Countless organizations have made the transition to remote work operations, but the shift hasn’t always been seamless. Even organizations that had telework options in place before the pandemic were unprepared for the overnight change on a mass scale. Months later, many are still struggling to develop formal policies for keeping remote teams engaged, connected and productive.
In a new global survey of remote employees, almost half say their organizations have not provided the communications, guidelines and tools they need to do their jobs effectively. Forty-nine percent of respondents to Wrike’s 2020 global remote work survey say they aren’t fully aware of what’s expected of them in terms of working hours, availability and productivity. Fifty-two percent say they have not been sufficiently trained on the necessary communication, collaboration and work management platforms they’re supposed to be using.
You’d expect some of that uncertainty given the rushed nature of the transition. However, this isn’t a short-term situation. With the public health crisis still unresolved, many organizations are planning to retain flexible work policies through 2021 and beyond. At this stage of the game, organizations can no longer afford to manage the remote workforce on an improvised or informal basis.
A formal telecommuting policy is essential for both employees and employers. It should set clear guidelines about both business and technical requirements. From a business standpoint, your policy should define who is eligible to work remotely, when they are expected to work, specific performance and productivity benchmarks, and time and reporting procedures. From a technical perspective, the policy should also describe what equipment and support the company will provide, which communication and collaboration platforms should be used and proper security measures to ensure data confidentiality.
The granular details of a formal policy will depend on a variety of business-specific requirements. However, most policies should address these core components:
COMMUNICATIONS: Telecommuting can only be effective with consistent communication between employees and supervisors. Your policy should set a schedule for regular team meetings as well as periodic one-on-one discussions between employees and their supervisors. It should establish the best mode for both team and individual communications, which will probably involve a mix of phone, text, email and team collaboration apps such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
GOALS & EXPECTATIONS: Although studies show that remote workers are highly productive, companies obviously need a way to measure individual productivity. These measures are different for every job, but the policy should describe some of the core metrics to be used. It is also essential to establish procedures for documenting and reporting on key benchmarks.
EQUIPMENT & SUPPORT: Organizations must ensure that remote employees have the IT tools they need, and that IT teams are ready to support them. Of course remote workers need a PC or laptop and a reliable Internet connection. But they will also need strong collaboration tools and trusted access to applications and data. In addition, the organization needs to ensure that it has enough bandwidth to support remote users, strong security and solid help desk support.
LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS: Workplace protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other regulations apply to remote workers. Policies must outline how you will satisfy those regulations. For example, the FLSA requires overtime pay for hourly employees who work more than 40 hours a week. Your policy should be clear that all telecommuters must accurately record all hours worked using your time-keeping system.
Of course, the health crisis is creating extraordinary conditions for everyone, which is why policies need to be flexible. For example, requiring a strict 8-to-5 work schedule may not be in anyone’s best interest — remote workers often need to adjust their schedule to accommodate personal obligations such as helping children with homework. Instead of rigid requirements, policies should establish a framework that helps ensure everyone has the tools and support they need to remain happy, energized and productive.