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If you're transitioning to a hybrid or remote work schedule, it's important to set clear expectations for remote workers in a remote work policy.
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy is an agreement outlining the rules employees need to follow when working remotely. These policies can be temporary or permanent, typically providing clear expectations around how remote employees should work, communicate, record decisions, and collaborate.
Remote work policies can come in the form of organization-wide documentation added to an employee handbook, or as an addition or amendment to existing employment contracts for individual employees.
Why you need a remote work policy
Create a remote work policy to:
- Mitigate compliance risk: A remote work policy can mitigate risk before it arises. Common risk factors for remote employers include payroll withholding, changing tax judications, permanent establishment, and immigration issues.
- Make remote work scalable: Depending on your company, a remote work arrangement could apply to a few people or all employees. By having a policy and program in place, you'll be able to onboard and retain employees without additional work.
- Provide clarity: Many employees want to work remotely but don't know whether their employer supports it. Policies that are specific as to what is, and isn't, allowed and how pay and benefits will be impacted make it clear to all stakeholders including human resources, finance, IT, employees, and business leaders.
- Increase employee value proposition: The opportunity to work remotely can attract talent, reduce costs, increase productivity, and make your company a more attractive place to work. By defining a policy, you'll shape what you hope to gain from supporting remote work.
- Complement your business purposes: Regardless of whether you want to promote remote work, a policy can help drive employees to your desired outcome. If you prefer employees to be in the office with regularity, it's important that they know that. This will allow employees who don't want to do that to self-select out. The same is true if you are going fully remote.
Remote work policy template
There's a lot to consider when constructing a remote work policy, and a lot of detail needs to be included if you want to make it useful for employees.
Here are the topics you need to cover in your remote work policy:
- Eligibility: What roles are suitable for remote working?
- Scope: Can people work from anywhere, a specified remote work location, or from home a few times a week?
- Requirements: Are employees expected to work specific work hours? Or can they set their own work schedule? How are people expected to make and record decisions? Will you move to a more asynchronous work style?
- Compensation: Are remote employees compensated differently based on where they live?
- Benefits: Are you going to introduce any remote employee benefits like a home office or co-working stipend? Or remove any existing benefits?
- Policies: Do you need to make any changes to existing policies?
- Equipment, tools, and security: What home office equipment and/or software will be provided to remote employees? What security measures should be put in place for eligible employees?
- Legal rights and L&D: How will employees know their legal rights? How will you ensure remote employees have the same opportunities for training and promotion as in-office colleagues?
To get you started, we've put a version of our remote work policy template below for you to copy and paste into a document editor or you can create your own copy in docs here. Please consult your legal team before using this template to ensure compliance.
Please read the terms and below, fill in the remote employee form, and return it to human resources.
This document outlines the remote work agreement for [CompanyName]. It acts as a guide for the employee and the employee’s supervisor and must be signed by the employee to acknowledge they have read through and understood the details herein.
All employees are eligible to work remotely if their job duties can be met through remote work. We expect remote workers to be trustworthy, disciplined, and self-motivated.
There is no need to get approval to work remotely but please tell your manager if you plan to transition to remote work.
Employees in roles that do not suit remote working conditions can work from home on days that do not require face-to-face meetings.
2. Scope and duration
[CompanyName] is a remote-first company, which means we treat remote as the default way of working. Remote working is not only expected but encouraged.
There is no limit to the number of days an employee can work remotely and they can choose to work remotely permanently if they wish.
While working remotely, employees must adhere to all the conditions in the Employee Handbook. All company policies around conduct, confidentiality, sick leave, etc., continue to apply, regardless of location.
Disciplinary actions will follow policy transgressions of any kind
3. Work expectations and practices
Employees are free to follow a work schedule that works for them, provided they meet deadlines, uphold high standards, and continue to serve our customers. As we work across time zones, we rely heavily on asynchronous communication and do not have set work hours.
We do, however, encourage time off and do not expect you to be available 24/7. All we ask is that you act in the best interests of the company and continue to work diligently as if you were in the office.
