A telecommuting policy defines how employees can work remotely and the procedures that remote workers should follow. The policy focuses on helping employees understand how to work from home without technical or organizational issues.
Companies that offer remote work on a regular, occasional or full-time basis should consider the following topics for developing a successful telecommuting policy.
A telecommuting policy should address when remote work is in effect and who may work remotely.
The schedule for remote work may depend on employees’ position, team or department. But the primary focus for company leaders and managers should be which employees are eligible for remote work. “Not everyone wants to [work from home] or is disciplined enough to,” said Nicholas Bloom, who led a work-from-home study, in an interview with Harvard Business Review. “[In the study], it was a self-selected group, so they were all motivated to work from home effectively, and that’s how it should be. Some people opted out after the nine months were up—and they tended to be the poorest performers of the remote workers.”
A telecommuting policy should consider:
- Making new employees and those struggling with productivity ineligible to work from home.
- Giving employees who are eligible to work from home the option of doing so.
- Implementing a trial or probationary period for working from home.
- Other standards to enforce accountability and appeal to employees who will thrive in a remote working environment.
Security and Equipment
A telecommuting policy must address security and any equipment employees need to do their job. Some employees may use their own computers and unsecured public networks to access the internet, which is something companies need to factor into a telecommuting policy.
Some companies may issue computers, communication devices and components to employees, while other companies may allow workers to use their own devices. The latter decision is often for employees who use third-party tools with built-in security features. Company-issued equipment should be password-protected, have GPS tracking enabled, have antivirus software installed and include technology to remotely wipe data in the event the device is lost or stolen. Integrating a virtual private network (VPN) is also common.
Any telecommuting policy needs to clearly identify what equipment employees may use, along with any security procedures workers must follow.
Other Telecommuting Policy Considerations
A wide range of topics can be included in a telecommuting policy. For instance, companies should ensure that workers make plans for childcare when working from home. Some companies may want to address attendance at meetings, technical support and work hours in the policy. However, some of these topics may differ for each department or team, and thus may be more appropriately covered by another document.
It is important to develop a telecommuting agreement for eligible employees to sign, according to Monster. This agreement can include a definition of the telecommuter’s work schedule, an outline of the probationary period and a list of work-related items provided by the company. It can also acknowledge how the employee will protect company items, return them after leaving the company and be responsible for legal- or tax-related issues related to using the home as a place of business.
A telecommuting policy is one part of a successful and flexible working arrangement. Care must be taken so that the policy and other documents work together in achieving this aim.
- The telecommuting policy addresses the most important topics and those that apply to all or most employees.
- The telecommuting agreement acknowledges that the employee and company understand how the arrangement works. It also helps clarify legal and tax topics.
- Guides or documents at the department or team level address any standards or expectations beyond the organizational telecommuting policy.
Apart from policies, documents and guides, business leaders and managers need the knowledge and skills to support employees who work remotely. Motivating and interacting with remote workers will change — for example, in the tools and strategies for building team collaboration. Companies that develop a successful flexible work arrangement take all of this into consideration and form a holistic strategy.
Creating a Successful Working Environment
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