Looking to set up a telecommuting policy for your business?
With the Coronavirus pandemic forcing businesses to adopt telecommuting, establishing a clear-cut telework policy is the need of the hour.
In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about setting up a telework policy. We’ll tell you what telecommuting is, what your teleworking policy should include and how to set up your business for telecommuting.
We’ll also give you a few tips on tools you can use to manage your teleworking employees!
Here’s what this article contains:
- What is telecommuting?
- What is a telecommuting policy?
- What should your telecommuting policy include?
- How to set up an employee for telecommuting
Let’s get started.
What is telecommuting?
Telecommuting (also known as teleworking) is an arrangement where employees work from home or another remote work location. Telecommuting can either be a part-time or full-time arrangement.
Teleworking can be the default employment condition (like in fully remote companies) or something granted to specific employees during specific times (like the current pandemic).
Types of telecommuting arrangements
There are two main types of telecommuting arrangements.
Let’s take a look at them:
1. Regular telecommuting
Regular telecommuting arrangements usually take place in firms that are fully or partially remote – like many startups.
These arrangements are supported by written contracts that detail the specifics and requirements of the arrangement. Sometimes, a regular telecommuting arrangement can even be limited to a defined period like a month or quarter.
2. Occasional telecommuting
These teleworking requests are usually granted to selected employees on a case by case basis. Occasional telecommuting arrangements need to be approved by supervisors and need the employees to meet certain suitability conditions.
When are they suitable?
Usually, businesses approve occasional teleworking when the employee:
- Has an approved personal need at home.
- Has a temporary workplace disruption (like office renovation)
- Has sick family members to tend to temporarily.
- Has other reasons approved by their manager.
What is a telecommuting policy?
A telecommuting policy is a set of rules and guidelines that detail how remote employees should engage in their remote work.
These policies can cover everything from selecting eligible employees for telecommuting to setting up a remote work location and how to handle workers’ compensation.
A telework policy is designed to spell everything out so that nobody’s confused about how to proceed with work while they’re at home.
What should your telecommuting policy include?
Since a telecommuting policy needs to cover everything a remote employee needs, drafting it can be tiresome.
But that’s only if you don’t know what to cover.
There are several key areas that have to be addressed in any telecommuting policy.
Once you get those covered, you should be fine!
Here’s a look at the essentials of any teleworking policy:
1. Eligibility of employees
Unless you’re a fully remote company, you can’t have everyone trying to work from home, right?
Before you decide to allow an employee to telecommute, evaluate these factors:
Note: Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, most employees are required to work from home by default. Use these eligibility criteria to evaluate telecommuting requests once the virus has died down and normal work schedules have resumed.
A. Suitability of the employee
Request the employee’s direct supervisor to assess the employee’s needs and work habits. You will have to compare these traits with those that are recognized as successful telecommuting traits to determine your worker’s eligibility.
B. Job responsibilities of the employee
Talk to your employee and discuss their job responsibilities. This is needed because you have to determine if the job is appropriate for a telecommuting arrangement.
For example, think of an IT technician and a content writer working at a marketing firm. While the content writer can still churn out articles while working at home, the IT technician has to work on-site to resolve technical issues and keep the servers running.
C. Remote workspace conditions
Discuss what the employee’s remote workspace would look like. Ideally, your employee should be in a quiet work environment with ample natural lighting and ventilation. Additionally, if it’s a technical job, they need to have the necessary environment to carry out their job.
D. Legal and tax implications
Ensure that you’re aware of any state and local government laws that apply to telecommuting settings before letting anyone work from home.
2. Work hour expectations
Before your telecommuting employee starts working remotely, communicate your workweek expectations clearly. Remote workers have to be available for at least a few hours every work day to communicate with the team.
If your team is dispersed around the world in different time zones, there will only be a couple of hours where everyone’s schedules overlap. Ensure all your telecommuters dedicate those hours to collaboration and team meetings.
3. Work equipment expectations
Ensure the employee has their own equipment set up at a remote workplace to complete all the work assigned to them. In addition to a laptop and a good internet connection, having tools like a printer and a scanner can come in handy.
Remember that you may have to provide your employee with some of the office supplies necessary to conduct tasks specific to your business.
4. Employee productivity
When your employee works at the office, you can easily keep an eye on them to see if they’re being productive.
However, when an employee shifts to a telecommuting program, it can be difficult to continuously monitor them to ensure they’re working properly.
Before allowing an employee to work from home, ensure they know the responsibilities they have as a remote employee. Listing out the consequences of being unproductive during teleworking in the telecommuting policy may also motivate your employees to stay productive.
Plus, you can always use productivity management software to keep track of your remote workers!
5. Information security
At the office, you probably have a secure network to prevent data breaches.
But how can you protect your data when your employees work from home?
After all, a home network can easily be hacked into, right?
The first step in preventing data breaches during teleworking is to set some data security guidelines in place. You can specify certain anti-virus, anti-malware and VPN tools that need to be installed before they get to work.
To protect against cyberattacks on your employees, make sure they run the latest versions of each software and encourage them to use separate devices for work and personal use if possible.
