If your company uses a flexible or hybrid work model, consider these tips on what to include in the TSAR policy statement, and how to set up your team for success.
When the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic required cities to adopt self-isolation orders, many employees were able to work from home for the first time. Realizing that they can successfully do their job without getting to the office, now more workers than ever want to continue working remotely — a practice also called remote work. Reports on the future of work for April 2021 indicate that 83 percent of the surveyed employees prefer a hybrid work scheme in which they spend at least part of their time working remotely, and 63 percent of fast-growing companies have already implemented a “productivity system” that allows employees to work both on-site and at home.
As employees demand more flexibility about where they work, companies are experimenting with creative ideas that allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time. Regardless of whether your company uses a completely remote approach or adheres to a hybrid work model, failure to provide employees with specific recommendations for working from home (WFH) can cause confusion and lead to inconsistent application.
The more clarity you provide to employees, the better the experience will be for everyone. Read on to find out what to include in the remote work policy statement and how best to prepare your team for success.
How to write a statement about the Work at home policy
Before you start implementing the plan, clearly state your expectations for each employee. Include the remote work policy prominently in the employee handbook and make sure that each team member understands both individual and team responsibilities. This is especially important if your teams are returning from a completely remote job to some remote work. Your employees need to understand how their work schedule is changing and why, especially if not all employees will be allowed to work from home.
Use the following guidelines on what should be included in the policy statement to get started. Remember that, as with any aspect of your company’s culture, your work-from-home policy should be thoughtfully tailored to your specific workforce.
Set a clear goal
Clearly state what the purpose of this policy is, both in terms of the document itself and what you hope to achieve by offering work-from-home opportunities. Use this as an opportunity to share what your company has learned during the experimental phase of working from home caused by the pandemic, if applicable. Ultimately, your work-from-home policy should improve the value proposition of employees, improve the experience of your team members in your company, and align with your core values. Convey the meaning of the policy, as well as how the statement will be used in the future.
Define an area
Specify which positions in your organization are suitable for remote work. Take into account customer responsibilities, software limitations, and cybersecurity risks. Clearly define all role constraints to mitigate unnecessary requests and prevent frustration.
Also, if you want the acceptance process to be more selective based on individual fitness, describe the type of employee who is eligible to work from home: reliable, disciplined, autonomous, highly organized, etc. Finally, specify any length of tenure required for employees to take advantage of the work-from-home policy, whether it’s three months or a whole year.
Description of the process of requesting work at home
How should employees request WFH time? In this section, outline the whole process — is there an official submission or should employees talk to their supervisor? Also, should employees apply for a policy review before submitting a request? Provide a step-by-step breakdown of what employees need to do to be able to work from home, and include links if necessary.
Explain the approval process
Explain who will approve remote work requests and by what criteria each request will be evaluated. Will the requests be handled by individual managers or will the HR department monitor the process? Managers and HR should use their best arguments to determine whether an employee will be successful working from home or not. However, they should also consider the following:
- Does an employee need to interact with clients in order to do their job?
- Is personal information and data available to the employee, access to which outside the office may endanger business or customers?
- Is the employee’s home work environment distracting?
- Will the employee’s remote work jeopardize the success of your team or make it difficult to communicate, collaborate or achieve goals?
- Does the employee need additional software or resources to perform their tasks outside the office? If so, what are the associated costs?
Before accepting answers, talk to the staff and let them answer each question individually. If you know that an employee has several children at home or he mentioned that construction work is underway in his building, ask him how he will ensure his productivity in a different work environment. This will give everyone a fair assessment and prevent unfair restrictions on work at home based on preconceived notions and unconscious biases.
Set acceptable working days at home
In this section, explain when employees will be allowed to take advantage of the remote work policy. Will you be hosting weekly “WFH environments” or will employees be able to work remotely as needed? Will there be team days when everyone should be in the office?
If there are certain days in the year when remote work is prohibited, for example, in the last week of the month for sales representatives or during general meetings, clearly indicate this in the rules so that there is no confusion when dates roll around.
List acceptable reasons to work from home
If you don’t grant all employees WFH privileges, give examples of acceptable reasons for requesting work from home. Make it clear that the reasons listed do not guarantee approval; the employee must still submit a request for consideration.
Possible reasons why an employee may need to work from home include:
- Parental responsibilities.
- The status of illness or disability.
- Work-life balance.
- Appointments during the working day.
- Suburban delays.
- Unsafe weather conditions.
- Home/personal emergencies.
- Other reasons are discussed and approved by managers.
Assign a specific working time
Specify whether employees should be online at a certain time (for example, from 9:00 to 17:00) and whether time zones affect working hours.
Alternatively, set the expectation that employees and managers will determine working hours on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the responsibilities of the employee and the needs of the manager.
Describe expectations for communication, responsiveness, and accessibility
If employees only occasionally work remotely, this is probably for reasons unrelated to work, such as parenting, illness, or work-life balance. As a result, their attention can be divided between work responsibilities and external factors.
To make sure that everything that is necessary is done, think about setting up communication rules. Are employees expected to be online and available throughout the working day, or only during a pre-determined main time? How do you expect WFH employees to fulfill their meeting schedules when they are not in the office? Set clear requirements so that employees can better coordinate their personal affairs with work responsibilities and be more productive during the day.
In addition, set specific recommendations on the speed of response and preferred methods of communication. This places responsibility on remote employees and sets expectations for office employees. If WFH employees are not expected to respond immediately to their colleagues’ requests, office team members will know not to expect immediate responses and will consider contacting someone else for urgent questions.
