With many big-name companies like Nationwide Insurance, Shopify, and Pinterest taking a “remote first” approach to workforce management in 2021 and others like Quora and Basecamp going fully remote, it’s no wonder companies of all sizes have started adopting more flexible work arrangements.
To make a successful transition to a hybrid workplace, HR managers and business leaders need well-written remote work policies.
If you don’t have a policy currently, now is the time to put one in place. If you do, it’s probably time to re-evaluate it.
Why your company needs a remote work policy
When asked about the level of remote work in their organizations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 60% of the respondents in CBRE’s 2020 Global Occupier Sentiment Survey reported having no remote employees. Now, according to the fall update published in September, 77% say they expect to have at least some level of remote work in their post-COVID-19 workplace, with nearly half anticipating a workforce of up to three-fourths remote employees.
A remote work policy helps your company and employees by clearly outlining expectations.
- Employee eligibility
- Work schedule and availability
- Communication channels
- Technology resources
- Restrictions and exceptions
It supports the fair and consistent application of rules across your organization and minimizes the risk of employees or managers making assumptions that can negatively affect productivity, morale, or both. A remote work policy also reduces the risk of burnout by better defining the boundaries between when an employee’s workday ends and when their free time begins.
A remote work policy template
Policy brief and purpose
Concise summary of what the policy is and its function
Example: “[Company Name]’s remote work policy outlines the expectations for employees who are working at a location other than the office. The purpose of this policy is to ensure both remote employees and their supervisors understand the guidelines and conditions of remote work.”
Description of the individuals to whom the policy applies
Example: “All individuals who are employed full time at [Company Name] are expected to abide by these guidelines when engaged in work activities at any non-office location.”
Standard office practices
List of additional policies remote employees must follow
Example: “In addition to adhering to the terms and conditions of the remote work policy, remote employees must comply with all rules and protocols in the employee handbook, including attendance, code of conduct, confidentiality, PTO, and data privacy and security.”
Work schedule and availability
When remote employees should be available and working
Example: “Remote employees must be available and engaged in work activities during the schedule agreed upon in their contract. If an employee wishes to adopt different working hours, they must provide written approval from their supervisor and properly communicate their schedule to teammates.”
Expectations regarding the employee’s remote work environment
Example: “To maintain appropriate productivity and performance, remote employees should choose a work environment that is free from distractions, has a reliable internet connection, and supports the employee’s ability to dedicate their full attention to their job duties during work hours.”
Procedures remote employees must follow while working on site
Example: “When a remote employee plans to work in the office, they must use [Company Name]’s room reservation system to confirm a workspace is available and reserve a workstation to ensure the office is not above capacity.”
Preferred communication channels and required response times
Example: “Remote employees must be available via Slack or phone during their designated work hours and must respond to emails within 24 business hours, unless otherwise stated in the client’s Statement of Work. Remote employees are expected to attend all mandatory company meetings and regularly check in with their teammates and manager.”
Hardware and software the company will provide
Example: “[Company Name] will provide remote employees with the appropriate equipment and technology (including hardware and software) to effectively complete their duties. The equipment provided will be based on each employee’s individual role and responsibilities. Remote employees are to use this equipment for business purposes only and are expected to take appropriate steps to keep this equipment safe.”
Guidelines for protecting sensitive information
Example: “Remote employees must abide by both the company’s acceptable use policy (AUP) and bring your own device (BYOD) policy. Employees should take the appropriate steps to minimize exposure to cybersecurity risks and protect confidential and proprietary data.”
The most important part of your remote work policy: cybersecurity
One of the biggest challenges for employers in the past year has been managing the spike in cybersecurity risks that can come from a distributed workforce.
With employees connecting to the network from different devices and the increase in the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to access company intranets, organizations are facing an unprecedented level of vulnerability to cyberattacks.
As you draft your remote work policy, work with your IT team to determine how you will keep sensitive information safe. This includes calling out the following:
- No downloading of unauthorized software
- Consulting the IT team before responding to suspicious emails
- No adjustment of network security settings
- Using password protection on all confidential documents
- Adhering to all data encryption standards
3 examples of remote work policies
If you need some inspiration to get started, we’ve collected remote work policies from three different companies across various industries that you can use as starting points for your own:
In addition, here are a few resources you can share with your remote employees to help them make the most of remote work:
Along with ensuring remote employees fully understand what is expected of them, you need to provide your workforce with the tools they need to be productive and stay connected from anywhere.
As you review and refresh your remote work policy, take the time to also assess your workplace technology. It’s a good exercise that can help your company be more confident about how well you’re supporting a positive employee experience.