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Remote Work Policies
That Win in the New Era

A laptop on a desk shows on the screen a group of people having an online meeting and a background with colorful messages.
Hacking HR Team

Posted on March 28, 2024

If you told your employees that flexible work options are essential to your company, but your HR policies have stayed the same since 2019, who would they believe? Remote and hybrid work is the new normality as approximately 40% of remote-capable employees in the US have shifted from working entirely on-site to hybrid and fully remote models —less time in traffic and more time to have a morning breakfast— which leads to higher employee engagement and work-life balance. So, with those numbers in mind, companies that cling to rigid, office-centric HR strategies are sabotaging their ability to attract, retain, and truly engage the best talent.

The solution is about more than just letting people work from home. It's about crafting an HR strategy that intentionally supports and empowers a remote workforce. A well-designed remote work policy is your roadmap for success in this new landscape. It's the key to demonstrating you are a forward-thinking, employee-centric company ready to thrive in the future of work.

What is a Remote Work Policy?

Simply put, a remote work policy is a formal document that outlines expectations, guidelines, and support structures for employees working outside the traditional office environment. Think of it as a guide for successful remote work. It provides clarity for both employees and the company and ensures everyone is on the same page about the unique aspects of remote collaboration.

Nonetheless, it's far more than just a set of rules. A well-crafted remote work policy serves as:

  • A Shared Framework: It establishes a common understanding of how remote work functions within your company. This includes eligibility requirements and performance expectations for communication and technology access.

  • A Blueprint for Collaboration: It defines how teams interact and work together effectively, even when not physically in the same space. This might cover preferred communication channels, meeting protocols, and maintaining team culture in a remote environment.

  • A Risk Mitigation Tool: A comprehensive remote work policy addresses potential concerns like data security, cybersecurity, and work-life boundaries. By proactively outlining these measures, employees and the company are better protected.

An infographic titled '3 Essentials of a Remote Work Policy' shows a globe with three circles with decorative icons and three text boxes with the labels 1. a shared framework 2. a blueprint for collaboration 3. a risk mitigation tool

Why is a Remote Work Policy Important?

You've just spent an hour commuting home, only to be greeted with emails that demand immediate attention. Or you may be missing out on your child's school event because you're stuck in the office, even though your work could be done from home. These are the frustrations that outdated work policies create.

A well-designed remote work policy gives employees the flexibility they need to thrive in their work and lives. However, the benefits go beyond individual employees. A solid policy helps forward-thinking companies attract top talent, improve productivity, and make their businesses more resilient in an ever-changing world.

How to Implement a Remote Work Policy - Key Strategies

The foundation of a successful remote work policy isn't just about saying "yes" to working from home. It's about being intentional about shaping your remote workforce. Let's explore critical strategies that will set your remote employees (and your business) up for long-term success.

1. Eligibility with Intention

Only some jobs or people are well-suited for remote work success. A thoughtful approach to eligibility sets the foundation for a thriving remote workforce. Here's what to consider:

  • The Job Itself: Can the core tasks and responsibilities be effectively performed outside a traditional office? Are there frequent in-person client meetings or tasks tied to specific physical equipment? Be realistic here.

  • The Individual's Workstyle: Is the employee self-motivated, organized, and a strong communicator? Remote work demands more self-direction than office environments – acknowledge that not everyone thrives in this.

  • Building Trust: Start with a precise trial period for new remote employees. It allows the employee and manager to assess whether it's a good fit, building trust in the process.

Why go beyond just listing eligible jobs?

  • Attracts the RIGHT Talent: A clear policy helps candidates self-select. Those who need a structured office environment won't waste their time (or yours) applying to a fully remote role.

  • Mitigates Fairness Issues: Transparent criteria prevent your policy from feeling arbitrary or unfair, heading off potential conflicts down the road.

  • Sets Realistic Expectations: Employees and managers enter the remote arrangement clearly, understanding what's required for success, not just a vague idea of "working from home."

2. Tech Tools + Cybersecurity Savvy

Let’s say your remote employee has a brilliant idea but can't access the necessary files from home. Or worse, a data breach exposes sensitive company information due to a lack of security protocols. IT and HR must be on the same page to make remote work efficient and secure.

