What is a Remote Work Policy?

Remote Work Policy
Mike Marks October 7, 2020

As remote work shifts to the forefront of modern business approaches, the need for clearly defined policies tailored for such practices has been highlighted.

Helping your team members stay productive in whatever environment they choose to work from, while accommodating health, safety, and legal constraints involves taking a proactive stance on policy creation from the start. Read on to learn more about remote work policies, what makes them unique and how yours can be improved.

Definition of a Remote Work Policy

A remote work policy serves as a set of guidelines for an organization’s workforce to follow whenever they need to work outside of a central office or common workspace.

Remote work policies make it possible for employees to remain grounded with consistent organizational practices regardless of their location. However, such policies also help to protect companies from liability in the event of a workplace mishap surfacing and disrupting daily operations.

What a Remote Work Policy Covers

Remote work policies apply to all critical components of your team’s interactions and contributions when they are offsite or otherwise unavailable in person.

The following key elements should be factored into any reasonable remote work policy to ensure common concerns are accounted for ahead of time.

How Work Should be Done

When employees work remotely, the importance of work methods and protocol is heightened.

Establishing clear requirements for accessing information, submitting project updates, and communicating with team members cuts down on potential pitfalls before they have a chance of slowing growth.

Daily hourly requirements for individual employees should be clearly defined, as should expected communication responsiveness. Setting understandable response time ranges for business communication can help to keep teams from splintering when cohesion is critical. Hourly requirements may be defined as strict start and stop times for daily work or more flexible, dynamic work periods based on productivity. Allowing employees to choose their work hours could also be a viable option, so long as the rules for doing so are clearly defined in your policy ahead of time to avoid confusion or misunderstandings.

Who Can Work Remotely

Certain positions might not be well-suited for remote work. Deciding which positions are eligible for remote work early on and communicating these guidelines clearly can help to keep morale high and potential upset out of the picture.

Your company’s remote work policy is the best place to put remote work eligibility classifications for future reference.

Support Practices and Work Monitoring

Support is especially important for remote employees, as a lack of in-house technology experts can bring productivity to a halt at the slightest inconvenience.

Offering consistent tech support and managerial guidance to remote workers helps bolster morale, while ensuring individual team members are always able to stay productive when system-wide or even personal tech-related issues arise.

A clearly delineated protocol for accessing and delivering proper support as needed should be added to your remote work policy to clear up doubts in this area.

Keeping track of productivity among team members is also essential; however, transitioning to remote working practices can stifle performance-tracking efforts. Employee monitoring solutions make it possible to keep tabs on team performance remotely, but these are only appropriate to use when all parties understand how they work.

Your business’s remote work policy should define precisely what aspects of employee performance should be monitored and how such monitoring meshes with your company’s overarching goals.

Legal Concerns

Remote work opens many doors for improvement and productivity enhancement; however, it also introduces the potential for legal issues to arise should employees’ needs not be met in accordance with local regulations. The following factors should be considered carefully when crafting a compliant remote work policy.

FLSA Compliance

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs workers’ rights regardless of their locations. Remote employees are entitled to the same benefits as onsite workers, making it especially important to keep track of hours worked and working conditions in their homes (or wherever they are permitted to work from).

Of major concern when it comes to working hours is overtime pay, which must be granted whenever employees go over established weekly limits for non-exempt positions. To stay within your company’s operational budget, it’s crucial to pay special attention to hours worked by all team members and enforce reasonable cutoffs wherever appropriate. To accomplish this, your remote work policy should contain clear guidelines pertaining to overtime and managerial responsibilities for monitoring time spent on the job.

Work Environment Guidelines

Providing proper equipment for employees is a must, even if they are not going to be using said equipment in a central office or shared space. Remote employees should be given all of the tools they need to do their jobs. Failure to do so could result in litigation under certain circumstances in some jurisdictions.

Ideally, your remote work policy should state precisely what tools are integral to your workforce’s productivity and describe how such equipment will be provided to employees for use on the job.

This part of your remote work policy can impact many aspects of your employees’ lives, including monthly bills for telecommunications services, computer and home office-related expenses, etc. If your business intends to offset internet connectivity costs, home office equipment costs, or other expenses, then it is imperative that contributions be very clearly defined in your policy so team members know what to expect.

Remote Work Policy Best Practices

Drafting a comprehensive remote work policy doesn’t have to be a confusing process. Try implementing the following guidelines to keep your policy on the right track.

Prioritize Safety and Health

Aligning your policy with your team members’ collective ability to do their jobs safely from their remote locations helps to foster greater trust and boost enthusiasm across the board.

Make your company’s commitment to its personnel clear in your remote work policy by establishing helpful work-life balance guidelines, physical well-being considerations and mental health practices.

Keep Data Secure

Implementing clear data security practices eliminates most forms of risk to data integrity, while helping your business to maintain compliance with consumer data regulations. Specify how mission-critical and otherwise sensitive data must be accessed in your remote work policy to prevent unnecessary vulnerabilities from materializing within your organization.

Factor in Home Life

Asking employees to determine what their individual output limits may be given their home life requirements and dependents can make your policy a better fit for the bulk of your remote workforce. As an example, Cornell University set clear guidelines in regards to child care and personal responsibility for remote personnel in its remote work policy.

Navigating the complexities of remote work requirements and best practices may seem daunting, but the information above should put your company on the right track towards providing suitable guidance for all of your remote employees.