The United States is opening in fits and starts. Companies that initially scrambled to bring their workers home in the face of the coronavirus pandemic are beginning to decide who can and should return to the office. Not every employee will be able to go back to work right away, and not every employee may want to give up their at-home work life. It might be time for businesses to consider making remote work a permanent option and to develop a work from home policy.
Even before COVID-19 made working from home a necessity for a majority of the U.S. workforce, the number of remote employees was on the rise. According to a Flexjobs report, the number of remote workers has grown by 44% over the last five years. The coronavirus lockdowns may have inadvertently sped up this trend by forcing companies to shift to a remote work environment on the fly. If you want to explore the possibility of making remote work a permanent option for your employees, the first thing you’ll need to do is to establish a clear and effective work from home policy. Here are eight important things to consider.
Determine who is eligible for remote work
The coronavirus has proven that many different positions can be performed in a remote environment when necessary, but that doesn’t mean remote work is the best option for every employee. A company’s managers should consider each role within a company and determine which roles truly don’t need to be in the office.
Create an approval process for remote work
Remote work doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. Your company’s policy can offer partial remote work options or offer remote work for specific instances, like if an employee must take care of children because schools have not yet re-opened. As you create your policy, include a request and approval process. That process should answer the questions:
- When can an employee request remote work privileges?
- How do they make the request?
- Who reviews and approves the request?
Create clear expectations
Set your remote employees up for success by creating clear expectations for each role. That starts by outlining when a remote employee is expected to be available. SnackNation suggests a best practice is “to mirror your standard office work day, which may vary by team.” However, other companies may feel more comfortable allowing remote workers to set their own hours. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s in the policy.
Additionally, clarify what equipment your remote workers will need, what meetings they will be expected to attend, and any time-keeping software they must use to document their work.
Choose your team management and communication software
As you probably learned when scrambling to transition your team to a remote working situation, the world is full of online team management software and a wide variety of communication options. In your work from home policy, clarify which channels your remote employees should use. After all, if half your team is using Asana as their team management software while the other half is using LiquidPlanner, you’ll find yourself in a mess of miscommunications.
To help you pick the right software solutions for your remote team, check out our ultimate collection of the internet’s best remote team management tips.
Determine equipment requirements and what you’ll cover
As the website, Timesheets.com explains, “While remote employees save on gasoline and other costs associated with the daily commute, they have higher expenses at home.” Most office workers will need a computer, a phone, a desk, and a chair, just to name a few basics.
Make sure your policy lays out what equipment you expect your remote employees to have as well as what your company is willing to cover. For example, you may wish to provide your employees with high-speed internet access and a new computer to ensure they can attend virtual meetings without a problem.
Include a security protocol
Security breaches are a big worry for companies, and the risks can increase when remote employees enter the mix. Employees who use their own equipment can introduce viruses or hackers when they log into your business’s network or send corrupted files.
Companies can help mitigate this risk by requiring employees to:
- Update passwords regularly
- Download virus software
- Undergo cybersecurity training
- Set up two-factor authentication
You can also work with your IT department to check the vulnerability of a remote employee’s equipment or to set up secure networks to protect your business.
Prioritize company culture, especially for remote workers
Many employees love the convenience of remote work, but it can also be an isolating experience. It’s often more difficult for remote workers to feel connected to their company and its mission. As you put together your work from home policy, consider what you can do to keep the company culture alive for remote workers. Consider things like creating Slack channels just for fun, hosting virtual happy hours, or challenging employees to a virtual trivia game.
Ask for feedback
Your employees who have been working from home during the lockdown understand the primary challenges of remote working. They may also have great ideas on how to make remote work more productive. The only way you’ll get their valuable perspective is by asking them. Using Poll Everywhere, you can send a customized poll or survey to your workforce. This is a good opportunity to find out:
- Who might be interested in continuing remote work
- What remote work programs your employees liked best
- What challenges employees faced with remote work
- What type of remote schedule they want
- What additional equipment they need/want
- Suggestions on improving the remote work experience
You can even create anonymous polls to get honest responses from your team. Their feedback can help you build an effective and fair work from home policy that sets your employees up for remote work success. For more tips on managing a remote team and improving employee engagement, download our ebook.