Remote work is no longer a matter of yes or no. The question you should be asking, is how to get the best out of it.
The COVID era has brought remote work to the fore. And the last few months have shown, even to the most skeptic, that the future of work lies here.
For many companies around the world, particularly in the tech industry, remote work is nothing new. I believe it’s safe to say that working from home is becoming more of a standard than a trend in our line of work.
In addition to remote clients due to the nearshore outsourcing business model, companies like Cleverti have had employees working remotely for several years. They have rated pros and cons and realized that there are proven benefits for both employees and the business. They have also matured their procedures regarding remote work, long before the pandemic.
Still, this is not a reality for all companies and businesses.
WHY SHOULD YOUR COMPANY ENFORCE A REMOTE WORK POLICY?
In many cases, remote work was a direct, sudden, unexpected, and therefore poorly structured effect of the pandemic. Now the time has come to think things through and do it right.
1. Don’t get caught off guard
Working outside the office cannot be synonymous with mismanagement. You almost certainly have rules for office work and you definitely should have them for remote work. It’s as simple as that.
Whatever options you make, they must comply with your business needs and constraints – full remote, occasional remote, all employees or just a few, etc. One thing you must take for granted though: rules are required. They should be clear, known, and followed by everyone. Whatever happens, this way you won’t be taken by surprise… again?!
2. Make it clear for all
Whether working in or out of the office, your employees need to understand what is expected from them. This is how you set them on the path to a rewarding performance (for them and your company). Some companies have informal, verbal guidelines, regarding remote work but it may not be enough. The lack of a clear, black on white policy gives rise to misinterpretation. Gray areas often lead to unnecessary frustration and demotivation.
A formal remote work policy unifies standards and prevents detachment between team members. With clear rules, your employees don’t need to waste their time and energy trying to figure out how to proceed. Their effort is applied on the tasks assigned to them.
Clarification also fosters alignment between employees and between them and their management. All in all, this leads to a smooth, more productive operation.
3. Strengthen customer confidence
It doesn’t matter if you sell a product or a service; the success of your business relies on the trust that your customers have in your ability to deliver. The physical location of your employees should not be an issue for your customers. At the end of the day, it should be the quality of your delivery to make a difference.
By enforcing a formal remote work policy, you prove your control over the performance of your team, regardless of their location. A well-built policy includes mechanisms to monitor employee productivity and motivation, as well as to regulate practical facets of their job, such as data security and confidentiality. You can even choose to disclose the policy to your customers. From a customer’s point of view, well-defined, transparent rules are comforting and increase loyalty.
MUST-HAVES IN A REMOTE WORK POLICY
There is no one fits all solution for a remote work policy. Depending on your business and operating model, you can have more or less flexibility to enforce it. The hows and whys are intrinsic to your company and must be stated. Ultimately, what you cannot do is leave room for doubt.
1. Entitlement and incidence
You need to start by establishing what positions in your company are fit to work remotely and state it in your policy. Likewise, you need to set the terms of remote working in your company – permanent, temporary, full-time, certain days a week, etc.
2. Equipment and tools
Employees require proper tools to complete their duties. Your policy needs to detail which equipment will be provided by your company on remote assignments, along with the communication and collaboration tools that must be made available.
3. Availability and responsiveness
You may set working hours or let employees make their own schedule, but it must be made clear in your policy. Also, employees must know when they are expected to respond to colleagues, managers, and customers, as well as the means they should use to do so.
4. Monitoring and feedback
Remote workers, as all workers, cannot be left adrift. They need purpose and monitoring. Your policy must be clear on how their performance targets are set and the outcome of their work is measured. You also need to define mechanisms to ensure regular follow-up and feedback. Your managers must understand how they can monitor the performance of employees in remote work, assessing results and quality of delivery. On the other hand, all your employees need a clear view of how to report as quickly as possible any situation that may impact their performance. Finally, you have to make it clear how employees must be available for check-ups and provide any evidence requested.
5. Data security and confidentiality
Keeping data security and confidentiality may become harder outside the office. The mechanisms to assure this must be explicit in your policy, together with any specific requirements and concerns that your business may have.
In just a few months, the world has changed in an unimaginable way, and many dogmas have changed with it. Recent times have brought unprecedented uncertainty, with the COVID crisis shaking world economies badly and exposing significant business vulnerabilities. When we think ahead, there is no way of knowing for sure what the future will bring, in the short, medium, or long run. We do anticipate that we will need to run our businesses amidst waves of disruption. Getting as prepared as we can to this new normal is imperative.
Written by Ana Raposo / HR Manager at Cleverti