March 15, 2022
Asynchronous Communication: All You Need to Know
More and more companies are choosing to ditch the office, in favor of remote work. Yet a lot of traditionalis...
Since 2020, the concept of remote work or work from home has truly taken off.
The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously a huge reason why, with offices forced to close, and businesses needing a way to stay open with a distributed workforce. But as stay at home mandates are lifted and employees come back to the office, remote work continues to be a big subject of discussion.
A lot of remote workers don’t want to come back to the office now, after experiencing the benefits that work from home offers. Others want the flexibility of being allowed to work remotely at least some of the time.
Businesses too are seeing the upside, by being able to operate with fewer overhead costs, and happier and more productive employees.
If your business is moving to remote work, whether this is a full-time switch, part-time, or just an option offered to employees, you need a clear, robust and effective work from home policy in place.
This work from home policy will spell out everything that employees need to know in regards to the rules and regulations your company has for remote workers. You need to let employees know what’s expected of them, any specific rules related to remote work, and any other information specific to work from home situations.
This article will include a checklist for you to use when creating your work from home policy, and an example of what the policy itself could look like. Use this as a baseline to know what your remote work policy should include, and you’ll be off to a good start when it comes to maximizing productivity and minimizing risk in your business.
Your work from home policy is a set of guidelines to help your team members be more effective when working remotely. The policy should also set expectations for remote employees, who are going to be working in an environment where they can’t be actively managed and observed at all times.
A clear policy is important, because what’s obvious to one person may not be for another. So it pays to have a written document in place that people can refer to when needed.
Your work from home policy should cover things such as:
Done right, a work from home policy should help avoid any drop in the quality or quantity of work produced by remote employees, while reducing stress levels for your employees.
If employees are clear on what guidelines to follow, what is acceptable/not acceptable, etc., then it will remove confusion and doubt, allowing them to shift their focus on what’s really important – actual work.
Your remote work policy should also reduce the risk and liability present with allowing employees to work off-site, which is something a lot of companies don’t think about before approving remote work.
Work from home offers a good number of benefits, but also has some risks attached.
Here are some of the top benefits of remote work:
The flexibility of work from home is attractive, both for businesses and employees.
It’s an attractive benefit to workers, being able to work where they want, set a routine that suits them, and saving money, time and stress by not having to commute. A well-done work from home setup can lead to employees having a big improvement in work-life balance.
These things all benefit the business too, by leading to happier, more focused employees. Fully remote businesses also access big cost savings by not needing to rent expensive office space.
Here are some issues and challenges of remote work, that businesses and employees have to take into account:
Work from home can be difficult for employees, as their remote workspace may not be properly optimized for productivity. Employees can also be prone to distractions when working remotely, more so than in the office.
There are also issues with communication, company culture and security to consider.
The potential downsides of remote work are the exact reason why companies need a work from home policy. The policy should address these risks, with clear rules intended to avoid problems from coming up in the first place.
Here are some ideas to refer to when creating your work from home policy.
Not all of these might apply to your business. But you can use this list as a checklist to see which ones do apply and to make sure you’re not missing anything important.
Is work from home available to everyone? Or is there specific criteria (such as service time at the company) for someone to be eligible for work from home?
It may also be open just to certain positions or departments, which are able to securely and productively do their work from home.
Consider if there are security or liability issues if someone on your team is to work remotely, where they may need to work from their home (potentially unsecure) network.
You may want to discuss these issues with your team, and ensure any eligibility criteria in your remote work policy are transparent and fair.
What do employees need to do to be able to work from home? Do they need to put in a request for remote work on a particular day?
Some businesses go with a completely flexible work environment, where – even if they still have an office – team members can come into the office or work remotely as they please.
You’ll want to consider whether this works for your company, or whether it would disrupt workflow too much.
For some, as long as people are available on Slack and gets their work done, it doesn’t matter a great deal where they work from.
Or, you may want to designate certain times or days, like when meetings take place, that someone needs to come into the office, and cannot work remotely.
