working Hours. Employees are required to time in and out via the company’s timekeeping system, [Name of Software Application], every [Start of Work] to [End of Work] on [Days of Work]. They are expected to be available for collaboration with coworkers via [Communication Platform] during these hours.
Performance and Evaluation. Employees are required to undergo a [weekly / bi-weekly / monthly] review of performance based on the key performance indicators for their roles. They will also be scheduled for a one-on-one session with their managers every [date/s] of the month.
Equipment and Resources. Employees will be provided with the following equipment during their remote work period agreements:
Technological support will also be provided by the [Company Name]’s IT department which employees can reach any time during work hours through [email / phone number].
Compensation Package. There shall be no changes on the employee’s compensation package. However, the [Company] reserves the right to review the existing compensation package should the employee decide to work outside of [state where the Company is located].
This agreement applies to all employees of [Company] that are in a hybrid work setup or are alternately working home and in our office at [Company Address].
Work Schedule. Employees must strictly adhere to the hybrid work schedule indicated in their agreements. When working remotely, they are expected to record their work hours via [Software Application / Timekeeping System].
Remote Work Approval. Should employees want to request a change of hybrid work schedule, they must inform their supervisor at least [period of time, e.g. two weeks] before the expected implementation of such changes. They must indicate their reasons in the approval form.
Remote Work Expectations. Employees are expected to work [number of] hours per [time period]. They are expected to be available through various communication channels for collaboration from [Start of Work] to [End of Work].
In-Office Expectations. Employees are encouraged to participate in team-building activities during the time they will render in the office. They are expected to turn in the same amount of work as in their remote work hours.
Technological Resources and Support. Employees will receive the following equipment for use during their remote work:
[Company Name]’s IT department will also provide them with technological support during this period.
Compensation Rate and Benefits. Employees will receive the same rate and benefits when working from home as when working in the office.
Both employers and employees can benefit from a remote work setup. The mere fact of having a policy and its implementation demonstrates that an employer trusts her or his employees to perform their work without surveillance. This trust showcases the leadership capabilities of executives and business owners and is foundational to any good employee-employer relationship.
A work-from-home setup also comes with several other practical benefits, such as increased employee productivity, lesser spending on office space, and a much wider talent pool, as discussed above.
Drafting a policy is only the first step to harnessing these benefits. Work-from-home policies need to go through a series of employer-employee consultations and revisions in order to match the needs of a company perfectly. With a continued effort to receive and implement feedback, you can make work-from-home policy work for your business.