More and more organizations are allowing employees to work from home. While the majority have been forced into remote workplaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of a remote workforce are clear. Research has found that remote employees have higher productivity and companies face lower business costs like rent, utilities, etc. Yet, to get the most out of your remote teams, you’ll need to be transparent about your needs and expectations and their responsibilities.
One of the best things you can do for your organization and your remote employees is to create a remote working policy. This document needs to include all the essential details and guidelines that allow your employees to work from home, such as:
- Who your remote employees are
- Guidelines for them to follow
- How you will measure their productivity
- Security requirements
- Equipment and technology requirements
- Support for your remote workers
- Legal rights and responsibilities for remote employees
Because remote working comes with its own challenges, it is a good idea to brainstorm before you begin to document your remote working policies. You’ll want to compose a document that is comprehensive enough that your remote employees will clearly understand your expectations and their obligations.
Procedures and your remote working policy
Creating a remote working policy doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. Consider what policies and procedures your company already has in place that can be adapted to a remote workplace. For example, working from home shouldn’t exclude employees from following your professional code of conduct, harassment, discrimination, sick leave, confidentiality, or ethics policies.
One key area that you will need to adjust is your procedures. Remote employees may not be able to follow the same procedures as your in-office staff. Think of the key areas where your remote staff may need guidance, such as data protection.
The best way to approach procedures and your remote policy is to have managers breakdown the procedures into smaller steps and tasks, which can be assigned through remote productivity tools. You’ll also need to ensure that the procedures that are laid out in your remote working policy reflect the reality of your remote employees. That means taking your in-house procedures and adapting them for a remote workplace. As you do this, consider the other areas that may impact your procedures.
Incorporate employee programs such as your workplace mentoring program into your remote working policies. Plan some ways that you can continue to offer your remote employees a mentoring opportunity. Mentoring in the workplace is a valuable tool that has several benefits for the mentor, mentee, and the organization. You must help your remote employees continue to connect and a remote mentoring program is one of the key ways you can do this.
A key component of your remote working policy should be about technology and keeping your organization’s data secure. An excellent place to start is with the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. The GDPR was created by the EU as a data protection law and presents a comprehensive picture of digital life in the 21st century.
The reality of having a remote workforce is that some portion of your company’s sensitive information will be exposed to a greater possibility of theft. This is because your remote employees will be working on devices that may not have the same strength of firewall security that your in-office devices have. Therefore, having a data protection policy is key to preventing data theft and also letting your employees know what to do if a data theft has occurred.
Some essential aspects of data protection in a remote workplace include encryption, wifi access protocols, password manager software, and strict access rights. These policies can help prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands. A strict access policy means that an employee will have limited access to company information. While this can sometimes hamper productivity levels among remote teams, keeping sensitive information safe is worth it.
Using VPNs or virtual private networks on your remote employee devices is one of the best forms of protection. What a VPN does is encrypt the connection between the device and your servers. This protects your data while allowing your remote employees to access company information from anywhere on any network. No one without your VPN will be able to gain access to your servers and sensitive information.
Monitoring your employee’s productivity may mean fitting their devices with monitoring software, but that can pose a privacy problem. Most remote employees use the same devices for work and personal use. So, by employing software that monitors things like keystrokes or website visits, you may be imposing on their personal privacy. Composing this section of your remote working policy will require the input of a legal expert.
One of the best aspects of remote workplaces is the flexibility it allows your employees. This freedom is very valuable, and some job hunters say that a flexible workplace is a must in an employer. However, for you to get the best from your remote employees you’ll need to create a policy that defines how much flexibility they have. For example, will you allow your employees who are parents to log in working hours while caring for their children? Are remote employees required to be at their computers during regular business hours or does flexibility mean they can choose their working hours?
However your organization chooses to define flexibility for your remote employees, it is important to document them clearly in your remote working policy.
Bringing it together
Putting together a remote work policy is crucial for those with staff working from home. A remote work policy helps your employees know what you expect of them. It also acts as a guideline for your remote employees allowing them to be as productive as possible. Ensure that your remote working policy covers vital information such as data protection, employee monitoring, and procedures. With a good remote working policy, your remote employees will understand what is expected of them and you will benefit from having a productive and efficient remote team.