You could have blinked and missed it. It seems like one day everyone was happily working away in an office, and the next, remote work was an absolute must for huge swathes of the population.
Not that there’s anything wrong with it, of course. There are huge benefits to working from home, such as hiring from a global talent pool and keeping that talent happy and motivated. But to any business leaders who have tried it, one thing is for certain — it’s not something you can launch without a plan.
A work from home policy gives you a framework for your remote staff to work within. Without any direct supervision, you need to put a few rules and regulations in place to keep your company going, and that’s exactly what this article will address.Our guide will answer questions such as “what is a work from home policy?” and offer examples from top companies such as Amazon and Google work from home policy. Throughout, we’ll look at the best practices for a working from home policy so you can create a work from home policy customized to your own organization.
Before we dive into how to create your company’s policy, we first need to determine what exactly it is. In short, a work from home policy sets the rules, conditions, and guidelines for employees to work from home. Eligible workers must agree to the policy before working from home and abide by the rules thereafter.
For your policy to work efficiently, you need to include all the essential elements to set expectations between the manager and the employee. But unless your policy works efficiently, it may become more of a roadblock than an advantage for your team. Two best practices in a working from home policy are to include automations and to work within a company cloud as much as possible.
Automations have the benefit of streamlining your processes. You don’t want a flexible element like working from home to become a time-consuming drag every time you need to approve a request — a few checkboxes should do the trick.
Cloud storage solves two problems: organization and security. With your teams working from different locations and on different networks, cloud storage gives everyone access to everything involved in your policy. Rather than keeping paper records that are restricted to one location and could be lost, you’ll have a record of every approval in the cloud for easy access.
The first place to start with a working from home policy is the purpose. It's easy to follow trends, but if there's no concrete reason for working from home, it is a futile endeavor. Therefore, at the top of your work from home policy, you should outline what the policy will entail and what benefits working from home will bring about.
The advantages could cover increased productivity by allowing for deep work, but they don’t just have to be directly business-related. Offering extra freedoms is a great motivator for attracting and retaining top talent. It makes workers feel like they are being treated with respect, while at the same time reducing the likelihood of burnout.
In your purpose, you can define reasons for remote work and how often it is possible. For example, some companies may offer a certain number of working from home days a year, while others offer a full-time option.
The first thing to think about when laying out your working at home policy and procedures is who is feasibly eligible. Not all jobs can accommodate remote work. Anything that requires face-to-face customer contact, for example, must be done in person, while software programmers are often perfectly suited to a remote environment for deep work.
However, that doesn’t mean that it has to be an either-or decision. Hybrid working arrangements often strike the middle ground between employers who generally want people to come back to the office, and workers who have been enjoying the flexibility and freedom of working from home.
Even if your teams are generally customer-facing, you can implement a hybrid model. If your customer-facing teams have other tasks that can be done from home, you could use a hybrid policy with rotating in-office shifts to keep your customers happy.
However, one point to consider is whether your team productivity will be affected by your teams working from home. After being one of the first companies to send their staff home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Google work from home policy has done a U-turn and now requires most workers to be in the office for at least three days a week, in the belief that most teams collaborate better in the office.
On the other hand, the Amazon work from home policy announced toward the end of 2021 was that it’s up to departmental directors to decide what kind of working from home arrangements they would like to implement. There is no right or wrong way of doing things, and a little experimentation may be required.
A key part of working at home policy and procedures is setting the kind of working hours you expect of your team. For employees almost everywhere in the world who are expected to fulfill a preset amount of hours, there are three different options you can outline in your policy: standard, flexible, and reported.
Standard hours mirror what your workers would do if they were in the office. This is often the preferred option for both managers and employees. Managers get an element of control: they know when their employees will be consistently available and can plan projects accordingly.
On the other side of the coin, employees get the benefit of knowing when it’s time to pack up and finish working. Standard hours avoid one of the main drawbacks of remote work — the inability to distinguish the end of your working day. By structuring your hours in the same way as those in the office, you can avoid the potential for undue stress and burnout.
