Telecommuting generally involves team members having greater control over when, where, and how work gets done. But nobody should equate flexibility with a free-for-all. Successful arrangements include parameters that outline expectations and keep operations running smoothly. Creating a remote work policy promotes consistency and serves as a point of reference.
Need assistance figuring out what to include in such a document? Here’s a look at a few topics commonly addressed in a remote work policy:
Do you expect remote employees to work set schedules, or are they free to manage time as they see fit as long as tasks get done? Is it OK to “sign out” for a nap or to pick up the kids and make up the time later in the day? Do other coworkers or managers need to be informed of an individual’s availability, and if so, by what method and how far in advance?
The clearer a company can answer these questions and similar ones in a remote work policy, the less potential for misunderstandings. Telecommuters know the framework for balancing their professional and personal obligations, colleagues avoid the frustration of trying to contact a “missing” coworker, and managers stop playing “catch someone away from her desk” games.
Be sure to also include any special time commitments. For instance, Fiona Adler, founder of Actioned.com, likes to spell out “core working hours”—specific timeslots the whole team agrees to be available. She notes that establishing periods when staff members always know they can contact each other “helps immensely with collaboration.”
“Our most important rule has to do with communication and teamwork,” says Alexander Winston, managing director and co-founder of PPC Protect. “In order for remote workers to communicate effectively, everyone has to install the collaboration software Slack as well as the project management software TeamWork. These two platforms are the foundation for planning tasks and communicating with one another throughout the workday.”
Consider other efforts, too, to get everyone on the same page. A policy defining an acceptable response time to a colleague’s email can prevent charges of someone taking too long. Procedures on which method of communication to use depending on the circumstance can prevent overlooking an emergency in the shuffle or cluttering peak work time with matters that can wait. Outlining such measures boosts employee confidence that they’re acting in line with what management desires.
Security and Confidentiality
Finally, businesses owe it to themselves and their clients to protect information. While this concern must be addressed in-office too, controlling outside risk factors can be trickier. Who knows who may get a glimpse of a screen or overhear a sensitive conversation when a remote worker sets up at a café?
Present precautionary measures in specific, easy-to-understand language. For instance, Augie Kennady, media relations director for ShipMonk, shares this rule put out by his company:
“For security purposes, no work can be done on a public Internet connection. Nor can any work be performed on non-company equipment. This is to ensure that the data of our customers and of our business is kept as private as possible.”
Most remote workers aren’t out to cause harm, so spelling out ways to maintain safety can help everyone feel more comfortable.
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