If you are like many companies around the world, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has many or all your employees working from home (WFH). Maybe it is brand new for you, or maybe your company was part of the 56% that already allowed WFH. But now you are likely supporting all your employees working remotely, all day and everyday.
We previously posted some recommendations for smoothing your company’s transition to remote work. Whether remote work is new to your organization, or you are struggling with scaling it out, a robust Work from Home Policy will increase the likelihood of success and prevent many common failures.
A Work from Home policy is an understanding between company and worker that clearly defines:
- Expectations and responsibilities for employees who work from home.
- Who is eligible to work from home, and how often?
- The request and approval process for work from home privileges.
- Basic guidelines and suggestions to optimize worker productivity and reduce risk.
Be Inclusive From The Start
If you are planning to continue WFH post-Covid-19, you may consider involving your workers in the development of your company’s Work from Home Policy. A company survey and/or multi-disciplinary working group will improve the policy and fast track adoption and compliance. Keep the policy fresh by promoting ongoing employee feedback and adopting a regular review schedule that fosters employee ownership.
Who Can Work From Home?
This policy must clearly define who is eligible to work remotely, and who is required to be in the office. Are there certain criteria that must be met by the worker in order to qualify for a remote work agreement, such as seniority, role, department, or management level?
It is also best practice to define a list of reasons that allow employees to work from home, i.e. appointments, family illness and unsafe weather, or simply an agreed allocation each week.
Covid-19 has driven most employees to WFH, even when it may not be ideal. Companies can turn this into a positive and use this period to evaluate the effectiveness of WFH for different roles within their organisation and build this into a permanent WFH Policy.
What Is The WFH Request Process?
The request/approval process must be defined up front. This can be as simple as an email exchange with a manager, up to a full HR workflow. Your employees need to know how to request to work from home, who approves, and how long the process takes. A consistent process allows them to plan for both work meetings and personal issues like doctor and dentist appointments, even family time.
Define Core Hours Of Work
Set expectations for working hours. One of the advantages of WFH is its flexibility — an early-bird worker can be productive at dawn, while a nigh owl may prefer working into the evening. Defined and regular working hours are critical for successful collaboration and team projects. It doesn’t have to be 9 to 5, but defining core hours, i.e. 10 to 3, or any 8 hours in between 7am and 8pm. You may also want to include upper limits to number of hours worked as WFH can lead to overwork and burnout.
Voice calls and email are well established, but you need a tool that promotes casual collaboration – as your workers can no longer pop by someone’s desk to ask a question. Chat and file exchange tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack are a great place to start, however we strongly recommend creating some guidelines around responsiveness and how quickly a remote worker is expected to respond to their coworkers, not just to ensure they can switch off after hours and on weekends, but also to ensure their productivity isn’t hampered throughout the day.
One of the reasons that business’s have been reluctant to allow working from home is a perceived lack of accountability that could lead to decreased worker productivity. Fortunately, technology and process can do a lot to set expectations and track results. Daily scrums or stand-up meetings are simple tools for laying out a daily workplan, identifying blockages and reporting progress.
Make Security Easy
Because you have no control over your employees work environment at home, there is a higher security risk. You need to give your remote workers the tools they need to do their job, but also establish some rules and guidelines to ensure security and privacy.
There are many other sections you can include in a WFH Policy and a quick Google search can deliver dozens of easy-to-use templates. However, rather than get hung up on too much detail upfront, it is a good idea to move forward with a basic policy and grow it through experience.
If you need help within any Work from Home issues, please send us an email, it’s what we’ve been enabling firms to do well for over 20 years now, and we’d love to help you too.