If you decide that approval is needed to allow employees to work from home, include in your work from home policy how they can submit a request, and any relevant details such as how long in advance they can request remote work.
Does work from home mean work from home? Or is it a true remote work policy, where employees can work from anywhere they like?
It’s possible that employees will be dealing with sensitive information when working, in which case working at the local Starbucks may not be allowed.
You should also consider whether employees should be able to travel and work, or if they need to be based in a certain broader location. Depending on the status of your business, you may run into legal or payroll problems if employees perform work from a different state, or even a different country.
You might need your employees to be available at certain times for meetings, internal calls, collaboration settings, etc.
You may also need employees to be working all during the same time period, so they can communicate synchronously, even when working from home.
However, on the other hand, you may decide that working remotely means a flexible work schedule, and that employees are free to choose which hours they work (as long as the work gets done).
Be sure to make it clear to each team member when they are expected to be available.
you may have team members who get paid by the hour. Commonly, when these staff work in a central place, they will clock in and out, or record their hours some other way.
However, if these employees are allowed to work from home, how will they record how much they’ve worked?
Perhaps these team members will report to someone at the start and end of their day. You may use a time tracking or monitoring software to track how long they worked.
If this is the case, ensure it’s clearly stated in your work from home policy, so employees know when and how they are being monitored.
Make it clear how employees should communicate when working from home.
Should they use Slack? Email? Facebook Messenger?
Are any of these options not allowed?
Are employees allowed to shut off communication (i.e. turn off Slack, not check email) for a length of time to concentrate on deep work?
Whatever you decide, spell it out in your work from home policy.
If security measures are necessary for remote workers, make it clear.
Often, this will involve the use of a VPN (virtual private network) if a remote employee is working from a potentially unsecure location (such as a coffee shop or coworking space).
You may also want to specify that employees need to keep their computer locked when not in use, to avoid company information being accessed.
Security protocols are not only important for the safety of your business, but also for liability purposes should a breach actually happen. You may need to prove that you have protocols in place, and it was simply an error by the employee, to avoid legal action or to access insurance payouts.
If the company is providing equipment for staff to work from home (e.g. a laptop), your policy should outline if there are any restrictions as to how this can be used.
For example, if there are restrictions to using the laptop outside of work hours for personal use, etc. You could also outline if there are any unacceptable uses, such as illegal or objectionable actions, for company technology.
Just because someone’s working from home, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should work in their pajamas… or their birthday suit.
You may have team video calls, or the employee may have client/customer meetings. In which case, you want to lay out in your work from home policy the requirement for professional (or at least, appropriate) dress.
This again may not apply to every business or every employee – so decide if it’s something you need to add in your own policy.
Depending on local labor safety laws, and if there are safety issues that could apply to your business, then make sure to cover any guidelines in your policy.
Most businesses are pretty clear on occupational safety measures in the office (ensure there is no fire risk, no unsafe conditions at work, etc). However, as more people start working remotely, you may need to think about drafting up occupational safety measures for staff to follow at home.
For example, you may want to clarify how often an employee should get up from their work station and take a break, to avoid injuries caused from sitting in front of a laptop for too long.
It will help create a safe working environment for your employee at home, and also reduce your risk and liability as a business.
Not sure where to start? You can use this template as a rough guide to start off your company’s own work from home policy. Ensure the policy for your company is checked to take into account local, state or federal laws.
Work From Home Policy: ABC Inc ABC Inc will allow employees to work remotely when work can be completed without coming into the office. This policy lays out who can work from home, how to request work from home, and the necessary rules and regulations employees must follow when working remotely. Eligibility All permanent employees are eligible to work from home. However, approval must be requested from and granted by management, to ensure work can be completed remotely, and that the employee's physical presence is not required at that time. Request Process The employee must request remote work at least two (2) days prior. They must request via Slack message from their manager. Employees understand that managers may decline work from home requests. Work Schedule An employee working from home should provide an update in the #reports channel on Slack, to indicate start and end times of their working day. However, the employee is free to choose their own schedule. Approved Work Locations Employees can work from any location, provided they keep their device secure, and avoid leaving sensitive company information open when away from their device. Company Technology Any hardware provided by the company should be used for regular work only, and should not be used for any other reason. Communication The employee should make themselves available on Slack throughout the working day, though you may disconnect from Slack for up to a 2 hour period, when doing deep work. Dress Code The employee should maintain appropriate attire whenever participating on a video call.
