What is Remote Work?
After the onset of COVID-19, the entire world shut down and out of pure necessity, became suddenly familiar with the idea of remote work. That season of life was an extreme for all of us, but it also opened the door for more employers to consider what remote work might mean for their businesses long-term.
In its most basic form, the term ‘remote work’ refers to a work arrangement between employers and their employees where workers perform their job duties from a location outside of a traditional office environment.
The most common image that remote work exudes is someone working from home. However, remote work can expand beyond that. At its broadest, it can mean working from anywhere, though not many organisations offer such full flexibility. Some companies may put certain restrictions in place for security reasons, such as whether employees are allowed to work using public wifi in places like coffee shops. Alternatively, some states or countries may be off-limits for compliance or tax reasons. Time limits will also apply due to existing tax residency of employees.
Remote work can take on a lot of forms. Many organisations choose to implement a remote-friendly policy where occasional remote work is allowed. Other companies prefer and welcome fully-remote work where there is no office to speak of. Many workers are finding a post-COVID ‘new normal’ with hybrid work, where spending some days in the office is required, while others are putting a lot of thought and effort into setting a ‘remote-first’ operating model where people have full choice where to work from and have equal access to everything and everyone as their in-office counterparts.
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy is a set of documented standards, rules, and expectations that an organisation establishes to ensure alignment between both management and workers, and to define how remote work arrangements will be managed within the company.
This policy provides a framework for both employees and the organisation to ensure clear communication, consistent practices, and a productive remote work environment for everyone. It outlines the terms, conditions, and procedures for employees who are working remotely, and it can cover various aspects of remote work.
While most companies were forced to work remotely without having the time to fully consider or create remote work policies in 2020, more companies are now updating and fine-tuning their COVID-era approaches to better align with the post-pandemic evolution of workplace expectations. For example, it’s more common than ever for workers to feel they should be able to work remotely whenever they wish and from wherever they want.
And while remote work is something people may wish for more, it’s paramount for companies to address some of the inherent challenges that come with predominantly fully-remote ways of working, such as fewer opportunities for mentorship, a degree of difficulty to progress in one’s career compared to in-office counterparts, feeling lonely and disconnected, and so on. Putting in the time and effort to address those challenges and coming up with proactive solutions on how to address them can make a big difference, as is outlining them in a remote work policy.
What should be included in a remote work policy?
It’s important that a given company’s remote work policy be transparent and specific. This ensures there’s no ambiguity and that everyone understands the policy and for whom various stipulations apply.
Here are a few of the larger factors and conditions to be considered and incorporated.
If the company is not already fully remote, a remote work policy should specify who is eligible for such arrangements as well as the process for requesting and obtaining approval for remote work. This might include criteria based on job roles, performance, and other relevant factors.
Alternatively, some countries may have local laws that pave the way for employees to request to work remotely. For example, in the UK, all employees have the legal right to request ‘flexible work arrangements’ after just 6 months of continuous employment, which is expected soon to become a right from day 1.
Communication expectations, work hours, and availability
Guidelines for how remote employees should communicate with their teams are crucial: what communication can be asynchronous – meaning not having specific time constraints and attended to at one’s convenience – as well as what communication must be synchronous – when communication must take place in real time via phone calls or video meetings. This might also include specifics on expected response times, preferred communication channels, and the importance of staying aligned and connected.
Information on whether remote employees are expected to adhere to specific working hours or if they have more flexibility should be clearly outlined as well. If employees are working from vastly different time zones, such considerations and expectations should also be addressed.
Likewise, procedures for ending or modifying a remote work arrangement, including the conditions under which an employee might be required to return to working on-site, should be documented.
Data security and tech
Because remote work employees are away from the office as a rule, a company must establish clear guidelines on how workers should handle any sensitive company information. The policy should also mention any specific data security measures that employees should follow.
As part of this, a remote work policy should outline a given company's responsibility for providing necessary equipment and tech to employees, as well as the employees' responsibilities for maintaining their work environment and cybersecurity.
Expense reimbursements and remote work allowances
Policies on reimbursing or compensating remote employees for approved work-related expenses, such as internet connectivity or home office supplies, should be clearly documented in the policy.
Advance warning of potential changes in pay
Depending on where an employee chooses to reside and work from could affect their salary due to changes in tax residency requirements or other unexpected costs. That fact should be outlined with expected pay changes as well as any potential hidden costs that an employee may not have realised could come at play.
Health and safety
Most countries require employers to ensure employees’ health and safety are protected, even if they’re working remotely. In many cases, government regulations set for remote work health and safety mirror the requirements set for in-office workers. Companies must ensure their workers are following these guidelines or rules regardless of where they’re working.
At a minimum, most remote work health and safety policies should include instructions on how workers should set up their remote workspaces in a way that’s ergonomically conducive. Some employers may also choose (or in the case of the Czech Republic, be legally required) to help workers identify and resolve potential work-from-home risks.
Boundless helps you manage a global team
The specific details and content of a remote work policy vary based on the company's culture, industry, and the alignment of the team. As an Employer of Record, Boundless is well acquainted with how to develop remote work policies that fit the needs of companies of all sizes. We can help you manage the details so you can manage your business.
Speak with one of our experts to learn more about how Boundless can take the pains of managing a remote workforce off your plate.