The Tech Basics: Partner with IT to define:

  • What software and hardware are essential for remote employees, and who will provide it (company or employee-owned)?

  • How remote workers gain secure access to the company network, cloud-based tools, etc.

  • The level of tech support remote employees can expect, including response times for troubleshooting.

  • Cybersecurity for Everyone: Do not assume employees are tech-savvy. Mandate cybersecurity training for all remote workers. It should cover password hygiene, phishing scams, and the safe handling of sensitive data.

  • Collaboration in the Cloud: Identify effective virtual communication and teamwork tools. Go beyond email and choose platforms encouraging asynchronous collaboration for flexibility across time zones.

  • The Human Side of Tech: Offer training on using the selected tools effectively, especially for employees less familiar with online collaboration. A clunky tech experience equals frustrated remote workers.

3. Communication as a Superpower

You can pop over to a colleague's desk for a quick chat in the office. Remote work demands a more intentional approach to communication to keep everyone aligned and connected.

Set Clear Expectations:

  • What are the preferred communication channels (quick question vs. project update vs. team meeting)?

  • Establish norms around response times. Is instant response necessary, or are employees empowered to manage their workdays with some flexibility?

  • Discuss how to handle time-sensitive matters or urgent issues that arise.

  • Overcommunication is Your Friend (At First): Remote work can feel isolating, especially for new hires. Encourage regular check-ins, virtual team-building activities, and even dedicated "watercooler chat" channels to maintain a sense of belonging.

  • Video Calls for the Win: Opt for video calls over faceless emails or chats whenever possible. Video calls build rapport and help avoid misunderstandings that can creep in with purely text-based communication.

  • Document Decisions: Have a central (and easily accessible) place to document meeting notes, project updates, and important decisions. This prevents the dreaded "Where did we leave off?" confusion.

  • Feedback Loops are Essential: Ensure managers and remote employees have regular one-on-one check-ins to discuss performance, challenges, and growth opportunities. This is especially necessary in the absence of informal office feedback.

Beyond the Practical: Fostering Connection

  • Virtual "Culture Carriers": Identify employees who excel at building relationships remotely. Encourage them to organize informal virtual coffee breaks or team events to maintain your company's unique culture.

  • Recognize and Celebrate Wins (Remotely): Public recognition is even more important when teams aren't physically together. Highlight remote employee achievements in company-wide emails or virtual events.

4. Focus on Outcomes, Not Clock-Watching

It's time to break free from the outdated mindset that equates time in an office with productivity. Remote work demands a shift toward results-oriented management. Here's how to make it work:

  • Goal-Setting is Key: Collaborate with managers to define measurable goals for each remote employee that align with broader team and company objectives.

  • Prioritize Output, Not Optics: Train managers to evaluate performance based on the quality and timeliness of work. Focus on results, not how long someone is glued to their screen.

  • Trust and Transparency: Regular progress updates build trust between managers and employees. Open communication mitigates fears that come with a less centralized workforce.

  • Embrace Flexibility and Asynchronous Work: As long as goals are met, empower remote employees to manage their time. This recognizes that only some people perform their best during traditional 9-5 hours.

  • Tech for Tracking Progress: Select project management tools that offer transparency around task completion, deadlines, and potential roadblocks. This helps both the employee and their manager stay aligned.

An Infographic titled 'Remote Work Policy Implementation' shows a detailed roadmap with the strategies to put in place for successful remote work settings.

Final Thoughts

The future of work is remote—it's no longer a question of if but how effectively your company will adapt. An intentional remote work policy is a strategic lever for attracting top talent, boosting employee engagement, and future-proofing your organization.

It’s your opportunity to reimagine work for the 21st century. Start by reviewing your current policies (or lack thereof!), assessing the gaps, and taking the first steps towards a remote strategy that empowers your people and your business to thrive.

The Challenge: Are you ready to evolve your HR mindset and create a workplace where flexibility and results are prioritized? If you still need to start a comprehensive remote policy, now is the time. Tap into the expertise at Hacking HR. Our upcoming Fundamentals of HR—Cohort 2 certification will give you the practical tools and strategies to revamp your policies for the era of remote work.

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