Now that the world has acknowledged and accepted the elephant in work arrangements, we’re all wracking our minds to create comprehensive WFH policies which could keep things clear for employers, managers, and employees.
Here’s a guide that you can use to adapt and create your own policies. The specifications under each section may, of course, differ according to your organization’s needs and policies, so feel free to add or subtract.
Address the Basics: The Five W’s
Let’s first be clear about the 5 basic questions.
- The Big Why, or the Statement of Purpose:
Make it clear to your employers why you are giving them flexible options along with an idea of how long it might last. Consider the following, for instance:
- Are you doing it for the purpose of safety from the pandemic perspective? In that case, specify that this is not a long-term arrangement and employees will be expected to return to the office at some point. You’ll have to make it clear that employee health is a priority to the management and that they must make it a priority for themselves too.
- Are you doing it because you want to facilitate flexible arrangements? In this case, specify that employees may choose from remote, hybrid, or on-site arrangements. In each case, they will be required to adhere to certain rules and procedures. You should also highlight that this is being done in order to ensure all employees can work in the environment which suits them best and that this must not affect anyone’s performance negatively.
Once the purpose is clear, it’s time to sort out the other nitty gritty.
- The He/She Who Must (Definitely) Be Named, or the Eligibility Criteria:
Since remote working arrangements are not suitable for all professions and positions, you will need to specify who gets to work from home and who must attend the office regularly. You’ll be better able to tailor this to your organization, but here are some ideas:
- It is possible for most creative professionals, digital marketers, IT departments, software developers, etc., to work remotely since their work does not require being physically present in an office. In this case, employees may work remotely as long as they are able to abide by all other policies as well such as those of accountability and communication.
- However, some positions require manual work or handling sensitive data that cannot be managed remotely. In these cases, you can declare them ineligible for remote work or give them hybrid options where these employees work remotely and on-site alternatively. Here too, you must specify what arrangements will have to be made to maintain confidentiality of data.
Once you’ve established the eligibility criteria, you need to clarify your expectations from remote employees.
- The What, or the Expectations of Arrangements / Equipment:
Not everyone knows how to create an environment conducive to productivity. However, not everyone finds the same thing helpful either. You must create a balanced policy which outlines the very basics and leaves the rest up to your employees. Here are a few examples:
- Availability of a high-bandwidth internet connection should be your top requirement. You may specify the minimum speed requirements.
- In most cases, employees are provided computers with company software installed. If this is not the case, you must identify the system configuration of the computers employees are expected to use.
- A good camera and mic are usually also basic requirements when working remotely.
- Does the job require a very quiet atmosphere or a proper home office? If that is the case, you’ll probably need to specify and facilitate this financially too. For example, many businesses offered ergonomic furniture to their WFH employees during the pandemic.
Once the expectations are clear, you can move on to the when and where.
- The When, or the Working Hours:
This is something that managers themselves must be very clear on first, and then convey their expectations to employees. Below are some things to consider:
- Do you expect a specific number of worked hours? 7 or 8 hours a day, for example?
- Do you expect everyone to follow a 9-to-5 schedule?
- Or do you only expect quality work to be done and deadlines to be met, no matter the number of hours?
- The Where in the World, or Scope of Remote Locations:
Exactly how remote will you allow your employees to be? You’ll need to add or subtract the scope depending on your organization’s needs and policies, but here’s a general idea of what to incorporate.
- If you’re only allowing employees to work from home, clarify your expectation of being able to reach employees at their residential addresses.
- If you’re allowing completely remote arrangements, then you must acknowledge and accept that your employees may work from anywhere in the world as long as other requirements are met.
- Is there a procedure in place for employees to travel? Are they required to acquire NOCs to change their locations or to visit relatives in other countries? Any such protocol must be clearly outlined in this part of your policy.
The Accountability Policy
The inevitable question of whether employees are actually working becomes even more valid in remote working situations. That’s why you must dedicate a portion of your remote work policy to outlining how employees will be held accountable.
This part of your policy should define:
- How employees manage their time and attendance instead of the regular clock in/out systems that many offices used pre-pandemic
- How available employees are expected to be, in terms of communication
- How will employee accountability reflect on their performance evaluations and annual reviews
- What methods of billing and invoicing will be used
- What disciplinary actions will be used in case of any violations
Every efficient remote working model needs an accountability platform. Some businesses use time tracking tools which track employee activity by randomized screenshots, webcam shots, and keystroke + scroll action counts (such as Upwork). Then there are some that prefer the more ethical, less invasive ways of monitoring time and activity through solutions like timegram.
