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If you let employees work from home, it’s best practice to have a work from home policy.
This policy helps set expectations, provides employees with the support they need to be productive away from the office, and helps prepare for common issues that come up with WFH, thus allowing employees workplace flexibility without any negative effects on the business.
In this post, we’ll show you how to create a work from home policy for your business, and share examples and a template you can use as a baseline for your policy. Read on for more!
A work from home policy is a set of guidelines, rules, and expectations established by an organization to manage and support employees working remotely or from their homes.
Some teams might call this a remote work policy, telecommuting policy, or WFH policy. The concept is all the same.
The work from home policy should help employees be successful, productive and happy while working from home. Ideally, you’ll maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of allowing employees to work remotely with such a policy.
The definition of a work from home policy we just gave you is fairly broad. Let’s make it a bit more narrow and actionable. Here are some things to mention in your work from home policy.
Outline the criteria for which employees and job roles are eligible for remote work. This should be based on the nature of their job duties, tasks and responsibilities, or other objective factors, such as performance (e.g. hit 90% of your KPIs and you’re allowed to work from home) or longevity (after X amount of service time, employees can request to work from home).
It should not be subjective or personal, so as to avoid the perception of unfairness or favoritism.
Explain what employees need to do if they want to work from home.
Do they need to ask for approval? If so, explain how they can request to WFH, and what’s involved in the approval process.
If not, explain how they can notify the rest of the team that they will be working from home (this might mean requesting a WFH day using a custom leave type set up in your leave management software).
Specify the tools, hardware, software, and internet connectivity required for employees to efficiently perform their tasks remotely.
This could mean requiring a minimum speed for remote employees’ home network, or requiring employees to have a dedicated work station at home.
Set expectations and guidelines for how remote employees should maintain regular communication with team members, managers, and other stakeholders. Examples may be requiring them to be contactable on Slack, or other team communication channels.
Set instructions, if necessary, for the working hours that remote employees should adhere to.
Some teams may require employees to track working time with a time tracking app. More often, though, unless your employees are paid by the hour, the important part is availability, instead of strictly tracking working time.
You may require remote employees to be available and contactable between certain hours, for things like virtual meetings or collaboration.
A work from home policy should outline metrics and expectations for employee performance and productivity while working remotely.
In general, this is more important than tracking working time. It shouldn’t matter whether employees spend four hours or eight hours working, if the same amount of work gets done.
Make sure it’s clear what employees need to get done, how they should report their progress (such as a daily report or standup), and how their work from home productivity will be assessed.
Explain protocols and best practices to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive company information when employees work from home. This may mean not allowing employees to work in public places (e.g. coffee shops), or requiring them to use a virtual private network (VPN) whenever working remotely.
Set guidelines for any work-related expenses employees may incur while working from home, such as internet costs, office supplies, or phone bills.
Explain which expenses, and how much, will be reimbursed by the company, and how to reimburse employees for those expenses.
Give recommendations for how employees can a healthy work/life balance, prevent burnout, and manage physical and mental health while working remotely.
Remote employees often have greater issues separating their work and private lives, so it’s important that the company provides support and guidance to help avoid any issues, and to help maintain the line between work and home.
Aside from specifics to include in your remote work policy, here are some best practices to follow when setting it up.
Clarity is your friend. A work from home policy is essentially an instruction manual for employees. You don’t want to leave anything up for interpretation, or open to confusion.
Make it short, clear and specific. Include only what’s necessary.
The rules and regulations around working from home should be the same for everyone. There should be no room for accusations of bias or unfairness.
That doesn’t mean everyone should be allowed to work from home. But just that everyone, as long as they meet the necessary criteria, will be allowed the same opportunities.
Communication is a common issue with hybrid or remote teams. You often have the problem where either communication breaks down, or becomes siloed between office workers and remote employees.
Set clear guidelines in your work from home policy about how employees should communicate and collaborate, and set up a clear structure to help this happen no matter where employees are logging in from.
Project management software and communication tools like Zoom and Slack are great for this. Just make it clear to employees how they should maintain communication from home.
Think about how your work from home policy can help maintain a sense of togetherness and a positive company culture.
This means not excluding remote employees or treating remote/in-office employees any differently. You can extend in-office amenities to WFH employees too – such as providing a stipend for food/coffee, which would usually be provided if they came into the office.
