Covid-19 has plunged most companies across the world into an era of remote working. While some companies like remote-first startups and the tech giants have been experimenting with remote work for a while, others have been taken completely by surprise.
Our business was envisaged and built as a remote-first company. With a crew of over 50000+ remote software engineers, we had to figure out a way to make remote work effective — way back when we started in 2017.
Every Company Needs A Remote Work Policy
Office is no longer what it used to be. The biggest hindrance to remote work was not it’s implementation or execution, but the inertia of going remote. The pandemic has undeniably changed our views and workflows, and now, it likely to stay that way.
Remote has become our new normal. Between increased employee productivity and decreased business costs, a lot of companies are looking to become fully remote even post-crisis. Workforce globally, has learnt to balance work and life.
Amid this, remote work is no longer a perk or an added benefit, but an expectation.
What Should Your Remote Work Policy Look Cover
- Purpose of policy
- Defining remote work
- Defining employee
- Nature of remote work (full remote/partial/one-off)
- Support/benefits (as applicable)
- Terms for attendance/record
- Communication protocols
- Hardware and software policies
- Related policies such as leave, etc.
How To Build The Policy
- Setting expectations
- Considerations and decisions
- Benefits/legal rights
- Dynamic policy
In the last three years, here are some of our biggest learnings when it comes to drafting our remote work policy:
Who Works From Home And How Often
Some positions are much more amenable to remote work than others. Having said that, given that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, the goal is to ensure that people can work remotely to the maximum possible extent.
A good remote working policy will have to incorporate clear guidelines on how frequently the employee can work from home — based on the role and position. It’s important to have these guidelines laid down very clearly so that there’s no scope for backlash later. If you can design these guidelines after a consultative process with the various teams and employees, it will be far more successful.
Availability Of Employees
This is one of the most tricky aspects of establishing a remote working policy. While most companies are being forced to work remotely due to the pandemic, remote working has certain intrinsic advantages. This is the era of the knowledge worker — and for many companies, the productivity of their employees is the only difference between success and failure.
In such circumstances, remote working can give employees the flexibility that they need to perform at their peak. While it may seem tempting to simply set a 9-6 clock-in clock-out policy, it may not be the optimal course of action. Not to mention, it is advisable to have overlapping work hours across different time zones.
Break down the availability requirements team-wise. Figure out the key times when the team members need to be available to work on collaborative tasks and enforce availability only for those hours. Keep some flexibility for when employees want to work on their individual tasks — whether that’s at 5 am or 11 pm.
Overcommunication is the key to successful remote work. There is no scope anymore for casual cooler chats, chai breaks, or interpretation of body language. Which means everything that needs to happen needs to be communicated.
Build every single aspect of communication into your remote working policy — whether that’s a daily scrum meeting, informal brainstorming sessions, or one-on-one reviews.
When it comes to text-based communication, make the guidelines as specific as you can. Define the channel of communication (Slack, Email, Trello, etc), the expected availability on the channel, and the response time that’s expected. Setting up some asynchronous communication channels is advised too.
Identifying The Right Metrics
With more flexibility comes more responsibility. Since managers are no longer going to be able to micromanage their employees, it’s important to align them with the goals of the company. For metrics to be effective, there are two kinds of metrics that need to be taken into account — outcome-based (or Output Metrics) and process-based (or Input Metrics).
Let’s take the example of a B2B sales executive. Output metrics for this employee would probably be things like Revenue, the number of clients acquired and so on. However, having only output metrics isn’t enough. It’s also important to build a set of Input Metrics — something that is more directly controllable by the employee — and have them accountable for those as well. In this example, Input Metrics would include things like emails sent to prospects, follow-ups completed, meetings scheduled, meetings conducted, and so on.
Security And Confidentiality
Security is an important concern with remote work. When you’re working from an office, a secure network is guaranteed, but this goes out of the window with remote working. Make sure you have policies in place to make sure that information stays secure. For instance, if there’s a guideline against using public Wi-Fi, then it needs to be mentioned in the policy.
A good remote work policy also needs to take care of client confidentiality. It’s important to mention things that could potentially compromise client confidentiality. For instance, taking a sensitive client call at a cafe could be a big no-no for your organization. Whatever the non-negotiables are, make sure they are spelt out in the policy and communicated clearly.
Covid-19 may have forced the world into working remotely, but this could be an incredible opportunity to work towards a more productive work paradigm. When you’re drafting policies for remote work, it might be a good idea to focus on building a more flexible, productive future rather than trying your best to maintain the pre-Covid status quo.