What you need to know:
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced employers to quickly pivot to a remote working environment, many did not have time to develop formal telecommuting guidelines. While some employees will return to onsite work when local guidance allows it, others will continue to telecommute long-term. The following guidelines are important to keep in mind when developing a telecommuting guideline.
Employer Telecommuting Policy Considerations:
Managers should know which job functions are suitable for telecommuting. Managers are in the most optimal position to craft a telework program tailored to their specific team and departmental needs.
Questions managers might consider when evaluating roles include:
- Is this position or function suited to independent, remote work?
- Does the job or function require face time that videoconferencing alone can’t support effectively?
- What impact, if any, would there be on teamwork, and organizational culture, if employees telecommuted on a permanent basis?
Not all employees are well-suited to work remotely. Whether it be because of individual personality traits or other reasons, some employees may benefit from returning to onsite work.
As employers consider bringing employees back to the workplace, they may find that some employees prefer to work remotely and/or operations allow for long-term telework. Even if job functions can be effectively performed remotely, individual employee work ethic and personality traits must align with the possibility of continued telecommuting.
Since many employees may remain working remotely long-term, managers will need to actively coach, manage and communicate with staff who may be struggling to perform while working from home.
Employers will need to ensure equal standards and expectations are established for onsite and remote professionals. These areas include client service, deliverables, office hours, and response times for emails and phone calls. Employers need to trust telecommuters and allow them a certain amount of flexibility. Remote employees need to be accountable for achieving performance goals and expectations.
Set clear expectations with employees regarding work hours. All workers, whether onsite or remote, should be available during office hours. Consider establishing “core hours” when all employees must be accessible.
Technology and Equipment:
As an employer, you’ll need to assess whether your company’s IT staff and infrastructure will support continued, long-term remote work. In addition, consider the equipment enhancements needed for long-term telecommuters. Many employees may have been equipped with a laptop only when remote work became mandatory. Continued, long-term remote work may require additional equipment in the form of monitors, docking stations and external keyboards to facilitate a more ergonomically correct home workstation.
As stated above, the IT infrastructure needs to ensure telecommuting technological equipment, services and devices are protected from potential hacks, breaches, or employee misuse. Employers should consider the following telecommuting guidelines:
- Employees should be aware that company-issued equipment and any programs on them are to be used only for work-related purposes.
- Password-protect all business devices and make sure that data going out from devices is encrypted.
- Keep a current inventory of all devices and make sure each one has its GPS tracking turned on.
- Install technology to remotely wipe data from any device that has been lost or stolen.
With the appropriate use of communications technology, companies can ensure their culture remains intact. In many offices, chat services have become the communication method of choice due to their ease-of-use and convenience. It makes sense to have the whole team connect with each other through these platforms for quick discussions and collaboration, but it’s also important to provide opportunities for face time. Frequent phone calls and video conferences should be part of your routine with workers to ensure that nothing gets lost in translation via text-based communication.
Make sure to help telecommuters and other remote employees feel like they’re part of the team. When permitted by local authorities, bring telecommuting staff into key meetings. Make an extra effort to keep telecommuters in the loop on company and department news, especially if they spend a significant amount of time working offsite.
It's wise to explicitly state that remote work is a privilege that can be revoked if it's discovered that an employee is not meeting expectations while working outside the office. Management should be measuring results at individual and team levels, holding all staff accountable for their results.
HR and legal staff should review telecommuting programs to make sure your company is in compliance with employment laws. Issues to consider include complications with workers’ compensation matters and state overtime regulations, as well as the matter of individual responsibility for company property used offsite.