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Updated May 06, 2024

5 Work-From-Home Issues Your Telecommuting Policy Should Address

Your remote workers should abide by these crucial parameters to ensure security, productivity and collaboration.

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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Many employees long to work outside the office, and this option is a dream come true for those who want a better work-life balance. However, without guidelines, managing remote employees can quickly become a manager’s worst nightmare. As your company grows, it’s a good idea to establish a formal telecommuting policy to help you keep track of employees who work remotely and ensure everyone is performing at their peak, regardless of location.

5 issues your telecommuting policy must address

Managing a remote workforce will look different for every business depending on its industry, company type and more. However, all organizations considering allowing remote work should address the following issues in their telecommuting policy:

1. Eligibility

Who will be eligible to work from home? Working from home sounds like a cool job perk in theory, and many employees may jump at the chance. However, not everyone can be productive when the boss isn’t down the hall to check on them, and not everyone has the personality to work from home.

When crafting a remote work policy, employers must first consider whether potential remote employees’ attitudes and work ethics align with the company’s telecommuting expectations. 

“Managers should accommodate on a case-by-case basis to do what’s best for the company, its team members and the project at hand,” advised Phil Shawe, president and CEO of translation technology company TransPerfect. 

Kim Davis, board member and former executive vice president and chief HR officer at benefits broker NFP, advises setting eligibility guidelines for remote workers that may include the following: 

  • Nature of a position
  • How long a person has been at the company or in their current role
  • Past job performance
  • How frequently a staff member can telecommute

2. Expectations for work hours

Your telecommuting policy should clearly outline acceptable work hours, accountability measures, and performance expectations: 

  • Permissible work hours: Some jobs require a specific schedule to accommodate a business’s hours. However, for geographically dispersed teams, or in cases where remote work helps accommodate family schedules and obligations, official “business hours” can vary or be extremely flexible. In these situations, employers must trust their telecommuters and give them the freedom to perform their job functions in a way that works best for them. 
  • Accountability expectations: Regardless of permissible work hours, your telecommuting policy must clearly communicate that employees will be held accountable for their job functions and must adhere to company expectations. 
  • Work environment guidelines: Work hour expectations go beyond allowable work times. They also include parameters about telecommuters’ home office environments. “It is important to provide very specific guidelines and policies for employees to review and acknowledge [regarding] the telecommuting arrangement,” Davis cautioned. “A quiet and private workspace is still needed [in the home], and work hours require full attention and dedication — no watching the kids while trying to work.”

Your telecommuting policy serves as a crucial adjunct to your company’s employee handbook and should leave no questions about remote work expectations. “Set clear expectations with employees,” advised Brian Shapland, director of Ancillary & Shared Spaces at Steelcase. “Remote workers should be available during office hours, must meet deadlines and complete projects with excellence, and maintain communication with their manager and co-workers. Workers who do not meet these expectations risk losing the trust of leadership and sidelining their team.” 

TipTip
If your business model allows it, consider offering benefits like flexible work arrangements and compressed work schedules. If so, include details about these benefits in your telecommuting policy.

3. Equipment and cybersecurity

Your telecommuting policy must address equipment and cybersecurity — often overlooked elements of remote work. Your remote team may need to access corporate data outside the secure office network, and its security is paramount. 

Include remote cybersecurity best practices in your telecommuting policy, including the following: 

  • Instructions on avoiding phishing emails
  • Multifactor authentication requirements
  • Strong password requirements
  • Instructions on keeping devices and software updated
  • Requirements for antivirus software, firewalls, etc.
  • Instructions on proper data encryption
  • Rules about not allowing family members to access work technology
  • Physical security best practices
  • Secure data storage protocols
  • Cautions about using company-issued devices only for work-related purposes

Your IT team will likely be heavily involved in setting up security parameters with remote workers to ensure they create a secure home office. Detailed cybersecurity training may also be required before you allow team members to work from home. 

Hunter Hoffmann, chief marketing officer at AmTrust Financial Services, recommends that businesses use employee monitoring software and set up safeguards against potential network security threats

“Enabling employees to work remotely opens up the likelihood that they’ll use their work devices to communicate via unsecured public networks,” Hoffmann cautioned. “Password-protect all business devices, [and] make sure that data going out from [those devices] is encrypted. Keep a current inventory of all devices, and make sure each one has its GPS tracking turned on. Additionally, install technology to remotely wipe data from any device that has been lost or stolen.” 

4. Communication methods

Your telecommuting policy should list all preferred communication and collaboration methods, including instant messaging and chat services. Remote work tools like Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are excellent channels to encourage teamwork and help keep remote workers engaged. If you want workers to check in at specific times or frequencies, let them know. 

Additionally, “face time” and real-world conversations may be essential to your company culture. Consider setting expectations for phone calls and video conferences in your telecommuting policy to ensure a higher level of connection and engagement.

As a full-time telecommuter, Reid Travis, senior vice president at Ultra Fiberglass Systems, says video-integrated chat programs have been a company culture lifeline. Sharing photos of office events, setting up a dedicated “fun talk” chat, and having remote team members participate in chats and meetings all help keep remote workers engaged and connected to the team. 

“It’s easy to feel disengaged and no longer included [as a telecommuter],” Travis admitted. “Make sure the person still feels like part of the team — it feeds your overall productivity [and makes] you feel like you’re making strides and impacts, even from far away.”

TipTip
To make your video conferences more productive, ensure participants are in a quiet environment, use screen-sharing tools, and follow a concise and professional agenda.

