How To Create an Effective Work-From-Home Policy
By Jennifer Herrity
Updated August 16, 2022 | Published December 7, 2020
Updated August 16, 2022
Published December 7, 2020
Jennifer Herrity is a career coach at Indeed who has worked with job seekers from various industries over the last 12 years. She creates resources to help people navigate career challenges with tools and techniques she has refined through practical experience.
If you’re like many companies, you might be considering adding a work-from-home policy. Effective remote work opportunities can attract more qualified candidates, lower your overhead costs and improve overall productivity.
In this article, we explain what a work-from-home policy is, outline what to include, explain how to create one, list benefits and answer frequently asked questions you may have.
What is a work-from-home policy?
A work-from-home policy refers to an agreement or set of guidelines between an employer and employee that outlines the rules and expectations about how employees can work from home. A work-from-home policy may also include details regarding eligibility, how to request work-from-home privileges and the approval process. The policy essentially sets remote employees up for success and ensures they remain productive throughout their workday.
Benefits of work-from-home policies
Working from home can provide several benefits for both employees and employers. Here are some of the more compelling reasons to consider instituting a work-from-home policy:
It builds trust
When you let your employees work from home, it can help build mutual trust and engagement. Employees feel that you trust them to get their work done and potentially self-manage and they, in turn, will trust that you respect and care about them.
It promotes happier employees
When employees have a greater work-life balance, they are often happier overall because their work and personal needs are being met. Long commutes and in-office breaks take time and often, create stress. At home, employees save time, money and energy.
It helps avoid absenteeism
When you allow your employees to work from home, they're less likely to call in sick since they're already at home. Not only that but if they happen to get sick, having them work from home prevents them from spreading the illness to the rest of their team.
It promotes better talent and retention
When you add a work-from-home policy to your company, you not only open up hiring to candidates from potentially around the world, but you also encourage employees to stay longer. If your employees do not need to travel to the office—or rarely—then, you are not limited to the best local candidates. You can choose from the best of all candidates. Moreover, the happier your employees, the less likely they are to leave.
Read more: 16 Benefits of Work-From-Home for Employers
How to create a work-from-home policy
To ensure remote employers get their job done effectively, it's important to establish a well-defined work-from-home policy. Keep in mind that a work-from-home policy should set guidelines that help employers feel confident in their employees' abilities to remain productive off-site. Use these steps to create a work-from-home policy for your company:
1. Determine who can work from home
Since not all employees can work effectively without supervision, it's important to determine which employees can maintain a strong work ethic even at home. Consider the employee's position and whether it's suitable for remote work and also, if you will need to provide tools, software or other systems to help them work efficiently.
Lastly, determine if you want to offer a flexible remote policy, in case some or all of your employees would prefer to work in person some of the time.
2. Set expectations
Setting clear expectations helps ensure remote employees perform to your company's standards. Make sure they know what hours they should be putting in, how they should stay in contact with their team and what meetings they need to attend. Make sure to set reasonable quotes or deadlines when you can.
3. Select and if necessary, facilitate, a communication method
Since remote employment doesn't allow for face-to-face communication, you’ll need to consider alternate ways to help your remote employees communicate, such as video chat, virtual meetings, group conferencing, phone, email and instant messaging. There are several tools and software available for collaboration, conferencing and virtual communication. Do your research on costs on functionality to find the best one for your team.
Read more: 28 Tips To Help Conduct Your Remote Meetings
4. Ensure digital security
Since remote employees work in a digital capacity, it's important to outline the importance of digital security in your work-from-home policy. Employees who use their own devices may bring viruses to the company network. Even if they use a company device, it's still possible for them to download an application or file that has hidden malware.
To avoid this, your IT department needs to ensure that every device with access to the company network has sufficient-level protection such as firewalls or anti-virus software.
In your work-from-home policy, inform your employees of basic security policies. For example, make sure they know to set secure passwords, avoid public Wi-Fi and log off of their computer when they step away from their device. If they prefer to work outside of their home, consider setting up a VPN that provides a secure channel for remote employees. It's also important to offer IT support and ensure they have a way to communicate with the IT department.
5. Clarify the covered expenses
Though remote employees save money on transportation, they may face higher expenses at home when it comes to high-speed internet and phone and electricity usage. Because of this, your company may want to offer remote employees an allowance or reimbursement. Have your work-from-home policy clarify any expenses your company plans to cover for its remote employees.
