Gone are the days when working from home was becoming the new normal. Now we breathe in it. Every person who has actively earned for the last one year is very well aware of the implications that come along. And to be very honest, I am not going to talk about anything new in this blog.
Then why are we even discussing work from home policy and structure?
A simple answer to this question is- not everyone understands it yet.
Do you not agree with me? Let me prove you wrong. When was the last time you knew what your team member was doing without asking them about it? Do you always have a plan for the day? Does your team leader know what tasks you guys work on before and after the lunch break?
I know you don’t have a definite answer to these questions. Because surprise, surprise- you are not aware of your work from home policy yet. Or worse, your company doesn’t have one!
In either of the cases- you’re at a loss. It doesn’t matter if you’re an employee or a manager- you must understand how your organization functions when telecommuting. Or else, you may be subject to accumulating doubts that can be cleared only by information bottlenecks.
Information bottlenecks are, usually, the employees who single-handedly resolve every other employee’s doubts. Such fellas are very harmful in the long run, and every employee must learn how to tie their own shoes.
Having a work from home policy helps cut this clutter and create a more transparent and manageable workplace.
Am I clear now? Let’s hug it out and get to the point.
What Is A Work From Home Policy?
A work from home policy is a document that explains how your company handles remote work. It contains every piece of information- from who can work from home to what they’re working on at a given instant.
A good work from home policy answers all the questions like:
✔️ What are the criteria needed for those employees who work remotely?
✔️ What are the circumstances under which an employee is not allowed to telecommute?
✔️ Which positions and departments can work from home?
✔️ What equipment do the employees use for work? Is it provided by the employee or the company?
✔️ Can a person have a flexible working schedule, or does everyone maintain the same timings as they did in their office?
✔️ How is the company going to ensure safety and security?
✔️ How does the management keep in touch with its employees while the team members work remotely?
✔️ What does the company do in case of a conflict?
It’s a bit tricky to figure all these things out. I know. But, in the end, you have to manage the people in your organization.
Know this before you create your work from home policy
Rethink the way you perceive remote work.
Before the pandemic, we all considered telecommuting to be some privilege, to which only our seniors had access. But is it, really, what we expected it to be.
Working from home is NOT a privilege or another indication of a flexible and healthy lifestyle. I’d say it’s neither better nor worse than working in an office. But it is definitely not the same.
When you create your work from home policy, focus less on who deserves a remote work schedule and try to figure out what works for all. In the end, your policy must cater to the company as well as the employees.
Working without a policy is a big NO!
I’ll explain my point with an example. Let’s imagine two of your employees, Christie and Jason, want to telecommute for a week by the end of this month.
Christie has an excellent impression of meeting deadlines, keeping her work up to date, and has no upcoming meetings. Plus, she keeps communication in the loop. So you can always contact her in case of work-related emergencies.
Jason, on the other hand, is running behind on many unfinished projects. He has a meeting scheduled in the last week. Plus, you have to contact him every time you want to know his whereabouts, because of his poor communication.
Can you approve Christie’s requests based on all of these? No, you can’t, unless you have a policy drafted with you.
When you allow an employee to work remotely and disallow the other one, you need to give them valid reasons behind it. Having a policy would mean everyone has to abide by it legally. Even if your colleague isn’t happy with your decision, they can discuss it with you. It is always better than having misunderstandings, internal conflicts, and an ultimatum from the Human Resources department.
Get Better Results and Team Confidence
When you keep your policies open to interpretation, you create more confusion among all.
Employees start wondering if they have to work more now they have lesser distractions at home. What if they take a break and you text them? Is it even okay to take a break? Do they need to finish their tasks faster?
Uncertainty always makes people uncomfortable. And they are bound to commit an error. With clear policies, your staff will be aware of what to expect from you. You can communicate better and build a more transparent environment where everyone can trust you better.
Avoid your employees from feeling uncertain for letting them know they can confide in you. Clarity and structure breed trust.
How to create a Work from Home Policy
Define your What, Who, and How
A good work from home policy is thorough enough to answer all your questions that concern your company and its staff. You must know how to track, manage, guide, and assign work to different team members.
To help you get started, EmpMonitor is here to assist you in recording and analyzing your team’s activity in real-time.
Once you understand how your company interacts with its staff, here’s how you complete each section that contributes to your policy:
What is your remote work arrangement?
There is no single way to determine how you include remote work in your business strategy.
For instance, a company might allow a few of their departments to telecommute. But may ask some of their employees to attend the workplace regularly. The HR department, for instance, usually works from the office. While your developers might be equally productive when working from home.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. Completely allow remote work.
2. Allow a few employees to work from home full time.
3. Allow working from home but not permanently.
Your policy may vary for different departments, but you need to make sure that everything adds up in the end. It brings us to the very next question.
Who is going to work from home?
As we already discussed above, some jobs require an on-site presence a majority of the time. For instance, a videographer must be physically present at the shoot. But they can definitely edit their work from their bedrooms.
Similarly, a customer support representative might never face any difficulties working from their home, but they might need special tools from the company. Equipment plays a crucial part here.
When you allow your employees to telecommute, make sure you provide them with everything you can- devices, equipment, ensure they have a high-speed internet connection, etc.
In such cases, it is wise to list out any such cumbersome job roles. The pandemic is under control, and you don’t always have to allow everyone to telecommute. Your work from home policy does not have to be necessarily strict- it should be clear and fair to avoid any clashes.
How to determine if an employee can work from home?
