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In our technology-enabled, ultra-flexible modern world of work, a thoughtfully considered Work From Home Policy is becoming a must-have at progressive companies.
Welcome to the age of remote work. Laptops, smartphones, messaging apps, and WiFi everywhere mean that most office workers can do their jobs virtually anywhere. Add to this a growing expectation among employees that they should be able to do their job wherever they happen to be – at a cafe, while traveling in a foreign country, or from the comfort of their couch.
It’s also important to remember that even as we enter a new, more flexible era of work, the office will continue to be the place where your team can do their best work. Honing a workplace experience that fosters community, collaboration, and the serendipitous encounters that lead to innovation will continue.
Ideally, remote work complements this elevated workplace experience. The key is to create a Work From Home Policy that sets the right expectations and creates channels and infrastructure that not only supports working from home, but that mitigate the many pitfalls that spring up when you take employees out of the office. With the right preparation and communication, your team can be just as happy, connected, and productive at home as they are in the office. If you are a small business and looking for additional guidance with this, we recommend a company like Bambee for a dedicated remote HR manager.
In this post, we’ll lay out exactly how remote work can benefit your business, the potential pitfalls you must take care to avoid, and why a thoughtful and complete Work From Home Policy is the single biggest factor in setting your team up for success. Use this article to guide you as you develop the Work From Home Policy that’s right for your team.
What Is A Work From Home Policy?
A Work From Home Policy is an agreement between employer and employee that clearly defines the expectations and responsibilities for employees who work from home. It may also define who is eligible to work from home, the process for requesting work from home privileges, as well as the approval process.
During mandatory Work From Home situations (such as a health or safety crisis like COVID-19), it helps ensure that employees are set up for success and that they can continue to remain healthy and productive.
What Are The Benefits Of Working From Home?
Empowering employees to work from home or remotely is a sound practice that can benefit your employee wellbeing and your business. Maximizing these benefits ought to be top of mind as you design your company’s Work From Home Policy. Here’s why a Work From Home Policy is good for your company:
It signals trust. By now we all know that employee engagement drives performance; the more personally invested employees are in your company’s success, the more willing they are to go above and beyond to hit their goals. Demonstrating that you trust your employees to work from home helps cement the emotional bond between employer and employee that enables engagement.
It gives employees their time back. One big benefit that most employees discover when they first work from home is the lack of a commute. The average American commute is more than 52 minutes each day. Employees will have more time to dedicate to themselves, their families, their hobbies – or their jobs if they so choose.
It supports focused work. The other obvious advantage to working at home is the absence of common workplace distractions. That’s why many companies (including SnackNation) have designated remote days dedicated to focused work. Team members are encouraged to schedule the tasks that require intense focus (like writing, planning, or strategizing) on these days to maximize efficiency.
It curtails absenteeism. When you give employees the option to work from home when they begin to feel sick, they are less likely to spread illness to the rest of the team. The result is a healthier, more productive team. You can really see the effect of this phenomenon during annual cold and flu seasons – or the rare instance of a pandemic like COVID-19.
It can make for well-rounded employees. Employees with healthy family lives, social lives, and who have time for passion projects and hobbies are better workers. Working remotely can mean that your project manager is able to pick up his child from school, can commit to weekly happy hours with friends, or is finally able to enroll in that programming class he’s been wanting to take. When employees are fulfilled in other areas of their lives, they tend to show up better at work too.
What Are The Potential Risks Of Working From Home?
Working remotely is not without potential downsides. Be sure to guard against the risks we’ve laid out below as you create your Work From Home Policy.
It can be hard to establish boundaries. Not having to commute (or shower) is great, but one thing we hear again and again is that it can be hard to turn off your work brain and relax. Some employees find themselves working or checking email from the time they wake up to the time their head hits the pillow. That’s a surefire recipe for burnout.
It can be isolating. Being around people is good for us. Our bodies release the feel-good chemicals oxytocin and serotonin when we see people we care about – like friends, coworkers, and family members. Too much time spent alone can lead to a depressed mood. Additionally, being away from the office can also erode the bonds between an employee and the company itself. An office – especially one with a thoughtfully designed Workplace Experience – gives your employees a sense of identity and connection to your company and its values. This declines when you spend too much time away from it.
It eliminates serendipitous encounters. One of the biggest benefits of an office – especially one with an amazing breakroom – is that it provides opportunities for spontaneous interaction between people from different organizations. (Steve Jobs famously advocated for this when designing the Apple and Pixar office layouts.)
It may come with other distractions. While working from home eliminates typical office distractions (like chatty coworkers), the fact is that employee homes are rarely optimized for work. Often, employees end up working on a couch or bed because they simply don’t have a suitable desk or table. Or they may turn on a TV for background noise… and end up watching it throughout the day. Companies with amenities like meal, snack, or coffee programs might see employees running out for lunch or coffee multiple times throughout the day because employees are unaccustomed to planning for meals, snacks and coffee.
