Both employers and employees are increasingly touting the benefits of remote work. Employers can save on equipment and real estate costs, and they’ve seen how workers are often more efficient off-site. Employees also benefit by reducing distractions and the costs and stress associated with commuting. Plus, personal satisfaction and quality of life add to the allure for employees.
Even though telecommuting is often a win-win, it requires planning. Here are issues to address when crafting a remote work policy:
- Decide who will be permitted to telecommute. Longtime employees? Part-timers? Will the decision be based on the job? Will telecommuting be available only to employees who need a reasonable accommodation or intermittent leave?
- Voluntary or required? Will you require some individuals to telecommute? Are telecommuters only those employees who volunteer to do so? What happens if employees change their minds?
- Trial period. Will there be a trial period for the arrangement?
- Performance standards. Spell out the performance standards expected of remote workers. Identify and set deadlines for completion of work and identify quantities of work to be accomplished. Your policy should set out as many objective standards of measurement of performance as possible.
- Security and safety. Address issues such as security for your software, information, and equipment that may be at an employee’s home, as well as the safety of the employee while performing tasks outside the workplace.
- Limits on remote work. Will you limit the number of telecommuters you’ll permit companywide? How about limiting the number of remote workers in any particular department? What about limiting the number of telecommuters who have a particular skill?
- Establish a method for communicating among workers who are telecommuting and those at the office. Develop a mechanism for identifying what work has been accomplished, the status of any task, and where information or files can be located. Both employees in the office and those working remotely will need to be responsible for accurate communication.
- Required time in the office. There may be times when remote workers must be in the office, such as for meetings, announcements, training, and the like. Your policy should clearly state that telecommuters can be required to come to the office.
- Drugs and alcohol. Your policy should clearly state that your drug and alcohol policy applies to telecommuters. The policy should make clear that they are expected not to be intoxicated while performing work. Also, they should be subject to the same rules as on-site workers regarding drug and alcohol testing.
- State that all the rules governing behavior in the workplace also apply to the telecommuter. For example, they are expected to be performing work for the company, not for others. Similarly, any company equipment that they use at home is expected to be used for company business, not their own.
- Location of remote work. As you design your policy, consider whether it makes sense for telecommuters to work at home, a satellite office, a neighborhood work center, or all three.
- Pilot program. Before implementing a companywide policy, you may want to develop a pilot program to aid you in determining if telecommuting can be successfully implemented at your business.
- With telecommuting comes increased security risk. More information and perhaps equipment will be located out of the office. Carefully review security procedures as well as insurance coverage. You may need additional security for your computer system.
- Remote workers may need training to be successful. For example, they will need to know how to correct problems that arise in their computers and software.
- Equipment needs. Identify what equipment will be needed. Is a color printer needed? Is a laser printer needed? Is a designated phone line needed? The setup in the office may give some guidance, but additional needs could arise.
- Which jobs can be performed by a remote worker? You will need to review the jobs in your organization that can be performed by a telecommuter. For example, management positions might not be a good fit.
- Written commitment. You may want to obtain a written commitment from the remote worker on the tasks to be accomplished and the objective measurements for the tasks.