[CompanyName] works in an asynchronous fashion and you are expected to write down any important information so that it is accessible to your co-workers who can’t be online while you are.
Understand that we are a global company and people may not be able to attend synchronous meetings. When in doubt, record the meeting, write minutes, and share them with people who were unable to attend. Always default to transparency.
And if you find something that is undocumented, please document it as soon as possible and add it to our remote employee handbook.
While time zone differences can make this harder, please do your best to reply to co-workers or clients within a business day. If you can’t get to their request, please let them know when you’ll be able to.
The only synchronous meeting you must attend is a one-on-one between your manager, but it should be in your control to decide when the meeting is as long as it works for both parties.
4. Compensation and location
If you wish to move, please let your manager know prior as we may need to work out an alternative method to pay your salary and benefits (depending on whether you are moving to another country).
Your compensation will not change based on where you move to. We benchmark our salaries to 90% of the median San Francisco salary, regardless of where you live.
5. Benefits, insurance, and liabilities
Employees who work remotely receive employee benefits, including health insurance. However, we’ve made some changes to reflect the fact that you aren’t working in an office such as a grocery stipend instead of free food. The company will also reimburse you for electrical and internet costs if you submit an expense report.
You can see your full benefits and stipends in the Employee Handbook.
Please choose a safe and secure location to work from and be mindful of your workstation as it contains sensitive customer and business information.
6. Changes to existing policies
The part of your employment contract that states that you need to be in the office at [LOCATION] during business hours no longer applies. All other policies continue to apply.
7. Equipment, tools, and security guidelines
A [type of computer w/serial number] has been provided to you. This laptop remains company property and shall be returned at the end of your employment.
Please only access sensitive information while you are on our VPN and avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots which often have poor security.
Likewise, please ensure that any systems that you manage enforce multi factor authentication through our provider. If you don’t know how to enable this, please contact IT.
Securing data and company information is of utmost concern and any breaches in security protocols will lead to disciplinary action.
8. Legal rights and learning and development
You retain all legal rights that you had as an in-office employee and we will do everything in our power to ensure that you have access to the same learning and development opportunities as your in-office colleagues, including promotions.
Remote Employee Form
I have read, fully understand, and accept the terms and conditions described in this document. I understand and agree with all the expectations, duties, obligations, and responsibilities discussed in the document.
How to create a remote work policy
Here's a step-by-step guide on creating an effective remote or work from home policy:
1. Determine employee suitability and eligibility
Before creating your remote work policy, consider which positions are suitable and therefore eligible for remote work.
While most roles can work effectively outside the office, some roles require time in the office. An important aspect of any workplace policy is equality and inclusivity.
Wherever possible, treat employees the same. Ensure that everyone who can work from home is able to if they wish. If you don't, you can create an environment of resentment between the haves and the have-nots.
Even positions that require face-to-face time will likely have job responsibilities that can be performed from home, so let them work from home when they don't need to be in the office.
Even for positions that require face-to-face time, they likely have job responsibilities that can be done from home. For these roles, let employees work from home when they don't need to be in the office.
2. Decide on the scope and duration
There are endless permutations of remote work, and the model you pick will have a large influence on how you construct your remote work policy. You could operate with a hybrid model where employees spend a few days at home each week, have people work remotely part of the year, or be a remote-friendly company that has a mix of in-office and remote staff.
At the other extreme, you could be a fully remote company with no office.
Regardless of the model you choose, understand that there are big differences between remote-first and remote-friendly. Always opt for remote-first over remote-friendly if you want to attract remote employees.
This step is particularly important if you went remote due to the COVID pandemic and are now deciding on how you will work as the world opens up.
Specify the kind of remote work you allow, the limits of it, and the responsibilities of your remote workers.
3. Establish remote working requirements and practices
Your remote work policy needs to outline the requirements and practices all employees need to follow to work productively from home. Given the number of permutations available, it's important that you are clear on what you expect from your remote workers.
