How Will Your Company Define WFH Guidelines?
The shift to remote collaboration has presented many unique challenges, but it has also been an eye-opening experience for millions of people who used to work outside the home. The realization that so many jobs can be done well from nearly anywhere has expanded the possibility of offering flexible work options and giving employees more freedom in how to structure the work week.
Not every company can transition to being 100% remote. But if you haven’t seriously considered how you’ll incorporate remote work into your company’s plans for the long term, now is a good time to start.
Why your company needs WFH guidelines
When people began working from home during the onset of COVID-19, there was little to no time to create a formal plan for how WFH would actually work. Now that we’ve settled into new routines and experimented with various collaboration tools, we’ve learned that the office methods and guidelines we formerly relied on don’t necessarily guarantee success in a WFH environment.
Regardless of where people are working, the majority of employees benefit from a sense of structure, consistent messaging, and clear expectations. The more clearly you define expectations for completing tasks in your new setup, the less confused your team will be about what needs to be done and how to do it.
Plus, remote work is a new practice for a lot of people. Your team should know how their roles have evolved and what they can expect from the company in this new work environment. WFH guidelines can give them the clarity they need to move forward with more confidence.
Transparency: the foundation of the document
Trust between coworkers at every level is imperative to the success of any business, but offering more remote work opportunities means relying even more on a person’s trustworthiness. Similarly, employees should be able to expect that the company has their best interest in mind. This is why transparency is so important in creating and maintaining a WFH policy.
Every section of your company’s WFH guidelines is likely to evolve through research, trial-and-error, and employee feedback. Write these guidelines as a living document, knowing that your team will continually collaborate to take the best parts of today’s workplace experiments into the future.
Consider which structures make sense for you
While there are companies who already operate with mostly or completely remote teams, there are many others still determining the right combination of on- and off-site employees. What works for one business won’t necessarily work for everyone, so although you can look at similar companies for ideas, think of this as an opportunity to create your own best practices.
Office, hybrid, and remote teams In August 2020, digital marketing platform HubSpot announced plans to offer its employees three different work options. At the start of 2021, employees can choose to work in the office most days of the week; part-time at the office and part-time at home; or from home most days of the week.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, HubSpot was a self-described “remote-friendly” business where most of their employees worked from company offices. Most companies operate this way. So while it might be hard to imagine doing things differently, HubSpot’s plan demonstrates that with planning and thoughtful consideration, you can find options that work. A few big points to consider include:
- how many employees you have
- how many employees already work remotely
- your total number of office locations
- the span of time zones your employees live/work in
You might also find through firsthand experience or team feedback that certain departments are more readily equipped to work from home. Customer service representatives and sales teams could transition to working off-site, but what about marketing, IT, human resources, etc.? There are likely solutions for each department, though some might require more creativity than others.
And while the flexibility of remote work will be ideal for some people, it’s just as likely you have employees who don’t necessarily want to work from home, or employees who simply can’t. So creating a selection of options can either make the transition easier or give your teams the chance to test run the different scenarios.
Defining productivity, availability, and other expectations One of the chief concerns about people working from home long term is whether or not they would actually be productive. So far, reports have shown that productivity hasn’t suffered to the degree businesses feared (if at all). Teams can maintain and even exceed productivity numbers by determining how, and what, to measure.
There won’t be a one-size-fits-all marker for the entire company. For example, the goals and objectives for the marketing team are going to be measured differently than a sales team. Here are a few questions your teams can discuss to get started:
- How will we delegate assignments and/or divide responsibilities between in-office and remote staff?
- What performance standards have we used in the past, and do they work in a remote setting?
- How will we monitor a project’s progress?
- During what hours are employees expected to be available?
- Should we have timeframes for responding to calls, emails, or other communications?
- How often should team members check in with their managers?
- What will be standard protocol for team meetings and 1-on-1s?
- What apps will we use for collaborating between in-office and remote staff?
Technology and office equipment Remote teams rely heavily on technology to collaborate and communicate with coworkers, so WFH plans must include a focus on equipping team members with tech that will work. This ranges from providing adequate equipment to ensuring reliable internet connections to evaluating data security.
Going back to our HubSpot example, the company clearly outlines what employees can expect in the three different work scenarios. For the team members who work from home, “HubSpot makes sure your WFH set-up is safe, sound, and sets you up for success.” In addition to having the technology to ensure success, employees who primarily work outside the office could also benefit from a home office stipend, since they won’t have regular access to on-site supplies. This can be used to purchase a desk chair, printer, paper supplies, and other must-haves.
Determining compensation and vacation time
Allowing employees to choose where they work best will have an effect on how “office hours” are tracked. Will you have people log in to a time management app, or will it be enough to ask them to be available during certain times? Will output be used to determine if people are doing what is expected?
Time tracking will factor into compensation decisions as well. When people can work from anywhere, what is the best way to decide a position’s salary? It could be based on where company headquarters are located, the average rate in whichever city the employee is living, or a combination of other factors.
Location also comes into play when determining vacation time. Doist, a completely remote company, has people working all around the world, so setting a standard holiday calendar didn’t make much sense. To accommodate the many beliefs, practices, and time zones represented among their employees, they found that offering 40 vacation days to every employee simplified the increasingly complicated situation. Creative solutions like this accommodate every member of the team, regardless of where they work.
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