Remote working has grown in popularity over the last decade and this has largely been driven by employees wanting to achieve a better work-life balance. Advances in cloud-based applications and mobile devices mean that some employees have no need to go into the office.No one could have guessed, however, that companies all over the world would have to ask their employees to work home to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Over the past few weeks, the impact of COVID-19 on businesses has been unprecedented. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of office-based employees, have had to make an immediate switch to not only help limit the spread of the virus but allow for continuity of operations.
In fact, this outbreak will likely act as a tipping point for the way we work as a population. Remote working may become the new norm even for those organizations that previously avoided it. However, as it stands, a lot of companies still don’t actually have remote work policies in place. Such policies are essential to prevent a disconnect between employees and their managers, and ensure employees fully understand what’s expected of them.
Here are some key considerations for remote working policies:
As a business, you must work out which positions can be fulfilled remotely. Some roles would be ruled out immediately, so clarity is imperative. If your organization does not have any roles that can work remotely, this should also be stated to manage expectations further down the line. In times of a crisis, eligibility may change based on how your operations change. You can add these contingencies into a business continuity plan if there are nuances.
Availability expectations must be outlined from the get-go. Some organizations allow employees to set their own schedules, while others have working hours that mirror those of typical office-based employees (e.g., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Regardless of the option your company chooses, it needs to be put into the policy to avoid confusion.
Tools and technology
Remote working policies should contain information about the equipment an employee needs to be able to carry out their tasks effectively. It should be clear which tools and technology you will provide to accomplish the job and how you will support employees’ technical needs from afar.
Another key requirement is an organization’s stance on cybersecurity. Does your company use a VPN? If yes, make sure you add information about the processes of using a VPN in the policy. If public Wi-Fi is a no-go to mitigate risk, state it clearly. And although it seems obvious, spell out the importance of not leaving digital devices unlocked and attended at any time when in a public place.
If access to confidential information is required in the remote role, address this in the policy so employees know they must refrain from discussing confidential matters in public. It’s much easier to keep sensitive information under wraps in a protected environment like an office than it is in a coffee shop surrounded by other people.
Policies should include details about how productivity is going to be measured. There are many ways productivity can be assessed, from client interactions to the number of tasks completed, or for sales roles, the number of deals that have closed. Remember, measuring the time employees spend online is not necessarily a reflection of their output.
Communicating with colleagues
If you want employees to use video conferencing facilities when interacting with colleagues, make sure you note this in the policy. In fact, it’s best to list all communication options and preferences to avoid any confusion. This also ties in with responsiveness. If you expect your team members to respond quickly to emails from managers and colleagues, spell it out. On a side note, regular communication is key to ensure employees feel engaged rather than isolated.
Remote working has many benefits but a robust remote working policy is vital to manage expectations.