Recommended Reading: 3 Easy Ways to Persuade Your Remote Employees for Time Tracking
The Productivity Policy
The controversy around productivity should end with your work policy. You need to be clear with how you measure it, how you use it, and how you facilitate it.
- Measuring Productivity: You can’t tell how effective your remote team is if you don’t measure it. However, what exactly do you measure?
- Productivity by hours: Do you think your team is more productive if it spends more hours at work?
- Productivity by output: Or is team productivity something you measure by the quality of work done?
One of the ways you can do this is by calculating estimated time versus actual time taken by an employee to complete a project. (timegram automatically does this for you!)
The clearer you are about this in your policy, the better performance you will see.
- Using the Measure of Productivity: How will you be using the productivity insights you get? Will they be reflected in your billing methods? Will you be using it to hold employees accountable? Will you be using it as the basis for your next firing?
Your policy should detail how often + why you’ll review productivity reports and what will be measured.
- Facilitating Productivity: You don’t measure this just to penalize your employees, right? You can use the productivity insights for professional development too. Share every employee’s insight reports with them and hold discussions about ways they can boost their productivity.
- Your productivity policy should outline the ways that will be used to help your employees reach their full potential. Will you be holding weekly reviews? Monthly productivity sessions? Bi-annual webinars based on the reports?
Your policy may also include an informative section about increasing productivity.
Here are some research-based ideas: Top Productivity Tips To Help Remote Employees Deliver Quality Results
The Teamwork Policy
There are countless ways that people could collaborate when they were on-site. However, the remote work scenario requires a different approach.
In this section of your remote work policy, you must specify the platforms your employees will use to collaborate. You might be using Microsoft Teams or Slack; you might just be using plain old Zoom meetings if your work doesn’t need more.
Whatever you use, your process should be clear. Here are some questions you should aim to answer in this section:
- What is your primary collaboration platform? Are employees allowed to use secondary platforms?
- Do your employees need training about its usage? Is there a support channel for this?
- What will your project management workflow be? How will project and resource allocation be done?
- How will projects and their progress be tracked? Is your accountability platform versatile enough to handle both jobs? (hint: timegram can!)
The Communication Policy
Effective (not frequent) communication is the key to making remote arrangements work. Most managers prefer some structure to their team’s communication strategy. Some mandate daily check-in meetings or coffee talks, while some have weekly progress meetings. Which approach will you be using?
Your communication policy needs to address the following questions:
- Which platform will be used for each type of communication?
- What will the chain of communication be? How will unnecessary communication be regulated in order to minimize distraction?
- Do you prefer everything to be on record in the form of meeting minutes, recordings, and mail trails?
- Are there any mandatory forms of daily communication?
- Is there a guideline for non-work communication? Any dedicated channels?
Remember, it is important to streamline all procedures so that your business runs smoothly and there are no unpleasant surprises.
The Motivational Policy
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Everyone needs some sort of motivation to continue performing their best. How will you motivate your employees when they’re working remotely? Here are some ideas you can incorporate into your remote work policy:
- Provide plenty professional development opportunities. Some employers give their teams access to LinkedIn courses, while some provide optional subscriptions to other platforms.
- It can be overwhelming to keep up with constantly evolving technology. Include some support channels in your policy so that everyone is motivated to make effective use of technology.
- Will your employees receive any financial compensation to set up their home offices or for snack provisions? This is where the conditions should be outlined.
- Some businesses have a policy of monthly leaderboards or a cheering system. Specify your methods in this part of your policy.
- Most importantly, is there a professional ladder to climb? Specify the KPIs your team should strive to achieve and come up with incentives to motivate them. (Did you know timegram has gamified KPIs?)
- If you want your employees to adhere to practices such as locking their systems when away from their desks, ensure specifying it in this part of your policy.
- Is there a specific archival process that must be followed? Any particular servers to be used for storage of client data?
- Does your company require connecting to its own VPN? What is the procedure for this?
- Most businesses recommend responsible practices of digital citizenship. There is often a policy of changing account passwords at regular intervals. Mention these practices here if you expect your employees to be aware of them.
When it comes to employee privacy, managers must be aware of the difference between ethical monitoring and invasive surveillance. If any surveillance methods are being used, make sure to reveal them here so that everyone is aware, in order to avoid backlash.
Click here to read about how surveillance can be counterproductive.
timegram Your Way to Remote Work
Now that you’re on your way to creating your own remote work policy, let us introduce you to how timegram can help.
- It can be your friendly (read non-invasive), all-encompassing time tracker.
- It helps you allocate resources and manage projects all in one place.
- It lets you gamify your KPIs so your employees stay super-motivated.
- It even allows you to automate billing and invoicing against each project and client.