What To Include In Your Work From Home Policy
The purpose of your company’s Work From Home Policy should be to optimize for the benefits while limiting the risks, ultimately setting up your employees to be as successful outside the office as they are in it. Here’s what your policy should include to ensure it does just that.
Define who is eligible to work from home. Not all job functions can be conducted remotely. Clearly lay out which teams are eligible to work remotely, and which have to be in the office.
You may set eligibility criteria – i.e., only those employees who have been at the company for 90 days and hit 90% of their goals can work remotely. Of course, this doesn’t apply during a health crisis like COVID-19, when working from home might be mandatory.
Establish an approval process. Likewise, once you establish eligibility criteria, clearly outline the personnel and process for approval. Employees should know how to request work from home privileges, who will be approving, and the timing for approval.
Set regular working hours. Your Work From Home Policy should clearly state when employees are expected to work, and when they should call it a day. If you value flexibility, this might mean setting a total number of hours (i.e., employees are expected to work a total of 8 hours per day).
More likely it will mean establishing a range of working hours (i.e., employees are expected to be working and available from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.). A best practice is to mirror your standard office work day, which may vary by team.
For salaried employees, this policy isn’t just about making sure your team stays on task. The bigger benefit is to empower employees to establish their own boundaries so they don’t feel pressure to be “always on,” which will prevent burnout in the long run.
For hourly employees, remember that federal non-exempt rules apply. Make sure employees understand they must continue to track their time and request manager approval to work overtime.
Provide guidance on timekeeping for hourly employees. Hourly, non-exempt employees will still need to accurately record all hours worked and submit these records to their managers. Make sure hourly employees have a way to accurately record their time while working remotely.
Create attendance and availability standards. One challenge you’ll find working remotely is that you can’t just pop by someone’s desk to get their input on a time-sensitive project. Sometimes, it will feel like you’re constantly hunting people down, hitting them up on Slack, email, and text message. Minimize this by setting standards around when and how team members will be available.
Streamline communications channels. With in-person communication no longer an option, your internal comms must be dialed. This means auditing existing communications channels and designating the primary purpose for each. This might also mean sunsetting redundant channels. For instance, if your company uses both Slack and G-chat, you should require team members to stick with one or the other to reduce inefficiency.
A typical breakdown might be:
- Slack for rapid, lightweight, informal communication, and as a second touch for timely announcements.
- Email for longer communications, team-wide announcements, and internal programming (like news digests).
- Nextiva for meetings.
- monday.com (or other project management software) for project management and online collaboration.
- Bonusly for employee recognition and remote employee engagement.
- Company intranet for frequently asked questions, company policies, and HR resources.
Provide IT support. While working from home, employees will rely on technology more than ever. Performing the most basic communication and job functions require working IT. Providing IT support is both more important and logistically more difficult for a dispersed workforce.
Create a helpline and ticketing system specifically for remote employees, and outline the procedure that employees must take in order to escalate technology issues.
Maintain security standards. You may want to invest in an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect all system users. Likewise, instruct employees to avoid vulnerable public Wi-Fi. Instead, encourage them to use hotspots or provide encryption software. Lastly, make sure employees keep work data on work computers, not personal ones. Most commonly, this will mean that employees should only answer emails on work devices.
Continue internal communication programs, including all-hands meetings. Constant communication is key. Email newsletters and Slack updates should continue. Your weekly or twice-monthly all-hands will be more difficult to continue, but you should make every effort to do so, even if the format changes. A weekly email from company leadership or shared slide presentation can be just as effective.
Maintain a connection to your culture. Continuing perks and amenities as much as possible will help maintain a sense of normalcy and continuity with your employees.
This is especially important in scenarios where employees are forced to work from home over health and safety concerns (as in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Create a dress code. While wearing sweats throughout the workday seems like it should be a perk of any Work From Home situation, employees may still have to interface with customers, clients, or partners via video conference. A note about acceptable wardrobe in these situations is appropriate.
Record acknowledgement of receipt. Remember, this is an agreement between employer and employee, subject to revocation if terms are not met. Use a digital e-signature solution like DocuSign to record employee receipts.
Gather feedback and iterate. You won’t get everything right the first time. Create avenues for feedback from managers and individual contributors alike. Anonymized feedback is best. Most importantly, implement changes where appropriate.
Finally, whether you realize it or not, implementing your Work From Home Policy will require change management. Your goal might be business as usual, but achieving that means widespread adoption of new behaviors. Use these tips to set the right expectations for your employees and help ensure their success.
Tips For Employees Working From Home
1) Maintain your morning routine.
Just because you’re not going into an office doesn’t mean you should skip the things that ordinarily set you up for success. Wake at the same time, and continue the routine that works for you.