Whether it’s you working from home, or your team members, you should know some best practices for happiness and productivity when going remote. Following these best practices will help avoid some of the most common pitfalls related to remote work.
You could include some of these points as recommendations in your work from home policy, or simply make this advice available to your team should they seek help.
Your home office should be just that – an office at home. This means you need to dedicate a workspace and optimize it according to what works best for you.
A dedicated workspace helps you switch in and out of “work” mode easier. In comparison, it can often be hard to focus properly when you just work from the sofa or the kitchen table.
Your workspace should also give you the comfort and support you need to be productive and healthy. Get a comfortable chair that supports your back, a desk that’s ideal for your height, and a tech stack that helps you flow through your tasks seamlessly.
One of the biggest struggles for remote workers is setting clearly defined working hours.
Many remote workers end up working more hours than they would in the office, yet producing less.
This is because work time and personal time begin to blend together. You end up neither fully engaged at work or enjoying your downtime because you still have work left to do.
Switching on and off at particular times, as if you were arriving at and leaving the office, can both help work-life balance, and improve productivity.
Unless specific hours are needed in the job (as outlined in the work from home policy), figure out which hours work best for you.
It doesn’t have to be a 9-5, but try and set out the time at which you’ll start and finish work each day, and stick to it.
We’ve seen the cute viral videos of kids and dogs interrupting video conference calls from home.
Although adorable on social media, you should try to set boundaries as much as possible while you’re working from home.
Whether it’s family members or roommates (pets don’t seem to care much for boundaries), you should let them know that you’re not available during work hours.
This one can be a bit tricky but is key for success when it comes to WFH.
If it’s consistently an issue, then perhaps you should consider working from a cafe or a coworking space.
Like at the office, regular breaks can improve focus and productivity.
The problem is, when we work from home, we often neglect breaks, because the working environment is less structured.
Along with setting the start and end times of your working day, try to schedule when you’ll take your lunch, as well as a couple of shorter breaks.
Alternatively, you can use a Pomodoro timer. This is a cycle of 25 minutes of hard focus and 5-10 minutes of rest, and can be extremely effective for those who struggle to focus for long periods of time.
Working in sweatpants (or no pants) is not usually conducive to productivity. Yet neither is working in an uncomfortable suit or dress.
There’s a mental shift that happens when you put on your “work attire”. It lets your brain know that it’s time to focus and do away with distractions. At the same time, being comfortable will generally help you feel better and happier while you work.
Find a balance between the two. Dress up, but make sure you’re comfortable.
Finally, just like dressing up, maintaining a consistent morning routine will gear you up for peak performance.
Before, your brain knows it’s time for work when you were sitting in traffic on the freeway, or waiting for your morning coffee at the cafe in your office building.
Now, it could be that you meditate after you wake up, write a journal, or prepare a delicious cup of home-brewed joe.
Same in the evening. It’s a great practice to write down your ideal outcomes for the next day. That way you’re on purpose from the minute you wake up and there’s no confusion as to what needs to get done.
Due to COVID 19, a large section of the professional community experienced remote work for the first time. Now, as people start to come back to the office, many workers are looking for a job that allows them to work from home at least a few days a week.
With the number of cloud-based telecommuting tools available today, it’s easier than ever for companies to run a team that is remote all or part of the time. These companies, going forward, are likely to have a better time attracting new employees and retaining existing ones.
Ensure your employee handbook features a clear and fair work from home policy, to make it easy for your remote workers to be productive and continue their work with minimal disruptions to the business.