For example, some companies require remote employees to follow the same work hours as in-office employees. In contrast, others work across time zones, and rely on asynchronous communication, so there is no real need for set hours.
At the very least, specify the minimum requirements for remote employees. For example, employees should work from somewhere that is secure with a stable Internet connection.
Overworking is one of the most common challenges of remote work, so it's equally important to emphasize that you don't expect remote workers to be available at all hours of the day. Encourage staff to block out their calendars and turn off notifications when they're not working so people know when they are unavailable.
4. Give guidance on location and compensation
If you support remote work, some employees will move away. You need to decide whether you'll continue to pay them the same as before or whether compensation is tied to physical location. If you support international remote workers, you'll need to start thinking about contracts and compliance.
We recommend that you pay employees who do the same job the same amount. Otherwise, you can create resentment between team members. If you do plan to change an employee's compensation based on where they live, be clear about how and why it will change.
Likewise, if you require business travel throughout the year outline that too, as well as what will, and will not be covered.
5. Showcase benefits, insurance, and liabilities
The same can be said about benefits, insurance, liabilities, and expenses. Make it clear what benefits and insurance remote employees receive and how they differ from their in-office co-workers.
Many of the benefits provided by companies aren't as useful in a remote environment, so it can be worth offering a different set of benefits to remote employees. If you need ideas, be sure to read our guide to remote employee benefits and perks.
For expenses, you'll need to draw a line about what you'll cover. For example, some companies only pay for an employee's laptop while others cover electricity, Internet, and offer co-working or home office stipends.
6. Make changes to existing policies
If you are transitioning from the office to remote work, you might have policies in place that no longer make sense. For example, a common policy for in-person work is that employees need to be in the office between certain times on a workday. That won't make sense in a remote environment. The same is true for certain perks or dress codes.
It's equally important to specify if a new policy will replace the old one. For example, you may enforce additional security measures that only apply to remote workers.
7. Provide equipment, tools, and security guidelines
Remote employees need the right tools and technology to fulfill their duties, collaborate with co-workers, communicate with managers, and feel part of the team. A laptop and an Internet connection is the bare minimum.
There's a huge range of remote collaboration tools for hosting meetings, collaborating, giving remote presentations, and managing projects. We've put together a guide that outlines the best remote collaboration tools if you want to save time.
One of the most overlooked areas of remote work is cybersecurity. It's extremely important for remote employees to keep sensitive or confidential information secure.
We recommend requiring a VPN to access any internal networks and to enforce multi-factor authentication on any systems that have access to sensitive data. This reduces the risk that an attacker can gain access to sensitive systems if they get an employee's password.
Depending on your organization, you may require that employees not access sensitive systems or data when on public Wi-Fi networks.
8. Outline legal rights and learning and development opportunities for remote workers
Even though employees aren't working from the office, they are entitled to the same legal protections as in-office workers. However, working remotely can present additional challenges that need to be considered to ensure your company is legally compliant, particularly if you are hiring international employees.
If you have hourly workers, you'll need to track how much time they're working and pay them overtime if they qualify. With clear guidelines, you can ensure they aren't working outside their usual hours unless they have been asked by their manager (and have accepted). This makes it easier to avoid employees accidentally working more hours than intended, reducing the risk of overtime pay and employee burnout.
A robust remote work policy will inform employees of their rights, what would happen in the case of an injury, and to what extent the business is liable for any equipment needs or losses.
It's equally important to discuss the learning and development opportunities that are available to remote or hybrid workers. If you don't provide remote employees with the same level of support as in-office workers, it can result in discrimination, less employee engagement, and a harder time attracting and hiring remote talent.
Hire your next remote employee on Himalayas
Create a free company profile. Tell your story, build up your remote brand, and recruit the best. Share your culture, tech stack, and get seen by remote candidates looking to make a move. Then post a job and use our sophisticated job listings to specify time zone or visa requirements and rest easy knowing that qualified candidates will see your job listings.
We'd also love for you to join our free remote work community.
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