Moreover, you might consider providing an allowance or reimbursement for home office software, equipment or furniture. Not only does this help your remote employees become just as productive at home—or more so—than they might have been in the office, but it also provides another level of value to your employee’s work-life balance.
6. Explain the approval process
Take the time to explain how employees can qualify and use work-from-home privileges. Also, let them know who approves work-from-home privileges and how long they can expect the approval process to take.
7. Provide information regarding timekeeping
If you have hourly, non-exempt employees interested in working remotely, make sure they know how to record their hours and submit them to their manager. Oftentimes, companies use a timekeeping website or software to ensure their remote employees work the hours they're expected to.
What to include in a work-from-home policy
When you write a work-from-home policy, it's important to include certain details to help remote employees know what's expected of them. The information you provide may also answer any questions they have regarding remote employment or remote work. Here's what to include—but may not be all-inclusive based on your specific company rules—in a work-from-home policy:
Since not all jobs are conducive to a remote environment, you need to include details regarding what positions can work remotely. Clearly state which teams are eligible to work from home and which have to stay in the workplace.
Outline the approval process for working remotely. Make sure employees know how to request work-from-home privileges. Also, make sure to explain who will approve their request and how long the approval process takes.
Clearly state the hours you expect remote employees to work, specifying start and finish times, if applicable. Keep in mind that some remote employees might be in different time zones and your policy should reflect that.
If you have hourly, non-exempt employees working remotely, provide them with information on how to record their hours and how to submit these hours to their managers.
Since remote employees no longer communicate face-to-face, your work-from-home policy needs to include information regarding your company's internal communications methods and the primary purpose for each.
For example, you may explain that they can use email for longer communications, a particular video conference tool for virtual meetings and an instant messaging platform for quick and informal communication.
Information technology (IT) support
Since remote employees rely on technology to perform their job, it's important to offer them IT support when they need it. Make sure to explain how they can communicate with the IT department as remote employees.
Educate remote employees about the risks of using public Wi-Fi. If your company has a virtual private network (VPN), make sure to explain how they can use it from home. Essentially, outline your company's security standards to help remote employees avoid malware and other viruses they may encounter.
Acknowledgment of receipt
Since a work-from-home policy is a legal agreement between an employer and an employee, you need to include a space for employees to provide a digital e-signature.
Tips for supporting employees that work from home
Here are some tips to help employees work from home more efficiently:
Especially, if you are just beginning a work-from-home environment for your employees, you should help them set up their days with some structure. Many companies opt for a traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you are considering a more flexible work-from-home policy, you might set specific time minimums per day or prioritize hours during the middle of the day, when you think the team is most productive.
Set up collaboration and instant messaging tools
Necessary to a productive and successful work-from-home policy is giving your employees a way to be constantly communicating with your team. This will not only help them stay accountable; but also, make it easier for them to ask questions, get feedback and offer insight into projects and workflow.
Many of these online collaboration spaces offer ways to organize teams by private rooms, projects or goals and share documents and links conveniently.
Set up regular meetings
Setting up regular virtual meetings with your team—and even one-on-one—will allow you to stay connected to your employees, measure workflow, discuss achievements and opportunities for improvement and work to meet goals. At the beginning of adjusting to a new work-from-home policy, you might schedule more regular meetings to check in on morale, productivity, potential troubleshooting in IT and equipment and any other topics that might come up.
FAQs about creating a work-from-home policy
Here are some frequently asked questions you might have about instituting a work-from-home policy:
How do you maintain company culture with remote work?
When you have remote employees, it's important to stay connected through your company's chosen communication channels. Consider planning virtual and in-person appreciation or team-building events to stay connected, such as happy hours, holiday parties and achievement events. Also, you could extend in-office amenities like a healthy snack delivery box or catered meals, so they don’t feel left out.
What are some common work-from-home positions?
Depending on the type of work your company does or the product you offer, it may be easier for you to allow employees to work from home. Here’s a short list of example careers that can be done from home:
Read more: 25 Jobs That Can Be Done From Home
How can employers ensure productivity?
Employers can use various tools available to monitor the productivity of their remote employees. While it's important to continuously motivate employees regarding their remote performance, you can also train them to succeed independently and regularly check in with them. The latter not only lets employers monitor their progress, but also lets them maintain a connection with their remote employees.
What are other options you can offer employees for an improved work-life balance?
Offering a work-from-home policy is not the only way to support your employees’ work-life balance and job satisfaction. Here are other flexible work options you might consider:
Partial remote or work from home
Results-only work environment
Generous paid leave
Read more: Flexible Work Policies
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