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Remote Work Policy Dos and Don’ts

Toby Graham /

A remote work policy is imperative for virtually any business. It can boost employee productivity, engagement, and retention. It can save an organization tens of thousands or more every month.

And, as we now all know firsthand, a remote work policy can save lives during a pandemic or other public health emergency.

Some context: If you’re reading this blog post anywhere besides your home, you’re either

a) recklessly endangering humanity or

b) making an immense personal sacrifice to do essential work during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

If a: please, please go inside. If b: know that the world sincerely thanks you—we’re going to throw a massive party for you once this is all over.

(Alternatively, you might be reading this article in the future, in which case congratulations are in order—you’re on the other side of a once-in-a-century pandemic. How does it feel?)

Otherwise, if you’re like millions of Americans in Spring 2020, you’re currently working from home. Perhaps your company had a remote policy in place before all this. Or maybe you had no choice but to piece together a remote work arrangement due to CDC guidelines, a shelter-in-place order, social distancing rules, or another forced closure.

In any case, it’s important to recognize that working from home (AKA telecommuting or virtual work) is here to stay—not only in the short term, but probably long after the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, not every organization is doing it right. Some teams are collaborating effectively across distances while others are experiencing technical difficulties and managerial challenges.

Here are a few tips for developing a smart remote work policy.

Do: Think Remote-First

Consider if all or some of your employees can work remotely. Keep in mind the jobs and tasks that could be completed remotely: Which processes can be done anywhere, via an internet-connected device? Are there things you can only do at a shared physical location? For instance, meetings can happen remotely; manufacturing probably can’t happen remotely. Anything you can do remotely you should try to do remotely.

Don’t: Leave Any Employees Out

It’s crucial to balance remote work with your other HR and legal obligations. A work-from-home policy must make reasonable accommodations for any employee with a disability. Before implementing a mandated remote home policy, consult with an attorney to ensure the policy also complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules, and other relevant regulations. You will also want to work with your legal counsel to determine if there are any potential violations to the ADA, EEOC, and so forth

Remember that your work-from-home policy cannot be a means for discrimination against any employees based on an individual’s protected characteristics. For instance, your company can’t send everyone over 60 years old home and force younger employees to come into a physical location.

Do: Make Use of Remote Work Software

There are dozens of software and software-as-a-service solutions organizations can use to perform work remotely. For ongoing communication, there’s Slack, Microsoft Teams, and others. For meetings, there are apps like Zoom and Skype. For collaboration on projects, there are solutions such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Asana. For customer relationship management, there’s Salesforce, Zoho, etc. The list goes on and on. Many of these tools are low-cost or even free to use.

Don’t: Try to Use Everything at Once

Be smart about what technology you use and how you roll it out to your workforce. Remote work is an adjustment; it takes time to get used to. If you overwhelm your employees and managers with a dozen different apps and systems, you risk poor adoption of those tools.

Do: Stay in Touch Remotely

Just because people are working remotely doesn’t mean they need to work alone. Keep the lines of communication open. Have managers check in on employees regularly—through both team meetings and one-on-ones. The goal is to ensure people remain connected, engaged and work, and productive.

Don’t: Micromanage

On the flipside, too many check-ins can backfire. Remote work is naturally less visible than an in-office scenario. You can’t just walk over to someone’s desk and see how they’re doing. You can’t always accurately track an employee’s working hours.

Gartner digital workplace analyst Carol Rozwell recommends shifting away from measuring productivity by hours spent at one’s laptop:

“The key thing is to make sure that you can measure outcomes of work, as opposed to something like the number of hours. If you can measure the outcomes after somebody performs the work remotely, and you got the desired result, then that’s a better situation than trying to measure people on number of hours.”

Do: Think Carefully About Remote Security

Any workplace policy should cover data protection and cybersecurity. Create protocols for securing sensitive business information and customer data, and then train workers on those protocols. You’ll probably have to use software to encrypt your information and restrict access to certain files and folders by user.

Keep in mind that many digital security problems are related to human error. Your people should know how to keep their devices up to date, spot phishing emails, protect their passwords, and perform other basic cybersecurity actions.

Don’t: Invade Your Employees’ Privacy

Your cybersecurity and productivity monitoring tools should not threaten your workers’ privacy. It probably isn’t a good idea to install spyware or surveillance software on your employees’ devices.

Do: Use a Template

Lots of organizations are creating remote work policies right now. You don’t have to start with a completely blank slate. Here’s a great template via SHRM.

Do: Ask for Help

If you’re new to the world of remote work, KPA is here—here as in anywhere you are—to help. Have an HR concern? Need assistance developing your remote policy? Looking for an affordable remote technology solution? Send us an email or give us a call at 866-356-1735.

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