With the rise of work-from-home, it's getting increasingly more important to put the agreements, requirements and responsibilities of each party down in writing, as part of a Remote Work Policy or "Work from Home" Agreement. But what should be included in one of those contracts and why are they needed?
What is a remote work policy?
A remote work policy can either be an organization-wide document that captures rules and regulations around remote work or an addition to an existing employment contract, listing new requirements and responsibilities as an employee goes remote.
In particular, the second case is more relevant than ever, as thousands of organizations migrate to a remote-friendly working environment in the face of COVID-19 and its long-term effects on the workforce.
As part of the official remote work policy, you would go over changes to working hours, the scope of the work agreement, responsibilities of the remote worker during their days working from out of the office and more important rules for grey areas, like what happens with company equipment or who is responsible for office-related costs.
Remote work policies are often a slim contract to sign, rarely ranging over two full pages and are therefore often overlooked. You may not need it, but it's better to be on the safe side.
Why should I have a remote work policy?
While one big part of the remote work policy is about managing expectations and clarifying the scope – something that could potentially be done in an internal memo as opposed to a formal contract – the other half is for legal coverage as well.
For example, it's important to put the policy behind relocations and compensation plans down in writing. Folks need to adhere to security measures to make sure that internal data isn't leaked. In addition, the protection of intellectual property when someone works without strict working times from home should be regulated as well.
Overall, in many existing employment contracts, performing work and protecting intellectual and physical property is only covered in the office. To expand coverage, it's necessary to add the exception of remote working as a possible avenue as well.
How to create a work-from-home agreement
A work-from-home agreement isn’t hard to write and it will provide coverage for your company. If you want to protect yourself and your employees from harm, these areas should make it into the policy.
Remember that this is just a sample remote work policy. As you build your own policy, be sure to consider your company’s unique needs and personalize a WFH policy template according to your needs.
Before you specify your remote work policy, consider who will be eligible to work from home. For example, is this benefit available to all employees? Is it available for all days of the week or just a few? Will employees have to request WFH time? It’s essential to clarify eligibility for remote work from the get-go.
Scope & Duration
There are dozens of variations on remote work. You may have a mixed model, where folks spend a few days per week at home. You may have a work-from-home policy that allows people to take a certain amount of home office days. You might be partly remote, with some employees in the office and another batch remotely or finally, you may be fully remote, with no office whatsoever.
Especially during the pandemic, you may want to have a limited transition to remote work for a while. You may want to specify that folks can work fully remote for the summer, to avoid the hot office that doesn't run A/C. There are no limits to possible configurations that you might create.
Your working from home policy template should include:
- the kind of remote work you would like to allow,
- the limits of it
- and the responsibilities involved.
Relocation & Compensation
If you run a fully remote operation, it's more than reasonable for employees to decide to move somewhere else, where they prefer. Your job as an employer is to build a relocation strategy and decide whether the overall compensation is bundled with the location of an employee. You might also start to think about international contracts and compliance.
Additionally, it's often expected or even governed by the law that you as an employer have to reimburse office-related costs. As our homes turn into offices, where do you draw the line? It's common to cover internet and electricity, but you might also want to cover part of the rent or a fixed desk in the office.
If you expect employees to travel to a main headquarters a few times per year, that should be put down in writing as well. For example, your sample remote work policy should mention how much is covered during that period of travel and what needs to be paid by the employee.
Remote Working Requirements
Not all remote work is made equal. You should be clear what's expected from your newly transitioned remote workers and set forth limits. For example, while you may have used time tracking before to record working times, that's no longer feasible when working from home. After all, it's sometimes hard to draw the line between the professional and personal at home.
At the very least, your WFH policy template should specify the minimum requirements to make this set up work: Employees should work from somewhere where they are not distracted – in front of the TV or on a beach is typically not a feasible place for focused work. A stable internet connection is a must, so it needs to be arranged either at home or at a shared office.
Breaks are still crucial to recharge, so prevent folks from working for hours on end, at nights or weekends. Unless they take the days off otherwise, it's usually not a long-term solution. Finally, make sure that communication is set up in a way that works for everyone. Either being available on Zoom and Slack during working hours or fully implementing async communication.
Changes to Existing Policies
If you are transitioning from office to remote work, you might have multiple policies already in place that are interfering with your move to remote work. A common policy is in-person time, for example. If you previously had a policy that employees have to be in the office between certain times on a workday, that is no longer possible. The same counts for certain perks or dress codes.
You will also want to specify if a new policy replaces an old one. For example, your intellectual property policy usually overwrites the one already agreed on in the employment contract. New security measures might come into place and there will be new rules about taking equipment home.
Equipment & Security
Finally, the way you handle your equipment changes with a transition to remote work. It's traditionally the case that all work done on office machinery belongs to the company, but as people work from home and might mix private and work, that can often come back to bite you.
Additionally, more security measures need to be in place. It's often a good idea to specify these needs in a sample remote work policy. For example, you might require office traffic to go through a VPN, use a certain standard for passwords and have documented policies on theft or data loss.
Optional areas of a sample remote work policy
The best sample remote work policy should also include optional areas that lead to better WFH results. These guidelines can be used to improve virtual teaming overall. For example, here are some areas to consider adding:
- Teaming etiquette. Your employees will be more productive and happier if they understand daily expectations. For example, set the ground rules for virtual meeting etiquette, such as muting microphones.
- Working hour guidelines. It’s also important for teams to respect working schedules. For example, it’s a good idea to add guidelines such as no email sending after 7 p.m. at night.
- Team building. Creating a good rapport with your teams is vital. Consider rules of engagement such as guidelines for team building. Can workers have virtual coffee dates during working hours? Is there at least one in-person event per year? You decide!
- Streamline communication. Define what tools should be used for communication and collaboration, so there’s no confusion.
In addition, your remote work policy will depend on your geographical region as well. For example, a typical remote working policy template UK will include homeworking guidelines according to local British law.
Best practices for work from home policy samples 2021
In addition to the key areas mentioned above, every WFH policy template should follow best practices. This includes values such as:
- Clear wording, so the contract is easy to understand.
- Rule enforcement policies, so the consequences of breaking them are straightforward.
- Educating employees on the policy, so that there’s no confusion about it.
- Signing the policy with every new update, so that everybody’s literally on the same page.
- Regular review of the policy, so your company can adapt to new needs over time.
Finally, even though working from home policy templates can define all areas of work, you should try to build a team based on trust. The more flexibility and trust you give your employees, the more likely you’ll create an excellent work environment.
Download our sample Remote Work Policy PDF
Excited to see what a remote work policy could look like? Let us help you out.
This is just one of many work from home policy samples 2021. With it, you can create a policy that’s legally compliant and includes a full scope of WFH issues. Don’t forget about following best practices too, such as rule enforcement.
Remember that a working from home policy template should be personalized to your company’s needs. To help you build a better remote work strategy, you can get even more resources on NoHQ.
By now, you should know the ins-and-outs of work-from-home agreements. The only thing left to do is to implement it. Best of luck!