Coronavirus & Work-life : Best Practices for Work from Home Policy During a Pandemic
The advantages and disadvantages of working from home (WFH) have been well researched, explored, and documented. While a lot of people advocate the policy, many 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 lockdowns 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
Articulate the purpose and the objective you are aiming to achieve with the written policy. Categorically mention if the policy is applicable temporary for dealing with a situation (like the Corona epidemic), for specific employee situations or permanent.
2. Mention Scope
Depending on employee job descriptions, respnsponsibilities, collaborative relationships, other industries they work with, the type of customers they handle, the policy may not be equally applicable to all. Well define the job roles, departments, divisions, locations and where they fall within the WFH policy. Even if the policy applies to all employees, the various positions should be mentioned. It is also advisable to document who is the decision maker as questions will arise and exceptions may need to be made that fall outside the policy. Generally, it is an exective level person or human resources.
3. Specify the Approval Process
While this may not need to be considered if you choose to only offer WFH to tide the company over the COVID-19 situation, but it is an important aspect of an ongoing WFH policy. There should be a clear process laid out for staff to seek approval for WFH, (when, why, how) and it should be documented and published so that all employees are aware. Generally, the process would require submitting a written request along with the situational details needed for a decision to be made. You could even consider creating a pre-defined format of the request to be filled out 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 the difficulty in calculating their total work time and payroll. The WFH policy document should provide information about how the time and attendance will be determined whether is is by volume of work completed, time on CRM or if recorded by the employee and turned in.
The policy document should also provide clarity on whether the employees are expected to work the exact hours of the business or whether they have the flexibility of completing the hours as per their schedule, alternating between the office and home or home schooling responsibilities. Set the expectations that if this varies from employee to employee or team to team, the managers would be the deciding authority.
5. Outline Types of Equipment and Network Requirements
Enabling remote work for employees, a business will surely 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 if they are expected to use their own equipment, connections, etc. The business should set up connectivity or access to work systems or CRMs with necessary security in place, this should not be left up to the employees. Cyber security is too important not to address companywide.
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 tracking programs that employees must respond to or setting up internet hotlines for customers to call in – list them and specifically outline the expectations of employees handling 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 company has secured the employee connections and what company expectations of the employee are on safeguarding 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 have good work ethics during this work from home phase. Do mention and distribute the 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 keeping your business going but also help employees to be connected and productive.