With flexible hours, you can give workers the freedom to work the same amount of hours per day, but at times that are convenient for them. Of course, not all jobs are eligible for this kind of work, with customer service representatives who need to be available during your customer service contact hours.
These kinds of working from home policies are great for keeping morale high, for example for parents who want to take their children to school and start work later. It does make the process of switching off slightly harder at the end of the day, but with some best practices for working from home put in place, it can be a valuable part of your policy to keep workers on your side.
As organizations become ever-more flexible, the likelihood for hiring freelance suppliers is increased. For workers on an hourly rate who don’t need to follow a strict daily routine, the best practice for a working from home policy is to use time tracking software to keep records of hours worked. These should be stored in the cloud for future reference, and added to every invoice.
To make the process even easier, many business tools allow your staff to automatically generate invoices based on the hours inserted into your time tracking tools.
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When thinking about how to create a work from home policy, it’s often by setting a few strict but smart ground rules that you can offer the most flexibility in your team.
The best project management tools allow you to self-contain all the relevant information for your tasks, such as deadlines, relevant people, instructions, and updates. By streamlining your communication in this way, you keep a detailed record of every step in your project, meaning your team members will stay up-to-date and on-the-ball.
Safe in the knowledge that all the relevant information is available on each card in your task management system, you no longer need to waste time trawling through old emails and instant messenger chats for vital information.
To promote your team spirit, video calls are the best way to hold meetings because you get to read facial expressions and have a catch up. Most working from home policies include a stipulation that cameras must be turned on for meetings. Aside from demonstrating to the group that you’re ready for work, it is easier for the team to read body language and expressions during a meeting.
As a general trend, businesses are gradually moving away from email as a means of communication, in favor of task management tools and video calls. However, emails still make sense for company-wide communication, such as announcements and newsletters.
Once you have your working from home criteria in place, you need to create a request system to formalize permissions. As part of your onboarding, train your team in how to use your work from home policy, especially how to apply for permission.
The technicalities don’t need to be complicated. Applicants can fill in a customizable form that sends automated notifications to their line manager for approval. Be sure to include all the relevant people to approve the document, and add in fields for specific date ranges and extra comments where necessary.
There are plenty of best practices for a working from home policy that can’t be covered in the previous main sections. They are usually smaller details that don’t need rigorous detail put into the descriptions, but are worth mentioning for a smooth transition to remote work.
Even if your in-office style is casual, you don’t want those working from home to get too casual. Almost all organizations would agree that pajamas on a team video call is a big no-no, while B2B sales companies may require their teams to wear suits even when they’re working from home.
Separate from the employment contract, working from home policies don’t often change the working conditions or pay for employees. However, in cases that it does, you should always clearly outline the changes through your policy.
However, like an employment contract, your work from home policy should be binding. Once your employee has read and understood the policy, they should sign it and send it back. We’d recommend electronic signature tools for easier record keeping and to save on paper. The contract gives both parties a legal foundation to work from if the other party breaches the agreement.
Remote workers can’t simply call on IT to fix a problem when it arises, so your work from home policy must include what to do when faced with tech issues. To make the process as systematic as possible, offer your current teams training to get up to speed and include it as part of your onboarding package for new hires.
While cloud storage can help with your security, there are extra measures that you may want to outline in your work from home policy. Company VPNs are a great way of staying safe on the internet, and avoiding open, public Wi-Fi is a good measure to boost your security. With potential for hacking present in all software, your communications policy will also help to secure your data.
Now you’ve got the essential guide for writing your policy, you can get started right away, whether you want to take inspiration from the Amazon work from home policy or create your own entirely from scratch.
However, a large part of putting your policy into practice is having the right technological backing to make working from home an advantage rather than a hindrance. Luckily, Bitrix24 has combined all the cloud-based tools you need for remote work and much more. From project management and communications tools to time trackers and a full HR suite, you can keep everybody in sync without signing up to a range of unconnected tools.
With a platform that can scale up or down to any size of company, you’ve got one tool for life. So sign up for free to Bitrix24 today and see how it can take the stress out of all your business processes.