What Every HR Director Wish They'd Read Before They Wrote Their Remote Work Policy
Employment Law for Remote Workers
Across the Globe, HR Directors and HR Managers have been tasked with writing or updating their corporate remote work policy – often as a matter of urgency. Remote work, by its very nature, can easily contribute to silo-working and businesses are struggling with different teams doing remote differently, and causing resentment, confusion and a general sense of unease as the days go by without a clear, mandated approach to remote work.
A key issue is that flexibility is often a central tenet of remote work – and never more so with businesses having to flex schedules to enable parents to look after children for whom school is closed – but too much flexibility, particularly for organizations that are not fully remote and do not intend to be fully remote, can be a Very. Bad. Thing. Indeed.
So, how do you carve out a Remote Work Policy that satisfies employees but also meets the needs of the business? We’ve got you covered – in 2021 we’ll be running a webinar on creating your remote work policy, with an employment expert answering all your burning questions – sign up for that here. In the meantime, let’s get you started:
Writing a Remote Work Policy
Address the elelphant in the room
A great starting point in writing your remote work policy, is to look at some of the difficult questions and business-level decisions you need to make around how you will manage remote employees as an organization. For example, if previously in-office staff become remote, what does this mean for them and you? If they move out of State – or even out of country, what does that change, in terms of compensation packages etc. We wrote all about the tricky questions CEOs need to answer, at the start of putting your remote work policy together here.
Getting started – collaborate
We wrote about the actual steps to take, in putting your remote work policy together here. A key starting point is to collaborate. A remote work policy will affect everyone in your organization, so it’s not something you can put together behind a locked door without consultation. You need to speak to employees at every level in your business, to get a sense of what they need. When we talk about their needs – don’t just focus on what they need with regard to flexibility, equipment, hardware and tech tools but their actual core needs from their own teams and from those they work with, to get their jobs done. For traditionally in-office businesses, there are a whole bunch of processes, frameworks, systems, approaches that keep your well oiled machine ticking along. When you start to create flexibility around how and when everyone works, it can create absolute chaos within that well-oiled machine. Make sure you understand the ripple-out effects of every decision that’s being made in your remote work policy. For example, if everyone was working the same core hours but suddenly you’re agreeing they can work the hours they’re contracted to when they choose, so long as the job is getting done – how will the job get done? Or at the very least, is it still possible for the job to get done as productively and efficiently as before, with remote workers clocking in and out on their own time-schedules.
Your remote work policy doesn’t need to be something that materialises overnight and is then written in stone. Consider a more phased approach. Document and formalise the changes that have already been made, which are working, so that you have a base policy in place to clarify core agreements in place. Once everyone is comfortable with that, start to introduce additional points as you work through them, giving them time to bed in and workers to adjust to any changes, to check everything still works ok, before moving on to address other issues
Covid has resulted in remote work policies being introduced where previously there were none. For some organizations, the remote work policy is a temporary policy to cover the temporary nature of working from home enforced by Covid. For others, it may have been intended as temporary but both employees and employers are enjoying some of the flexibility it brings, the business can see an opportunity to reduce office footprint and efficiency and producitivity don’t seem to have been hampered. The jury is very much still out on whether remote working is more or less productive – with studies supporting both arguments (we wrote about that here) but one issue that CEOs continue to raise is: what’s the longer term impact on productivity, of remote working. There’s a sense that when employees start to work remotely they do so very productively, but the concern is that as time goes by the mental health impact of working in isolation creates a dip in creativity and, in turn, in productivity. When writing your remote work policy you need to give thought to how permanent this policy is – or whether elements of it are intended to be permanent, but others temporary. You also need to build in consideration to how you will manage team morale, productivity, togetherness, culture – all of the intrinsic elements that keep employees working at your company – over the long term. Importantly, you need to be aware of and protect against the unintended consequences of remote work – we wrote about that here.
If you’re looking for a template, to put together your remote work policy – and some input from legal experts on employment law, sign up for our webinar coming in 2021, here.