How To Build A Remote Work Policy + Examples
Remote work policies and telecommuting strategies that work for any team. Free downloads included.
2020 has changed the way we work. The following examples of remote work policies and work from home agreements should help you to navigate the transition from office-based to remote-first.
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy defines how employees can work from an alternative space to the office, whether it’s for a permanent or temporary time period.
Rodolphe Dutel, founder of remote jobs board Remotive, believes building an effective remote policy is like setting ground rules for everyone to follow. "For instance, remote teams can be 100% distributed, hybrid, or "only remote on Fridays". Everything can work. The important thing is that teammates know where they stand, what they can or can't do. The more "remote" your team is, the more your remote policy becomes important. Mostly because teammates can't just ask questions in the hallway anymore. That's why huge remote companies such as GitLab have collaborative handbooks. Printed, it would consist of over 7,000 pages of text. Imagine that!"
Remote Work Policy Checklist
Most policies should include:
- Agreed Communication
This should outline how you'll be in touch with the rest of the team, and how frequent communication should be. This might mean being available on Slack all day, doing check-ins via email, or staying in touch over the phone. There should also be an agreed response time for each platform, so that issues can be resolved quickly.
- Agreed Work Schedules
This includes scheduled availability for the employee and employer, so it's easy to get in touch when necessary.
- Company Data Monitoring & Privacy
If you work for a company where the data needs to be kept secure and confidential, there should be measures to keep it safe when working away from the office. This may include IP addresses or portals for individual employees to use.
- Responsibilities of Remote Employees
It's not as easy to communicate responsibilities if you're not in the same room, these should be firmly outlined so all parties can work independently, without constant communication.
- Home Office Stipend
Many companies choose to include a stipend for home offices. If you will be including a fund for working from home, the amount should be specified here, as well as how to claim it.
Free Templates for Remote Work Policy
- University of Surrey (PDF - no sign up)
- Society for Human Resource Management (Microsoft Word Doc - no sign up)
- Owl Labs (eBook - sign up required)
Types of Remote Work Policies
Generally, a company’s stance on remote work may be remote-first, partially remote, or fully remote. Buffer’s scale provides a great overview of remote work stances.
What does 'remote-first' mean?
If you’re remote-first, it means remote is the default, even if you have conversations in person. Typically, this means everything needs to be transcribed within a transparent conversational log (Slack), or email, at least. This is to keep each employee informed, ensuring no one is at a disadvantage for not being present during the conversation.
What does partially remote mean?
Part of your team is in an office, or has the ability to work from a team office when they choose. You could still be ‘remote-first’, and partially remote.
What does fully remote mean?
There is no designated office location for the team, it is a 100% remote company.
Remote Work Strategies for Teams
Office-based project management works by using instant communication between team members in one space - this method does not translate to remote work. The following ideas allow you to develop better strategies for a distributed, remote team.
Remote Work Strategies for Small Teams (-10)
One of the big focuses for small teams is asynchronicity.
Firstbase, a team of under 10, suggests ‘the instantaneous gratification of adult kids club distraction factory offices make people feel busy without allowing them to be productive’. By working asynchronously - this means not constantly communicating about work on IM - you allow your team to focus on deep work, and sync up with relevant colleagues at a later, appropriate time.
Remote Work Strategies for Medium Sized Teams (10-100)
You might find that mixing remote work policies from bigger teams (take Spotify’s Agile Scaling System) may fit with your own - Doist (68 employees) use the ‘DO System’, based on output from teams, rather than outcome.
Medium sized companies including Doist also claim that hiring ‘Jack & Jills of all Trades’ can be key for making sure work still gets done fast with a smaller team. By hiring ‘proactive, curious people who take ownership over learning new skills’, you eliminate wasting time over responsibilities or smaller tasks.
Remote Work Strategies for Large Teams (100+)
Let’s take Disney, for example. They split their company into smaller squads with ‘micro’ responsibilities and tasks, working with Agile practices. By ensuring everyone is responsible for their own tasks, and each team member being responsible for their own output, they can still achieve the granular detail you would see from a small team - with a company of more than 223,000 employees. These telecommuting policies work for a number of companies, including Spotify, Apple and IBM.