Plenty of companies have remote work policies in place. But these policies are often too vague, too controlling, or just aren’t that useful for setting remote workplace expectations. Creating a successful remote work policy can be tricky, but it’s an essential part of your remote toolkit. A remote work policy ensures that your workers share expectations and values. It also informs how you work, collaborate and communicate.
In this sense, a remote work policy defines how your company operates. If you want to create a remote work policy that actually works, take a look at our eight steps below. Our guide will take you through the blueprint of making a remote work policy, so you can build a successful one in no time.
Step 1: Define Your Company’s Needs
Don’t just download a remote work policy template and assume it’s going to work for your company. Before you put together a document, consider how your company is structured and the kind of collaboration you want to encourage. Do your remote workers communicate regularly with each other? Are they independent workers? What is working/not working about the current expectations? What workplace values do you want to uphold?
Example: A common value for top remote companies is not using time-tracking tools. If you want to maintain this value, how could you keep your remote workers accountable in less invasive ways? Could you focus on motivation instead? Think about the results you want and base your remote policy off them. You could include a line in your remote policy that asks workers to send a weekly report to the team of what they accomplished, or some other kind of reporting system.
Step 2: Add a Workflow Chart
Your remote work policy should include a workflow chart that shows how you want team members to submit work, communicate deadlines, give feedback and finalize work. Your chart should include team members, their contact information and the tools that should be used for every step in the workflow. By being transparent about this, you’ll encourage your remote workers to communicate problems and better understand the steps involved in the final product.
Example: You can set up project management using your preferred tool, such as Trello. However, it’s important that your workflow defines who receives and processes the work. If there’s a hiccup in the project – such as a bug in the code – your remote worker should be able to reference the workflow and know who to contact and how (Trello, email, phone, etc.). Clarity in the process is especially valuable for remote work.
Step 3: Think Through the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Not everybody on the team may immediately understand the company’s policies on certain issues. It’s important to stay transparent about expectations, but also to model these values yourself and clarify any gray areas. If you stick to the specific, your team will have an easier time. You should also try to resolve challenges that remote workers face at work. Imagine all the “what-ifs” that could potentially arise and how you would respond as an employer.
Example: Thinking through the good, the bad and the ugly can really help highlight your expectations. Is it ok for a remote worker to be offline all afternoon? Can employees wear anything they like to client video calls? Will remote workers get paid for “overtime”? By considering “worse case scenarios,” you’ll help clarify the boundaries – which hopefully will never be crossed anyways.
Step 4: Write Up a Policy
You’ve done the thinking – now it’s time to get your ideas on paper. If you’re not certain how to format the policy, you can try a template. But remember, you should customize it according to your company needs. It’s better to over-communicate than to leave anything unclear. Your policy should include these five basic sections:
- Schedules: How do workers communicate their schedules? Do they need to ask for time off under certain occasions? Should they update a tool with their real-time status? How should availability be handled overall?
- Behavior: How should workers act during video calls? What about breaks? What’s ok/not ok when it comes to communicating delays or personal problems? How should workers deal with personal vs. professional time?
- Workspace and Tools: What should your workers have available at their workstation, i.e. certain programs, high-speed internet, system usernames? Do they have access to the files and tools they need?
- Communication: How responsive should workers be during available hours? How are issues elevated to managers? What are expectations for using collaborative tools?
- Security: Do they have a secure working environment? Can confidential files be easily transferred? Is there a risk of virus or other issues?
Example: If your team has to transfer big, confidential files, you should consider what the protocols should be. Perhaps you need to invest in a file-sharing tool, or at least specify that workers should only access and share documents over a secure connection. You be the judge of what your company needs.
Step 5: Require Everybody to Sign It
Once your document is polished and ready for eyes, you should show your remote workers. It’s important that they not just read it, but also sign it. This makes the remote policy an opportunity to discuss unclear procedures and ensure that workflows are defined. By getting a signature from workers, you’re also creating a “pact,” which makes it more likely for them to follow the policies. You can even post these signed remote policies to your virtual workplace, so that everybody can feel good about what’s agreed upon.
Example: Getting signatures is easier than you think. There are tools like SignEasy that streamline this process, or you can just send an email to get signed PDF copies. Encourage workers to read through all areas and open a discussion board to respond to any questions. In the end, transparency benefits everybody.
Step 6: Define a Feedback System to Implement It
Now that everybody’s on the same page, here comes the hard part: implementation. To implement your remote policy, it’s key that you have a feedback system in place. When issues come up, you’ll want to make sure that you have a way to tell your remote worker that something isn’t ok.
Numerous companies today opt for a three-strike approach: message, meeting and loss of privileges. The first time policies aren’t followed, you send the remote worker a friendly reminder; the second time, you have a video call to discuss unclear points; and the third time, you revoke certain privileges. For 99% of remote workers, you most likely won’t have to use this feedback system at all, but it’s good to have just in case.
Example: If a remote worker misses a deadline without communicating the delay to you – a possible rule outlined in your remote work policy – you may want to remind him/her that it’s important to communicate any issues. You can make it clear to him/her that it’s better to send a message about a problem, than to “disappear” from the virtual office. Try to be transparent and listen to the worker: perhaps he/she is overworked, or had another priority item to take care of. From there, you can discuss together what could be done differently next time.
Step 7: Revise, Revise, Revise
Your remote work policy should be a living document. Make sure you continue to revise your policies as your company evolves. You should read this document at least once a year, to make sure all points still hold true. However, you can do this more frequently, if needed. Sometimes after a certain situation arises, it’s a good reminder to update the policy and send out the new version for your remote workers to sign.
Example: Let’s say that you changed the tool that you use to collaborate. You now use Slack exclusively for communicating with the team. You’ll want to specify the new workflow in your remote work policy, so that everything remains clear. You might also need to revise when/how workers communicate their schedules within this tool. For instance, you might want to specify that workers should keep their Slack statuses up-to-date during the day to show availability.
Step 8: Use Your Remote Work Policy During Onboarding
Don’t let your remote work policy gather dust. It’s a tool that should be used often to set expectations – especially with new workers. Find a way to incorporate it into your onboarding process and bring it up during reviews. The more you talk about it, the more your remote workers will understand it and follow it confidently. Your remote work policy should apply to all remote workers at your company, whether they’re in-house staff members or part of your staff augmentation team. Whatever the working mode, your remote policy should apply to all your teams and help define expectations across the board.
Example: If you have different types of remote workers, your remote work policy should still apply to all of them. Whether you’re doing a formal onboarding process in-house, or hiring a remote worker for a temporary need, you should use the remote work policy in order to stay transparent and set your teams up for success.
Remote work may be a new way of working, but having a well-defined remote work policy can help pave the future for great remote work. You can use your remote work policy to adapt to needs, encourage communication and create the kind of workplace culture you want. By following these steps, you’ll get a comprehensive remote work policy that can be used as a roadmap for dealing with any issues along the way.