The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in remote work, and many organizations are considering how to permanently incorporate more flexible work arrangements into their operations. HR professionals are tasked with finding ways to support and manage remote employees and address potential challenges that can arise.
A recent report from Upwork predicted that in the upcoming decade, more than a third of all full-time employees would end up working remotely. The report also revealed that 63% of companies presently have at least some remote workers, though most do not yet have an effective remote working program.
Instead, companies are relying upon unspoken or informal policies. Organizations must adjust and formalize their approach to remote work to be best practice. Communication, fairness, and consistency are key. This will ensure that employees are aware of the expectations placed upon them, whether they are working remotely or in the office. Without clear policies for remote work, workers and their managers can form a gap, causing conflict, decreased productivity, and a lack of communication and trust. So how does one go about fixing this?
Here are some fundamental considerations when establishing a remote work program.
- Qualifying Criteria – establish clear and consistent qualifications that need to be met to be considered eligible for remote work. To implement a remote work program, businesses must first identify which roles are suitable for remote work. In other words, can the location from where the employee is performing the work impact the ability to perform that work? Organizations without roles that can be carried out distantly should make it clear immediately, so there are no future requests or queries concerning remote work.
- Availability – When granting employees the option of working remotely, organizations should clearly state work availability expectations. This could be a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. routine or allowing the staff to establish their own schedules. Having a predetermined schedule for all employees is essential for a successful workplace. Doing so avoids any issues arising from one person having the flexibility to set their hours while another may not. An established response time schedule also needs to be created which outlines the expectations for a timely response to workplace actions and queries.
- Measuring Productivity – Productivity is a critical element of an effective remote work program, and companies must decide how they want to evaluate their employees. This could be based on the project’s duration/deliverables, the number of cases handled, client interactions and even a more subjective feedback loop or survey. Outcomes are most important in establishing productivity.
- Necessary Tools – Organizations must be explicit about what they provide to remote staff to ensure they have the correct tools and resources to perform their duties. This could include stipulating that they will be required to bring their personal computers or other equipment and specific internet speed. The practice of mandating that a company must sign off on an employee’s workspace before allowing them to work remotely should be considered.
- Safety and Confidentiality – Protecting one’s resources is an essential factor to consider. Ensuring that all assets are secure is necessary for individuals and the organization. A significant issue with remote working is cyber security. Establishing secure networks is possible in larger firms, but when the data is removed from the office environment, that protection is not ensured. As well, maintaining the confidentiality of clients is an important responsibility of any service provider. It is essential that those providing a service ensure that their customer’s information and data remain secure and private. This includes keeping sensitive information confidential and not sharing it with anyone outside of the organization.
Overall, an effective remote work program should be transparent, comprehensive, and fair and strike a balance between the employer’s and employees’ needs. By outlining clear expectations and guidelines, a remote work program can help ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals, regardless of location.