When Covid-19 hit, many companies were suddenly forced to figure out how to have their employees work from home, including some who had previously not dipped their toes into work-from-home options before. The challenge was not how to retain staff, but rather how to connect and remain productive when employees were no longer in the same physical location.

A few months later, things have settled somewhat and employees are feeling much more comfortable with online tools such as Zoom, Slack, or MS Teams, and employers are beginning to recognize two things: one, that having staff work remotely is actually going well in many cases and, two, it may be time to standardize what may become a norm for the foreseeable future.

Having a Remote Work Policy in place allows everyone to be on the same page in terms of workplace ‘norms’ and expectations when working virtually. A remote work policy saves you time from responding to inquiries about costs you will cover, such as an ergo chair or reimbursement for lunch delivery.

Here are some key points to consider when building your Remote Work Policy:

  1. Who is eligible? This may be a no-brainer right now, when everyone is still remote however, you may have roles that cannot continue remotely on a long term basis, due to the nature of the responsibilities. Establishing which positions are able to be performed remotely and which are not, is step one.
  2. Availability & Responsiveness - It can be a challenge for employees to separate their work from their home life. Aside from the obvious challenges (kids, pets, people at the door, etc), many employees find it challenging to separate the two and many employees work at all hours of the day and night, not just when they’re needed. It is easy to quickly jot down notes from an earlier meeting at 8:00pm, rather than wait until the next day, or to draft an email at the kitchen table when you’re having breakfast. Establishing expectations around availability (work hours) and responsiveness (ie: respond to online messages within one hour; no expectation to respond after work hours) can be very helpful when paired alongside leaders modeling the same behaviours.
  3. Security & Confidentiality - Information security is a definite must for all remote work policies, particularly in fields where client or other sensitive information is collected and stored. Outline expectations in terms of use of public wi-fi (or non-use), use of security tokens, storage of documents, and so forth. The same safe desktop practices that are done in the office should continue at home: password protect your computer and lock it when you’re away from your desk.
  4. Virtual Norms - What is the company’s expectation around video meetings: camera on, or off? How do you manage meetings online? What tools are staff to use to collaborate? How are staff to reach out to colleagues when needed? Is casual clothing ok?
  5. Equipment - Offices are equipped with everything that employees need to do their work: desks, laptops, proper chairs and lighting, printers, stationery supplies. When Covid-19 hit we were all relegated to our homes, working at the kitchen table wasn’t so bad in the short term. Longer term - not so much. As an employer, which costs are you prepared to cover to have your employees set up properly at home? In some instances, you may be able to ship items to your employees from the main office, but in other instances this may not be feasible. Many companies are beginning to provide annual stipends to their employees to cover the costs of working remotely.
  6. Perks - Are there perks you can provide to your employees while they are working remotely? Some Employers are providing lunches or snacks during meetings, or free fruit in the office. Establishing expectations around this early on will help set ground rules, and communicating any changes in this area - and why it’s changing - are important. Conversely, adding new perks for remote staff can be a huge engagement booster - think birthday or work anniversary celebrations: Flowers anyone?
  7. Safety at Home - Ergonomics. Tripping hazards. Electrical hazards. Enough said. Employers are on the hook for workplace injuries even when the employee is working from home, so setting clear guidelines and providing information on proper desk set upcan be very useful. Is it time to have your employee give you a tour of their workspace?

Not sure where to start? Give us a call, and we can develop a customized Remote Work Policy for you. For more information, email info@tullochconsulting.ca.