Install technical support and requirements
In some cases, employers may require employees to have access to certain technologies — software, Internet speed, personal computers — in order to be eligible for remote work. As part of your work-at-home policy, specify all the necessary conditions so that employees can coordinate their technical needs in advance. Describe what technology the company will provide. Will you provide a monitor for both the company and the home office, or does an employee have to bring equipment home when working remotely?
Additionally describe the procedure in case an employee has technical difficulties when working from home. You probably have technical support on site, but if the computer freezes or the program doesn’t start, how do you expect the WFH staff to react when they can’t access your support team? Consider investing in remote desktop access software so that technical support representatives can gain remote access to an employee’s computer.
Note. Office supplies and maintenance requirements
In addition to providing employees with technology and devices, explain whether you will supply their home workplace with consumables or other amenities. From a legal point of view, it is important to determine the responsibilities of the employee in terms of content and what responsibilities you, as an employer, will assume.
For example, employees are most likely expected to keep their office clean and ensure that it is well furnished as a constructive work environment. You can agree to supply the team members with regular stationery, such as pens, notebooks, and a stapler, in which case a monthly “stationery” scholarship will be a great bonus.
Define the security requirements
Since you cannot guarantee which network your employees will have access to at home, it is very important that you clearly state the security requirements, for example, do not work on confidential projects in public conditions or on public Wi-Fi networks. In addition, in order for your employees to work from home, you may need to provide security resources such as a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your employees and business.
In particular, outline expectations for employees working with clients. Do they need to call from a private line? Are they allowed to work in public places where personal information can be overheard? Will you reimburse employees for voice and/or data transmission costs incurred during work calls? If you do not explain how employees should behave when working on client projects, you will not be able to manage or guarantee the security of your business.
Set expected performance and performance metrics
Employers are often wary of offering remote work opportunities, fearing that employees will take advantage of this policy. However, monthly survey data showed that six out of 10 workers reported working more productively from home than they expected. Be sure to meet expectations and repeat that the work-from-home policy is indeed an advantage by specifying performance standards.
Also, determine how you will track performance. Although time logs are an option, they are less indicative of performance than the time spent on the task. Identify specific metrics that are more important to your business and track them. Consider relying on managers to evaluate performance by tracking completed tasks or using a task management platform to make progress visible. There are many project management tools that measure productivity or provide technologies to help your employees better manage their time, such as ClickUp or Clockwise.
5 Tips on How to Make Your Work-at-Home Policy Successful
When you are ready to implement a new remote work policy, use the following five tips to make sure that your team is set up for success.
Make communication a priority
It’s no secret that things can get lost when transferring by email or when exchanging instant messages. To ensure that tasks are completed efficiently and accurately while employees work from home, set communication requirements between managers and direct subordinates.
For example, consider having WFH employees start the day with a 15-minute conversation with their manager. This provides a more direct and clear communication channel where employees can get answers to specific questions before diving into work, and managers can adjust individual priorities or deadlines without creating unnecessary confusion.
Also, invest in tools that can smooth out indirect communication during the working day. Slack, Discord, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts are great tools for instant messaging, and Skype, Google Meet and Zoom allow you to communicate face-to-face, bringing together WFH employees. To track tasks and monitor performance, consider implementing a task management platform such as Monday.com, Airtable or Asana.
Inform all employees about the policy
Even if your work-from-home policy only applies to some employees, clearly explain the rules and expectations to each team member before implementing it. This is vital to the success of your team. While WFH employees bear most of the responsibility for getting the job done on time, office employees need to know what is expected of their remote colleagues, as well as their own responsibilities for keeping WFH employees up to date.
Take extra time to discuss policy with managers. Since some of their subordinates may work from home more often, it is imperative that they understand the policy and how to comply with it.
Ask your employees about their contributions
We have outlined standard guidelines and methods for creating a work-from-home policy, but it is important that you develop a plan specifically tailored for your team and organization. Before finalizing the policy, be sure to conduct surveys and discussions with your employees about what a fair remote work policy should look like. Collect feedback on employee performance and performance metrics, communication expectations, and the approval process to identify what might be unrealistic for your current workforce.
Evaluate your policy regularly
In order for your home work policy to be as successful as possible, contact your team and managers regularly after the implementation of the program. Has productivity increased? Are there any serious project delays? Is it difficult for managers to keep track of their reports and lead their teams now that several employees are working remotely? Also, how do the office staff feel about this policy — has it created any unforeseen obstacles to their success? Constantly evaluate your plan, its effectiveness and your efforts to be inclusive in order to create the best conditions for employees.
Lead with confidence
It’s tempting to switch to micromanagement mode when several employees work from home, but this will only create problems for your team. If you adopt a long-term work-from-home policy, you just have to trust your employees. If you don’t trust them, don’t apply the policy. In order for your work-from-home policy to be effective, top management and middle management must trust their direct subordinates to meet expectations and adhere to the rules. If employees don’t do this, act accordingly, whether it’s policy adjustments or individual solutions to employee problems.
Trying to micromanage from afar annoys employees and pushes them away. Remote work is a huge advantage that can significantly increase the level of employee engagement when done correctly. Trust your employees as much as you value them, and they will reward you with their loyalty.
If your company has already allowed remote work for some period of time, the further opportunity to work from home is likely to be extremely attractive to your employees. To attract new talent, WFH’s flexibility not only strengthens the work-life balance, but also shows employees that they are truly valued as individuals. They demonstrate flexibility and empathy on the part of the employer — two characteristics that will attract the best talent and retain them.