It’s important for employers to put formal policies in place for remote workers so that employees are equipped with clear guidelines, enabling them to focus on the most important thing — doing their jobs.
Formal policies also give companies some rules and structure. One expert warns against sacrificing flexibility though, which is all-important when dealing with a remote workforce.
“One of the keys to having an effective remote work policy is flexibility. Because you are not going to have identical situations in remote workers’ circumstances, you have to allow for flexibility of time and place,” advises Michael D. Haberman, SPHR, VP & director of HR services at Omega HR Solutions.
“The policy needs to focus on outcomes and results. Building a policy that focuses on micro-managing will doom you to failure.”
While obvious details such as remuneration and duties should already be covered in your employees’ contracts, there are areas specific to remote working that need to be covered in your policy. We’ve highlighted four essential areas below.
1. The New Rules
A remote work policy should be drafted in addition to a standard employee contract. Due to the nature of remote working, there might be areas that contradict what has already been laid out in the contract. These areas need to be addressed.
You also need to clarify parts of the original contract which still stand, despite your employee being based remotely. More “woolly” areas — such as conduct, confidentiality, hours of work and who to report to — all have to be crystal clear so that everyone knows where they stand.
Finally on this point, make sure your employee is happy to share contact details with co-workers and business partners when necessary. Have they set up a separate phone line that they don’t mind being shared out? Are they fine with work mail coming directly to their home address or do you need to put a redirect in place? These are small details, but can make a big difference.
2. Equipment and Insurance
For office-based staff, equipment security isn’t usually an issue, but when your workforce is off premises, it becomes an important issue to address in a policy document.
How much equipment are you going to provide your remote worker? Will it just be the techie stuff — a laptop, phone, etc. — or are you prepared to help toward the cost of setting up a home office by contributing furniture, etc.? How does your employee make a request for additional equipment? Who pays if something breaks?
Does the employee need to get insurance coverage for any of your company equipment on their premises?
You must address all these issues in your policy in order to safeguard your company assets — this also ensures that there’s clarity for all involved if something goes wrong or needs replacing.
Remote workers are entitled to expense all materials and equipment they use for work purposes, which can actually amount to a pretty sizable list. Are you offering your remote workers a home-working allowance? In addition to contributing toward their phone bill and electricity, you should also be aware that your remote worker will be footing the bills for incidental heating, lighting and even water costs.
You need to clarify just what you are prepared to contribute toward, and just as importantly, what you expect the employee to do in order to claim such expenses, such as provide copies of bills.
If your remote employee travels as part of his role, travel expenses should also be considered. It should also be made clear who pays the costs if the employee does have to travel to your head office, especially if it’s a considerable distance.
4. Security of Information
The level of security you need to set out in your policy will depend on what kind of business you run. Do you need to insist your employee keeps confidential documents under lock and key? Do you need to specify a secure postal address if and when they return documents to the main office? If so, will you foot the bill?
As far as digital security goes, will you be assisting your employee in ensuring they have a secure home network? Will you offer a site visit?
What happens if there is a breach of security? Does your employee know who to report it to, at all times?
No one likes to think of worst case scenarios, but if you do cover these important bases in your policy, when something does go wrong, you’ll have procedures in place.
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