6. Communication guidelines
When teleworking comes into the equation, it’s essential to establish clear communication methods between a telecommuter and your business.
Tools like Slack are great for text-based communication and you can use a platform like Google Drive to share files among your team. However, don’t underestimate the power of video calling tools like Zoom to ensure clear communication among your team members.
Define weekly team call times to bring your co-workers closer while clearing out any issues your telecommuting employees can have.
Additionally, have a specified set of tools for use within your organization. For example, if you use Slack for texts and Google Drive for file sharing, ensure all your employees use them. This way, employees won’t use several tools for the same task and all your data stays organized.
7. Repercussions for not abiding with the telecommuting policy
While most of your teleworking employees will likely put in their best, there can be a few telecommuters who neglect their responsibilities at home.
These employees can negatively affect the performance of the team, which translates to poor organizational performance.
To avoid this, set clear-cut instructions over what workers are expected to do and the consequences of not abiding by these guidelines.
For example, you can set a disciplinary action for consistent social media usage during work hours to deter this from happening.
8. Acknowledgment of receipt
Ensure that your telecommuting policy has a section that requires the employee to sign and acknowledge receipt of the policy.
This is a safeguard against any legal problems you may have to face regarding the telecommuting arrangement. It’s also essential when dealing with repercussions for not abiding by the policy. As telecommuters have signed off on this, they can’t argue with the implications of their behavior.
How to set up your company for telecommuting
Setting up an employee to work from home can’t be done overnight.
There are several steps involved in finalizing a telework arrangement.
Let’s take a look at what you need to set up an employee for telecommuting:
1. Determine employee and supervisor suitability for telework
Not every employee is cut out for remote work.
While some employees excel at working from home, some can’t manage it and it’ll severely affect their performance.
So before you approve an employee to work from home, check if the employee can:
- Accomplish their work independently.
- Prioritize work assignments and meet deadlines.
- Communicate effectively with colleagues and clients.
- Manage their time effectively.
But ensuring the employee is ready for telework isn’t enough.
Before you approve the telework request, check with the employee’s supervisor and make any required changes to the team reporting structure. This way, your remote employees will be managed effectively too.
2. Assess company resources to cope with telework
While teleworking can benefit your employees and business, managing remote workers can be time consuming and costly.
Remember, it’ll require tons of back and forth communication and adjustments. This will require at least one supervisor to stay focused on your remote employees full-time.
You’ll also need to invest in team management software to make the best use of your remote employees. Ensure that your company can dedicate the required resources to manage your teleworkers and increase their productivity.
3. Draft the telework agreement
Once all the requirements are fulfilled and the employee has been cleared for teleworking, it’s time to draft the agreement.
Keep in mind that unless you’re a fully remote or partially remote company, telework agreements are usually voluntary. So no employee is required to telecommute unless they’re willing to.
Here’s a basic layout of what to include in your telework agreement:
- Work schedule that specifies days, locations and hours for teleworking.
- Duration of the telecommuting program.
- Methods and tools for communication.
- Responsibility for any of the telework equipment provided by the company.
- Situations that will require attendance at the work site.
You can go through the section above to get an in depth look at what your telecommuting agreement should include.
4. Implement the telecommuting agreement
Once the draft is completed, you can implement the teleworking arrangement. The first thing to do is set up an office space at the employee’s home or any other approved location.
Once the equipment is installed and the setting up of the work area is completed, you can get the employee to install the relevant software and transfer all their office data through the cloud.
However, if your business uses custom software solutions, you will have to send an in-house IT technician to help set up the necessary software on the employee’s computer.
Once the employee starts telecommuting, carefully monitor them for around two weeks to check how things are going and rectify any technical issues.
5. Regularly assess team performance and make necessary changes
Think your work is done after you set up an employee for remote working?
Now comes the most important part of the telework arrangement.
You have to monitor your remote team’s job performance continually.
You can easily monitor an in-house worker’s performance, but when employees are working remotely, how can you know:
- What tasks they are up to
- How long they work for
- How productive they are
Thankfully, remote productivity management tools like Time Doctor can help you manage your remote employees with ease.
Time Doctor is a powerful time tracking and employee management tool used by the likes of Apple and Verizon. Even many SMEs use Time Doctor to boost the productivity of their workers.
Here’s a look at what Time Doctor can offer you:
- Simple time tracking for your remote employees.
- Detailed reports to see how productive your employees are.
- Distraction management feature that helps your employees stay focused.
- Built-in inactivity tracker that prevents employees from wasting time.
Due to COVID-19, many businesses have been forced to give their employees the chance to work from home in 2021. And that means ensuring that employees have everything they need for teleworking.
But don’t worry.
Setting up a telecommuting policy doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
All you have to do is follow the tips we’ve mentioned in this article – and you’ll be on your way to managing a successful remote workforce in no time!
Liam Martin is the co-founder of Time Doctor—one of the world’s leading time tracking software for remote teams. He is also the co-organizer of Running Remote, the world’s largest remote work conference.