As the world slowly begins to recover from the pandemic, many organizations are either sticking with remote working for good or adopting a hybrid model. According to McKinsey, the number of companies switching to hybrid models could be as high as 9 in 10.
While it’s easy for organizations to say that they’re switching over to hybrid working, a true and permanent switch to remote or hybrid working requires big changes in everything from company culture to workplace policies.
By creating clear, standardized policies for remote working, your organization joins the ranks of the progressive and inclusive companies that are adapting to new ways of working that greatly benefit their employees.
What is a Remote Working Policy?
A remote working policy, also known as a flexible or hybrid working policy, is an official agreement that outlines when and how employees can work in locations outside of the office or on a flexible schedule. These policies can be implemented temporarily, but many organizations are opting to introduce them as a permanent post-pandemic measure.
A remote or hybrid working policy clearly sets out who can work remotely, when this is allowed, and what best practices should be followed. In the case of hybrid working, the policy should also set out the expectations of employees who work on a non-standard schedule and how communication and availability should be handled.
Why Have a Remote Working Policy?
Although it’s nice to assume that everyone in your team knows the rules, this is often far from the truth. Despite this, 57% of companies are operating without a remote working policy.
Given that remote working is very different from having everyone together in one place, not having a remote working policy is a recipe for disaster. By clearly outlining who can do what, where, and when, however, you get rid of confusion and potential feelings of unfairness.
If you have a policy in place that irons out the details, then everything is black and white. If you don’t have one in place, then it can cause disagreement and misunderstanding because there will be one rule for one person and one rule for another.
A good remote working policy isn’t about laying down the law. Rather, it’s about clarifying the organization’s stance and empowering the workforce to work in a way that suits them inside of the expectations of the company.
So, what does an effective remote working policy look like?
What You Should Include in a Remote Working Policy
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a remote working policy. That said, there are a few common areas that most policies will include.
The Who, Where, and When
The pandemic completely changed our view of which jobs can be completed remotely, and this means that remote working policies also need to change.
Remote working policies historically outlined when and how employees could work outside of the office. Now, however, the opposite is true — many new policies say when and how employees can or should work from the office. They provide so much more autonomy and empowerment to the employee who, in many cases, is free to saunter into the office when it suits them best.
This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will work remotely all the time, however. There’s a delicate balance that needs to be struck, with studies showing that the most significant employee engagement boost happens when employees work off-site between 60% and 80% of the time. That’s worth keeping in mind when creating your policy.
Also, consider which roles might need more time on-site and where people can work from. Should remote working only take place at home or are you happy for employees to work from co-working spaces, coffee shops, and even abroad?
Make sure your policy clearly sets out these critical rules.
If you’re allowing employees to work remotely, you need to equip them with the equipment, cloud-based tools, and other technology that they need to do their jobs.
Policies must therefore clearly state who provides this equipment, who sets it up, and who is responsible for it. It’s also a good idea to include any rules and policies that you have surrounding the use of this equipment, i.e., those around personal use of company equipment or whether employees are allowed to use personal devices to access company email.
Remote working implies a certain level of flexibility around working hours, but this needs to be managed by the organization to prevent flexibility from becoming counter-productive and people answering emails at 10 pm and doing work over the weekend.
At the same time, by enabling employees to work hours that are best for them, organizations can boost productivity, performance, and engagement. This is extremely vital in the current working climate.
Putting in place clear guidance around expected working hours, flexibility, and processes for tracking time will ensure people are putting in the right amount of time without compromising on productivity or mental wellbeing.
Communication and Responsiveness
Communication is one of the greatest challenges faced by organizations when it comes to remote working. A lack of communication can lead to poor performance and isolation whereas too much communication can lead to confusion and burnout, especially if communication continues outside of typical working hours.
That’s why it’s important to set out clear guidance on things like how communication should take place. Is Slack OK or should important communication take place via email?
It also makes sense to provide some guidance around scheduling and running meetings, any times when employees are expected to be online and responsive, and the maximum amount of time that can lapse before a message is responded to.
Speaking of poor performance, remote working policies should also outline how an employee’s productivity will be measured. There are many ways to do this, such as looking at the amount of time spent on a project or the number of client interactions, and more.
The key thing to remember when measuring productivity is to not look at the number of hours an employee spent logged in but rather, the outcomes of their work. If you have a team that can hit all their goals and targets and your organization gets the result it’s looking for, it doesn’t make sense to use the hours spent working as a means of measuring productivity.