It’s natural to have trust issues when employees are no longer under your nose. It’s harder to tell whether they’re working or slacking off.
Yet trust is important. If employees feel they’re not trusted, they won’t buy in to the company’s goals, and they won’t be as engaged and motivated in their job.
This is why it’s generally not the best idea to closely monitor remote employees and track their working hours. It’s better to use result-based KPIs to track employee productivity. You can trust them to work when and where they like, so long as the work gets done.
Finally, it’s a good idea to bring employees into the discussion, and use their input into how you can make your work from home policy fair and effective.
Get their opinion on how they work best away from the office, and what can be done to support them.
This shouldn’t be only employees who are eligible to work remotely either. Office-based employees’ input is important too, regarding whether they feel it’s fair, and how they feel the team as a whole can work effectively in a hybrid structure.
The are positives and negatives that can come from allowing employees to work from home. Let’s run through them.
It’s in your best interests to help team members be more productive when working from home. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, and there can be an adjustment period before someone is able to overcome the technical difficulties and other issues that come with remote work.
Here are some tips to help, which you may want to include in your work from home policy as recommendations to employees.
Remote workers should have a dedicated workspace when working from home.
This makes it easier to set boundaries between work and home, and helps the employee focus.
Different people may work better with different setups. But some basic things to look for include a comfortable chair with back support, a desk at a proper height, and a space where the worker can avoid distractions.
As touched on earlier, clearly defined working hours are important for remote employees.
Though there is value in a flexible work schedule, it’s also vital to have a line between work and home. At the office it’s easy – work starts when you arrive, and ends when you leave. But at home, it’s too easy for these lines to become blurred.
Setting a clear work schedule is a good way to avoid this. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 9-5, but blocking times that will be dedicated as work hours.
Similar to the working schedule, it’s also important to take regular breaks. Breaks can improve focus and productivity, yet it’s easy to ignore without the structure of the office.
We can generally only focus for a maximum of 90 minutes at a time. This is the minimum interval remote employees should consider scheduling short breaks.
Time blocking techniques may be beneficial for focus and productivity. This includes things like the Pomodoro technique, which cycles 25 minutes of work with 5 minutes of rest.
Sitting down all day is bad for our health. Some studies even indicate that constant sitting can be as bad as smoking.
On scheduled breaks, we should take the opportunity to stand up and move around a little bit, perhaps getting outside to break up the monotony of the workday.
Each person may feel more comfortable and more productive in certain clothing. In general, however, it’s best practice to dress casual, but not too casual.
Some people take the opportunity to work in their pajamas when working from home. And while it’s good to be comfortable, this can make it hard for your brain to properly switch into work mode.
As a manager or business owner, you need to give team members the right support in terms of tools and technology when working from home.
You can’t expect them to be productive if they’re on a slow computer, on a slow network, or lacking what they need to set up a proper workspace.
A work from home stipend is a good idea to give this support to remote employees. In addition, make tech support readily available, as it would be in the office.
Humans are social creatures, and we can suffer when working in a more isolated environment. You want to help avoid remote employees from feeling distanced and isolated when working from home. Schedule more face to face interaction, such as video meetings (though not too many so as to interrupt productivity), and encourage team members to reach out if they are feeling isolated away from the office.
The transitional periods at the start and end of the day are vital for productivity. This is where the mind switches on or off of “work” mode.
It’s easier to do with the in-built rituals of the office (commuting, clocking in, sitting at your desk, etc). Employees working from home should set up similar rituals to signal to their subconscious when work is supposed to start or end.
You can use this template as a rough guide for your company’s own work from home policy.
Make a copy of the template and edit it where necessary to fit your own company policy. Make sure any particulars of your business, such as the company name, and any specific tools you use, are mentioned.
When done, you can add the work from home policy to your employee handbook, or wherever it will be easy for team members to find and refer to when needed.Get a Sample Work From Home Policy Template
A work from home policy is an integral part of any workplace that allows employees to work remotely.
This policy lets employees understand their expectations and responsibilities when working remotely, along with providing the foundation for remote workers to be healthy, happy and productive.
Remote work can be powerful for work/life balance, and a strong tool for recruiting and retention, if done right. Do it right in your business with a clear and effective work from home policy.
Flamingo makes managing your team’s paid time off a breeze.