5. Policy abuse

While your remote employees will likely be respectful and accountable, telecommuting comes with the potential for abuse. For this reason, your telecommuting policy should explicitly state that remote work is a privilege that can be revoked at any time if a remote employee fails to meet expectations.  

According to Shawe, robust performance management practices can help you significantly reduce remote work policy abuses. “It is management’s job to set tough yet achievable goals … for each employee, regardless of where they sit around the globe,” Shawe explained. “If [your] internal systems … measure relevant information and transform that information into appropriate, digestible and shared performance metrics, the business and its staff will thrive whether operating in [the] real world or in the virtual world.”

How to create a telecommuting policy

With a clearer understanding of the most significant issues your telecommuting policy should address, take the following steps to create your policy: 

  • Define position eligibility. Define which positions are eligible to work from home.
  • Outline allowable schedules. Identify each remote position’s allowable schedule, such as regular work hours or flexible hours.
  • Set performance expectations. Define specific expectations and performance goals for each remote position, including productivity levels and what you expect from their home office (i.e., internet access and a quiet setting).
  • Outline the power structure. Appoint managers to oversee and set performance benchmarks for remote teams. Ensure remote employees know who they report to and what is expected of them. 
  • Set communication expectations. Specify when remote employees are expected to check in and how and when they should report their productivity (e.g., weekly task reports).
  • List all remote tools needed. Let your team know which specific productivity apps and communication and collaboration apps they should use. Specify any usage parameters (e.g., send Slack team messages anytime but only send IMs during business hours).
  • List all security protocols. Work with the IT department to list all cybersecurity measures remote employees should be aware of.
  • Outline equipment policies. If employees will use company-issued equipment, clearly spell out usage parameters.
  • Explain what will happen if the policy is abused. Explain the repercussions if an employee abuses their work-from-home situation.  
TipTip
Stay flexible and adjust your telecommuting policy as needed and as your business evolves. Consider gathering employee feedback on your telecommuting policy to better meet your team's needs.

Why is a telecommuting policy important?

A telecommuting policy is crucial because remote work is here to stay. According to the Pew Research Center, about 14 percent of Americans (nearly 22 million) work from home regularly. Among employees who can work remotely, 56 percent say working from home enhances their productivity. Additionally, remote work can help your business attract and retain top talent

A clear telecommuting policy can ensure your remote work program succeeds. Without it, there’s potential for distraction, abuse, and lowered productivity. Your telecommuting policy will spell out precise expectations and set up your team for success. 

FYIDid you know
According to the Pew study cited above, 71 percent of employees who work from home say their supervisor trusts them to get their work done. A telecommuting policy allows you to clearly define your expectations and free employees to do their jobs.

How to measure the success of a remote work policy

Whether you’re creating a new telecommuting policy or adjusting an existing one, measuring its success is crucial. Here are two ways: 

  • Tech tools: Project management software and other productivity applications can give you an at-a-glance view of your team and its activities. Assess everyone’s performance and determine where your remote team is succeeding and where productivity could be increased. 
  • Meet with team members: Check in with remote team members to see how they feel about your telecommuting policy and their work-from-home experience. Do they feel isolated? Do they want more ways to connect with in-office employees? If so, brainstorm ways to engage with remote workers and help them feel like they’re a part of the team. Additionally, ask remote workers about their productivity and ways you can help them improve. For example, they may need more IT support or communication opportunities with other departments. Assess their input and adjust your policy as needed. 

How the COVID-19 pandemic impacted telecommuting

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of telecommuting, which was previously a benefit relatively few employees enjoyed. Companies were forced to abruptly switch to a remote workforce to keep their employees safe. In the ensuing years, many workers grew to enjoy telecommuting’s benefits. For example, according to the Pew survey cited earlier:

  • Many employees prefer telecommuting because it helps them meet deadlines. 
  • Employees say telecommuting provides a better work-life balance. 
  • Employees working hybrid telecommuting schedules would enjoy working from home all or most of the time.

However, many businesses seem to be shifting back to the in-office model. According to a ResumeBuilder survey, 90 percent of employers say they’re phasing out fully remote setups and pushing to fill their office spaces by the end of 2024. 

Still, employees won’t give up remote work that easily and telecommuting — whether full- or part-time — will continue to be a coveted job perk and a way to attract high-quality employees. With more than 8 million job openings and the lingering effects of the Great Resignation, employers must think critically about which employee benefits they offer, including work-from-home options.

Based on general employee sentiment, it’s essential for companies to offer some form of flexible work arrangements when possible. For example, the ResumeBuilder survey revealed that nearly 63 percent of employers requiring in-office work said they’re allowing employees to work from home at least once a week.

Did You Know?Did you know
About 56 percent of respondents to a FlexJobs survey said they know someone who has either quit or plans to quit their job due to a company mandate requiring employees to return to the office.

Creating guidelines for success

The future of work appears to be characterized by a hybrid model that combines elements of remote work and traditional office-based operations. Whether you decide to adopt a fully or partially remote approach, help your employees thrive in a flexible and dynamic work setting. Implementing a telecommuting policy helps ensure you create a sustainable, positive and productive work environment.

Shayna Waltower and Nicole Fallon contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Matt D'Angelo has spent several years reviewing business software products for small businesses, such as GPS fleet management systems. He has also spent significant time evaluating financing solutions, including business loan providers. He has a firm grasp of the business lifecycle and uses his years of research to give business owners actionable insights. With a journalism degree from James Madison University, D'Angelo specializes in distilling complex business topics into easy-to-read guides filled with expertise and practical applications. In addition, D'Angelo has profiled notable small businesses and the people behind them.
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