While working from home, or telecommuting, has become increasingly popular in many workplaces, COVID-19 has now made it a necessity for many organizations. As we continue to adapt to the new normal both during and after the pandemic, it’s clear that allowing employees to work from home will become a more common practice. However, as telecommuting grows in popularity, many employers are unsure how to create and implement a work from home policy.
If your business is drafting a telecommuting policy, consider these five tips to help ensure your policy is effective.
- Define who can work from home
- Set clear expectations
- Establish productivity measurements
- Remember there is no such thing as a standard telecommuting policy
- Seek expert consultation
Continue reading to learn more about creating a work from home policy at your business.
1. Define Who Can Work from Home
One of the first things any employer must consider when drafting or updating their work from home policy is who can feasibly and effectively work from home. In some instances, there may be roles that simply cannot be done remotely. For this reason, it’s important to carefully outline in your telecommuting policy which employees are able to work from home.
In some organizations, it’s helpful to define specific positions or departments that can or cannot transfer to remote work. Or, in organization’s with a less defined structure, your policy may need to set forth employee procedures for submitting a telecommuting request. Each request can then be reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis.
2. Set Clear Expectations for Employees
It’s vital that expectations are clearly outlined for employees who are allowed to work from home. Expectations should include the hours they’re required to work and how communication should be handled. It’s important that employees are aware of the appropriate communication channels, whether it’s instant messaging, video chat, or phone. Employees should also be informed of meeting schedules and when they should be available for communications and updates.
3. Establish Productivity Measurements
A well-developed work from home policy should clearly establish how a remote employee’s productivity will be measured. There are several ways productivity can be measured, including:
- Time tracking, such as the number of hours spent on a project
- Number of cases resolved in a designated amount of time
- Amount and frequency of client interactions over the course of a day, week, or month
Of course, there are a large number of ways to measure productivity. What’s important is making sure that these measures are clear, consistent, and fair. Outlining productivity expectations is an often overlooked, but critically important aspect of a work from home policy. Measuring the effectiveness of telecommuting arrangements is necessary to sustain buy-in for the program.
Setting clear expectations, guidelines, and measurements is also important to help employees understand their role as a remote employee.
4. Remember: There Is No Such Thing as a Standard Telecommuting Policy
It’s easy, and very tempting, to simply go online and search for “work from home policy template” or something similar. While you’re bound to find plenty of examples, including some that only require employers to fill in a few blanks, it’s important to remember every organization is different. Everything from your structure, resources, and needs will differ from other businesses – even those in the same industry.
That means you should avoid boilerplate examples of policies. Instead, it’s important to draft your own telecommuting policy that aligns with your organization. It’s okay to look at general examples to get an understanding for their format and structure; however, take the extra time to carefully consider your own organization’s current policies, needs, and work culture.
Ultimately, an organization’s work from home arrangement will vary greatly depending on the business; however, your HR team will need to develop a clear and comprehensive policy that details exactly how managers can implement it, how employees can use it, and doesn’t conflict with any established policies.
5. Don’t Go It Alone: Seek Outside Consultation
Whenever your company is developing or updating a work policy, it’s always a good idea to seek outside consultation. In the case of implementing a work from home policy, there are potential legal pitfalls that you should avoid.
For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act states that employees must meet certain requirements to be exempt from overtime. When overtime-eligible employees work remotely, it can become challenging to not only track this time accurately, but to counter claims made by employees. That’s why it’s important to make sure your work from home policy is aligned with exemption classifications, to potentially help prevent or defend against future claims of unpaid overtime.
Lancaster Business Law Consultation at Herr & Low, P.C.
The team at Herr & Low, P.C. is experienced in working with businesses both large and small on a number of legal issues. We can help your organization interpret state and federal employment laws to develop a sound work from home policy during COVID-19 and beyond.
We’re also available to help your company with other business concerns, such as contracts, acquisitions, and mergers. If you need help drafting a workplace policy, contact our business law team today to schedule a consultation.