I know I have already mentioned this before- but remote work is not a privilege. It is no less than working, but it comes with a different set of protocols.
The biggest issue behind considering remote work as a privilege is that you start thinking about only the employees who deserve this special treatment.
And that’s not fair.
Assess and analyze if an employee is capable of working distantly. Two of the factors mainly determine this behavior:
The people who struggle with accountability at the workplace have difficulty managing their tasks from their home.
However, the ones that require minimal guidance and direct supervision stay as productive from their homes as they are in their workplace.
Autonomy is an important skill, and your team must learn it even if they are working from the office.
Letting your teams access your company’s files from anywhere they want is tricky- I know. Information breach is a bummer. And thus, it is wise to know your staff’s whereabouts before you pass your crucial information into their hands.
Keep a close eye on the suspicious underdogs. Look for the ones who stay active during odd hours, and always do a background check before letting someone telecommute.
Internet & Equipment
A reliable internet connection is a must when letting people carry out their day to day tasks from home. Your remote employees must have a stable internet that allows them to at least stream videos without buffering.
A lot of people also face issues with power cut. In such cases, let the staff choose if they want to work overtime or continue working from the office.
Now that you know the answer to what, who, and how, let us discuss the other steps you must follow. We’ll get into each of them one by one:
Draft Proper Documents
Documentation is the first step to carrying out a legal procedure in an organization- it doesn’t matter how minor it is. It obviously becomes your #1 priority once you figure out your organization’s work from home policy.
Include everything in your documents like:
1. The working hours and flexibility.
2. What equipment and tools you provide.
3. The conditions under which a person works from home.
4. What excludes an employee from telecommuting.
5. The security implications regarding shared files.
6. Communication and meeting guidelines.
7. And many more..
Set Working Hours
One might get hit with jetlag of procrastination when working beside their doggo. Having flexible shifts is always healthy for the telecommuter, keeping in mind that they have a personal life to handle. But you must have strict boundaries for working hours.
An employee may take a toll on their health while trying to meet deadlines. Night owls may struggle in keeping up with the early birds. Many similar issues may arise among colleagues if they don’t follow a strict working schedule.
Goldbricking is one of the reasons why a lot of employers feared remote work. The pandemic left us with literally no other choice. But a lot of organizations still struggle in keeping up with their working pace.
Analyze your employees’ tasks and train them accordingly. Keep a regular eye on their finished work and know their whereabouts by monitoring PC remotely with tools like EmpMonitor.
Fill in the communication barriers to avoid any conflicts. Always have a clear policy that indicates what, when, where, and how to communicate.
For instance, you can ask all of your staff to communicate on a reliable platform like Telegram and prohibit them from sharing any official info on Whatsapp. Try to be specific with the team communication tools to avoid using malicious tools on your staff’s PCs.
Describe how you’re going to take care of a heated issue among two of your colleagues. For instance, an employee might complain about rude behavior in case their seniors are strict. How do you determine if their complaint is legit if you are not aware of their work ethics in the first place?
Your policies must clearly state the implications that follow your remote workers. Anyone who doesn’t abide by the rules stays open to constructive criticism.
Set Security Standards
Make sure that no one works on public WiFi. Prohibit the use of any social media on office devices. Training the staff about protection from cybercrimes would be helpful. Phishing is a common phenomenon among newly appointed lads.
However, insider threats are not always accidental. Identify the employees who might act suspiciously. Record their activities and take necessary actions. Insider threat management should always be a priority.
Other things to Address
Apart from creating and implementing policies, you also have to keep a few more things in mind:
1. Take legal actions whenever deemed necessary.
2. Give performance reviews to your staff.
3. Ask for honest feedback, and don’t shy away from constructive criticism.
4. Reward the staff who perform the best.
5. Erase your company data from the device of your employees who resign.
6. Get your policy checked and rechecked by the right people.
Bonus Tip: Ensure That Everyone Abides By The Policy
Here comes a ghost hug for all the lovely people who are still reading.
Let’s get to the point- you put in a lot of effort to create the perfect work from home policy. Now, how do you know if your lovely colleagues stick to it? Here are a few things that will keep you in the loop:
Keep in Touch
Far from sight, far from mind.
Never underestimate the power that good communication holds. Try to stay connected with your colleagues. Talk to them frequently, wish them on occasions, organize online group activities and participate in them.
Let your team see you as a friend. This way, they can confide in you and share their issues with the company, if any.
Track Employee Activities (Legally)
I have said this before, and I cannot stress how important this step is- but you have to keep a close eye on your staff when letting them telecommute.
Monitoring tools like EmpMonitor lets you capture regular screenshots of your staff’s screen, record their actual working and idle hours, and many more. Ensure higher productivity, transparency, and data security among your distant teams using such tools.
Evaluate and Update Policies
Evolution is a never-ending process.
Having rigid policies is a must, but you also have to embrace changes. Check if your staff is happy, healthy, and productive with the current work from home policy and make changes accordingly.
Add and remove the policies that no longer suit the purpose. For instance, you may consider a flexible schedule for a remote employee but a rigid schedule for the ones coming to the office.
What To Do Next??
Everything that you read above might sound a bit too overwhelming, but your job is NOT DONE here. Now that you have read and understood everything that you MUST do, determine what your work culture lacks.
Identify and understand your company culture and draft the best work from home policy accordingly. Communicate with your team, ask them about their suggestions, and get started with a rough draft.
Do you have any suggestions? Did I miss something? Drop your thoughts and queries in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.