2) Repurpose commute time for self-care.
The average American commute is almost 27 minutes each way. Don’t let this reclaimed time go to waste. If reading, meditating, journaling or practicing yoga aren’t currently part of your routine, now is a great time to try them out.
3) Dress for success.
Just because you can get away with wearing your PJs doesn’t mean you should. You may still be interfacing with colleagues, partners, or customers via video. Plus, dressing comfortably yet professionally helps get you in the right mindset to stay productive.
4) Focus on nutrition.
Maintain focus and energy by avoiding foods with sugars, artificial ingredients, or empty calories. SnackNation’s Work-From-Home Wellness Boxes contain a curated mix of healthier bars, chips, jerky, granola, trail mix, and sweets to keep you properly fueled throughout your remote work days.
5) Designate a dedicated workspace.
Find an environment that fosters productivity. It should be quiet, comfortable, and free of distractions – and different from where you usually eat or relax.
6) Take time to go outside.
Taking breaks is great for your focus and well-being. Recharge by walking around the block or stepping outside on a patio or balcony.
7) Conduct as many video meetings as possible.
Face-to-face interaction doesn’t have to be a casualty of remote work. Conduct daily stand-ups or team meetings via video conferencing software to maintain that personal connection.
8) Set regular work hours.
It can be especially easy to let your workday creep into early mornings and evenings while working remote. Avoid this by setting work hours and sticking to them. Don’t watch TV. Working near a television inhibits our ability to concentrate. Resist the urge to have the TV on, even if it’s just for background noise.
9) Don’t watch TV.
Working near a television inhibits our ability to concentrate. Resist the urge to have the TV on, even if it’s just for background noise.
People Also Ask These Questions When Creating A Work From Home Policy
Q: How do you ensure team productivity in a work from home setting?
- A: Start by giving employees the information, tools, and communications channels they need to be successful at home. Working from home involves a degree of change management, so arm employees with best practices so they can quickly adapt to the new circumstances. Increase accountability with morning and end-of-day check-ins via video conferencing.
Q: How do you maintain company culture with remote employees?
- A: Signal to remote employees that they are cared for and appreciated, even when they are working outside the office. Stay connected via multiple touchpoints and channels. When planning all-hands or other company-wide events, find ways to include remote employees. Where possible, extend in-office amenities like healthy snack delivery or catered meals (via food delivery credits or gift cards to remote employees). SnackNation’s Work-From-Home Wellness Box makes it easy by shipping a curated snack selection directly to employee homes.
Q: What makes an effective Work From Home Policy?
- A: An effective Work From Home Policy sets employees up for success by clearly communicating expectations, responsibilities, and conduct. It should be accompanied by tactical tips to help employees optimize their work from home environments.
Q: What is the best way to maintain communication with remote employees?
- A: While multiple channels are useful, designate a primary communication channel for timely information like company-wide communications and availability. A lightweight, flexible enterprise messaging app like Slack works well for this purpose.
Q: How do you monitor hourly employees that are working remotely?
- A: Use a mobile attendance system like TimeDoctor or Timely or to ensure that hourly employees are accurately tracking their time (and are therefore accurately compensated). Increase the frequency of progress check-ins for additional accountability.
Q: How do I start a Work From Home Policy with my team?
- A: (1) Establish eligibility. (2) Create a request and approval process. (3) Use one of our templates to tailor a Work From Home Policy that’s right for your team.
Q: Should I let my employees work from home?
- A: Yes! Empowering employees to work remotely comes with a host of benefits, including increased engagement. However, it is important to guard against potential risks like lack of boundaries and decreased connectivity with your organization. Additionally, not all employees are able to perform essential job functions remotely. Clearly delineate who does and doesn’t qualify for remote work.
Q: How do I measure the success of a Work From Home Policy?
- A: Measurement ultimately depends on the goals of your Work From Home Policy. If your goal is increased engagement, KPIs like employee turnover rates, ENPS (employee net promoter score), and employee happiness are good metrics. If your employees are working remotely due to a health or safety emergency (such as during the COVID-19 pandemic), success can be measured primarily by their overall health and safety, as well as the maintenance of topline goals like revenue and productivity.
Q: What are some tips to give employees transitioning into a remote position?
- A: See our list of tips, which include maintaining your morning routine; repurposing commute time for self-care; dressing for success; focusing on healthy nutrition; designating a dedicated workspace; making time to go outside; conducting all meetings via video conference; setting regular work hours; and resisting the temptation to watch TV.
Q: Is there a good example of a work from home policy that I can reference?
- A: Yes – download our Work From Home Policy Template for ideas and inspiration.
What has been your experience with creating a work from home policy? Do you have any tips/tricks that worked well? Perhaps somethings that didn’t? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.