The future of work has changed - even after the start of the pandemic. While many companies rapidly adjusted to the need to shift to digital, some changes were fleeting, and some are here to stay.
In 2023, many workplaces have developed a hybrid remote/in-office system that requires its own considerations distinct from 100% remote offices.
The first step for most employers is to determine if they want to create a completely remote work, flexible, or hybrid policy.
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Best practices before you start building the policy
Inclusion: Your policy must be inclusive in both wording and practice. Remote work policies haven’t been applied to all industries across the board. In fact, in many companies, there have been distinct separations across race, gender, and class in terms of who gets the flexibility of remote work - and there have also been distinct differences in how they impact people at home.
Accountability and Enforcement: Many companies have resorted to intense monitoring of remote workers but this breeds distrust and dissatisfaction - and it’s an ineffective form of management. Employees need to be held accountable for outcomes, and when those outcomes aren’t met, there needs to be a system for addressing it. This has little to do with how and when they work.
Fairness and Equity: Every single worker can’t be remote. There are simply some roles that don’t allow for it. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to build more flexibility, autonomy, and fairness into the organizational policies - from how performance is measured to who is held accountable and how.
What key considerations should your policy include?
Working Hours and Locations: Are there tax considerations to factor in if employees want to work remotely from a new state? Does business need to be conducted on specific days of the week and in a specific time zone? Is there an expectation that employees work on-site at different intervals?
Timekeeping: How should employees track their time? Should they track the number of hours worked and the type of work conducted, or must it be more specific? Where and how should this activity be recorded, and who should it be sent to?
Communication: How will virtual meetings be conducted? How will hybrid meetings be conducted? How and where will in-person meetings be conducted? How should managers create hybrid meetings that ensure remote workers aren’t sidelined?
Technology: Are employees equipped with the tools and resources to work in-office and/or remotely? Do they have appropriate computers, machinery, and other equipment? Can they select and expense their own tools if needed or is there a standard set to order?
Cybersecurity: What cybersecurity or data privacy policies are there? Are there standards and guidelines for the type of machinery or network employees must work from or how their work files should be stored?
7 Expert Tips For Creating a Remote Work Policy
Crafting a remote work policy can be complex, and we wanted to understand the challenges HR leaders and executives face in this process. From balancing work-life support and productivity to addressing facilities, data access, and privacy, here are the top 7 challenges CEOs, founders, and HR professionals share when creating a remote work policy.
Balancing Work-Life Support and Productivity
HR leaders face a daunting challenge when creating a remote work policy: ensuring that team members remain connected and productive when working outside of an office environment.
One case, in particular, poses a unique challenge to many companies. For example, businesses with employees who have children likely need to provide additional backup childcare services to support their staff's balance between work and family life.
This unusual responsibility can be a tricky balancing act for HR departments, as they want to ensure that they support staff without encouraging employees to take on too much of this strain themselves.
Michael Alexis, CEO, virtualteambuilding.com
Adapting Culture and Incentives for Remote Work
One of the key challenges companies face when setting up a remote work policy is adapting their workplace culture to promote collaboration and communication while operating in an asynchronous environment. This means designing systems and processes that enable employees to remain productive, efficient, and connected - no matter where they work.
Another critical challenge for businesses is determining how to incentivize remote workers to stay engaged with the company's mission and objectives. It's not enough just to create flexible policies; employers must also be willing to invest in their people by offering robust benefits packages or implementing recognition programs such as "employee of the month" initiatives that motivate workers even from afar.
Creating Fair Remote Work Eligibility
One of the common problems I see when helping my clients design remote working policies is the challenge of eliminating bias when determining what roles are eligible to work away from the office.
A manager's opinions about who can and cannot work remotely are often based on observations about the individuals and not the role's compatibility with working from outside the office. Guiding companies to create eligibility requirements that are fair and equitable is one major part of my work as a remote workplace experience advisor.
Lance Robbins, Remote Workplace Experience Advisor, lancehrobbins.com
Managing Time Zones and Collaboration
For small businesses that have embraced remote working and digital nomadism, collaboration across different time zones creates challenges. This is particularly true when certain team members decide to work from particularly far-flung locations, leaving little overlap between working hours.
Although some team members can work autonomously, others rely on collaboration and shared tasks. For these employees specifically, the inaccessibility of colleagues drastically slows down the pace of work, reducing productivity.
To combat this, we require staff from the same branch to share at least some daily working hours. This acts as a soft limit on digital nomadism, preventing staff from working entirely outside the business's traditional working hours, allowing some room for daily collaboration.
Chloe Yarwood, HR Manager, Test Partnership
Flexible Policies for International Teams
An international team working across time zones makes crafting a set policy for remote workers difficult. Instead, our policy must remain flexible in stating meeting attendance expectations. It may require extra assignments such as watching the recording of a meeting and submitting a task or providing feedback. Our deadlines must also be slightly flexible in considering different time zones.
Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Manager, Ling App
Transitioning Work Systems and Communication
One of the biggest challenges we faced when creating a remote work policy was shifting from an hourly work system to a task-based approach. We noticed a lack of engagement from some employees when they transitioned to remote work. Motivating them to complete their tasks efficiently was challenging when they were not being monitored by the hour. We had to work on building trust and accountability within the team to overcome this issue.
Another challenge we faced when creating a remote work policy was figuring out how to maintain effective communication and team collaboration. Staying on the same page can be more challenging when people are not physically in the same office. Finding the right tools and methods to keep everyone connected and ensure that work is being coordinated effectively is essential.
Martin Potocki, CEO, Jobera
Addressing Facilities, Data Access, and Privacy
One of the primary difficulties organizations face is ensuring that employees have the necessary facilities to support remote work effectively. Reliable internet connectivity is crucial for seamless communication, accessing company resources, and collaborating with colleagues. Additionally, employees need suitable workstations to maintain productivity and avoid health issues. Lack of proper desks, chairs, and other essential equipment can lead to discomfort and reduced efficiency.
Another concern for organizations is data access and privacy in a remote work setting. Employees require secure access to company systems, databases, and files to perform their tasks effectively. Remote work also raises compliance issues with data privacy regulations, primarily when employees work from different jurisdictions. Addressing these challenges is crucial to creating a remote work policy that supports employees in maintaining productivity, ensures data security, and safeguards employee privacy.
Sudhir Kulkarni, Senior Advisor, Naman Integrated Management Services Pvt. Ltd.
How GoCo Can Help
Create an Up-to-Date Digital Remote Work Policy - With GoCo’s advanced Magic Docs technology, HR pros can create a new or updated template for remote work and magic-tize it from there. Create custom fields within your remote work policies, easily collect employee e-Signatures, preview custom documents using “magic” templates, and send secure links company-wide to ensure everyone is up-to-speed on updated policies.
Ensure Compliance with HR Compliance Pros — Get personalized remote work policy advice, compliance resources, and tools to support your employees through remote work and beyond. Connect with experienced advisors and stay informed with up-to-date, state-specific HR information to help you stay compliant and support your employees.