In this world where we are continuing to fight waves of COVID, remote work remains a reality for most workplaces. Responses range from embracing remote work as a means of retaining employees, expanding potential employment opportunities and reducing costs to reluctantly allowing remote work to continue only when absolutely necessary. Regardless of preference it is becoming clear that remote work is here to stay in some form or another. Leaving aside the myriad of debates around the benefits or shortfalls of remote work, one thing is clear, having a remote work policy will help you manage expectations and provide a clear basis on which to make decisions. The question is not whether you should have a remote work policy, it is what you should include in it.
Your remote work policy should focus on what is expected of your employees and how performance will be judged. The policy should detail circumstances where remote work will be allowed and expectations that you have for employees while working remotely. The policy should have details relating to all aspects of remote working, including working hours, cybersecurity and confidentiality requirements.
The first step to creating your remote work policy is to decide how employees will be expected to work when they are working remotely and what communication requirements you will have during remote work. It may be that not all roles in your organization are suited to remote work and if there are certain roles that will be excluded from the remote work policy they should be explicitly excluded. Consider how any existing policies in your organization interact with your remote work policy. Will all other policies apply when an employee is working remotely or are there certain policies that are only applicable in the physical workplace?
Consider the equipment needs of your employees to ensure that they are able to effectively work remotely. Will any additional equipment be provided by the employer and will the employer fund things such as the cost of internet at the remote location? Consider confidentiality. Is the nature of work such that requirements should be placed on physical location of remote work to ensure that confidentiality is protected? These should be specifically detailed in your remote workplace policy so remote workers know what is expected of them and what the employer will be doing to assist them.
Managing employees remotely present unique challenges, many of which can be addressed in the remote work place policy. Use your policy to clearly communicate and document what is expected of employees when working remotely. Consider whether your policy should address when employees are expected to be available online and whether you are able to provide flexibility with remote working to allow for the demands of personal lives. If employees will be unavailable during regular working hours due to their personal lives will you have a requirement of reporting in or logging hours? For hourly remote workers ensure that you have a clear process in place for reporting hours and clear policies to ensure that overtime is only worked with approval. Remember that the statutory requirements imposed by legislation such as the Employment Standards Act and the Workers Compensation Act continue to apply to your employees regardless of whether they are working within your workplace or remotely.
Implementing a remote work policy is a necessary step for effective management of the modern workplace. It not only will lessen potential liabilities but it will help manage employees and ensure that remote working is as effective as possible for your workplace.