If you’ve looked around your workplace lately and noticed a lot of desks are empty, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Around the world, seven out of 10 employees now work remotely at least one day a week, according to a recent study by Zug, a Switzerland-based company. More than half work remotely for at least half the week.
Telecommuting has clearly become more acceptable, if not the norm for many. Yet few companies actually have a formal remote work policy—only 7 percent did as of July 2018, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
If your workplace doesn’t have a remote work policy in writing, here are a few reasons why it’s long overdue.
Why Your Workplace Needs a Remote Work Policy
Having a remote work policy has several advantages:
- It gives employees explicit flexibility in their work, which the vast majority of the workforce wants; 80-90 percent say they’d like to work remotely at least part time.
- It sets expectations around when and how it’s acceptable to work remotely.
- It allows employees to share work spaces, improving space utilization.
- Your company can reduce energy costs if you encourage employees to work remotely on designated days.
- It’s the first step in providing employees with the technology and support they need to be productive while working remotely.
Without a formal policy, it’s up to individual employees and their managers to decide when it’s acceptable to work from home. While most managers may be fine with offering this arrangement, there are issues to consider. For instance:
- Managers might feel the need to be in more frequent contact.
- Managers might be concerned if employees don’t respond to them immediately.
- Employees might also be hesitant to work from home too often if they don’t feel their managers trust them completely.
- Employees might feel they have to be “always on” to compensate for working remotely if no boundaries are set.
Obviously no policy can address every concern, and trust is essential. But having a policy ensures both employees and managers have guidelines to follow.
What Should a Remote Work Policy Include?
A remote work policy should address the who, what, when and how of telecommuting.
- To whom does the policy apply? (All employees, full-time and part-time? Employees who have passed a trial period?)
- What resources will be provided for remote workers? (A laptop? Internet connection? A virtual private network?)
- What are normal working hours for remote employees? (Are they the same as normal business hours? How should employees handle requests for time away?)
- How are employees expected to work? (What rules are they expected to follow? What methods of communication are acceptable?)
Applicant-tracking software Workable has a good remote work policy template.
It states that remote employees must follow all company policies and will be provided equipment, including laptops, headsets, cell phones, software and VPN.
A remote work policy or telecommuting agreement should also address things like:
- How the performance of remote employees will be evaluated (for instance, the number of calls/emails to prospects and the number of closed deals)
- How long employees can be away from their computers without prior notice
- How quickly employees are expected to respond to communication
- How employees are expected to keep company devices and data secure
Empowering Flexibility Without Losing Connection
Most employees want the flexibility to work remotely at least part of the time, and most agree they are more productive when they do. However, they might be hesitant to ask for that privilege if it isn’t already the norm.
Having a remote work policy encourages them to work wherever they work best. It’s just one way you can offer greater flexibility to your employees. But just telling employees they are free to start working from home isn’t enough. They need to feel supported and connected to their teams, or they can quickly become disengaged. It seems like for every study that finds employees are more productive when they work remotely, there’s another study that finds they feel isolated and disconnected from their teams. Some say working at home gives them a better work-life balance; others report the opposite.
As a workplace leader, it’s your responsibility to empower employees, no matter where they prefer to work. Having workplace technology that makes it easy for employees to communicate with each other and easily find the resources they need when they do come into the office can make a big difference.
To learn more about what tools can help, check out our eBook, Using Technology in the Workplace to Elevate the Employee Experience.