Coronavirus & Work-life : Best Practices for Work from Home Policy During a Pandemic

Coronavirus & Work-life : Best Practices for Work from Home Policy During a Pandemic

The advantages and disadvantages of working from home have been well researched, explored, and documented. While a lot of people advocate the policy, many of us continue to be the devil’s advocate and are not in favor of ‘working from home’. Regardless, with the proliferation of COVID-19 recently and governments across the globe implementing lockdown to prevent the spread, a lot of businesses are left with no option but to allow their employees to work from home.

In these circumstances, businesses that have not adopted WFH earlier might have jumped into it without a proper policy in place. If yours is one such business, we outline some best practices to help you design an effective WFH policy.

1. Define the Purpose and Objective

Chalk out the purpose and the objective you are aiming to achieve with the document. Categorically mention if the policy is applicable only for dealing with a situation (here Corona epidemic) or for other times as well.

2. Mention Scope

Depending on the employee profile, markets they cater to, the type of customers they handle, the policy may not be equally applicable to all. Define well the kind of profiles that fall within the ambit of the policy, are at the border or out of the scope. Even if the policy applies to all the roles, it should be mentioned. It is also advisable to document who decides on this aspect. Generally, it is the respective line managers.

3. Specify the Approval Process

While this may not be a point to consider if you choose to offer WFH only to tide over the COVID-19 situation, it is an important aspect of the policy otherwise. There should be a process laid out to seek approval for WFH and it should be documented for all employees to be able to know. Generally, the process requires raising a written request along with several details. You could even consider creating a pre-defined format of the request to be filled and submitted.

4. Set Time, Attendance and Availability Expectations

With remote working, tracking the time and availability of an employee might be difficult. This may further cascade to difficulty in calculating their total work time and payments. The WFH policy document should provide information about how the time and attendance have to be recorded by an employee who works from home.  

The policy document should also provide clarity on whether the employees are expected to work the exact hours of office or whether they have the flexibility of completing the hours as per their choice alternating between the office and home responsibilities. Set the expectations that if this varies from employee to employee or team to team, the managers would be the determining authority.

5. Outline Types of Equipment and Network Requirements

Enabling remote working for employees is sure to require them to have access to necessary equipment, network connections, and credentials -  e.g. laptop, charger, a set of headphones, internet connection, VPN, etc. Describe whether the company would provide them these resources or they would be expected to use their own. It should also be mentioned that the security of these devices rests in the hands of the employees.

6. Include details about Communication and Collaboration

With several weeks of continuous remote working by almost all employees, the work and productivity are likely to suffer if proper communication schedules and methods of collaboration are not established beforehand. If you have introduced additional measures for better collaboration – e.g introducing trackers for employees to fill in or setting up hotlines for customers to reach out to you – list them and specifically outline the expectations from employees to handle them.

7. Touch upon Security and Data Breach

Accessibility of the confidential business data outside the office premise poses risks of security and data breach. Your WFH policy should summarize how the employees are expected to safeguard this critical information

8. Create Other Associated Documents

Implementing WFH necessitates the creation of other documents. Some of them could be employees-facing while others may not.

9. Guidelines for Employees

Establishing a set of guidelines is a way to help employees follow good conduct during the phase of work from home. Do mention of this separate document charting guidelines that employees can refer to for being their best during this phase.

10. A Checklist for Business Owner

Such a document should outline tasks to be undertaken by owners or stakeholders - e.g. upgrading insurance policy, maintaining a log of inventory, required communication with customers, etc. This is not an employee-facing document but should not be missed while implementing remote working.

While creating the ‘Work from Home policy’ the key intent should be to set the right expectations and create proper channels to not only help the staff support the business but also mitigate the risks involved. This can go a long way to not only keep your business going but also help employees to be connected and productive.