Tear up your remote work policy (if you have one) and start over

During the past two years, many companies have moved toward a hybrid-workplace model without any formal policies in place. That needs to change.

Chances are, you don’t have a hybrid work policy. Many companies don’t have any written policy for working outside the office. Those that do probably have a remote work policy.

Going without any policy at all is ill-advised. Policies protect the company, improve morale, foster better culture, help employee retention, improve cybersecurity, and provide other benefits.

And remote work policies crafted just a couple of years ago are likely obsolete for most companies now.

The concept of having an employee handbook for “regular” employees who work in the office, plus a remote work policy for that minority that works from home, is now antiquated in the extreme.

Yes, some employees are explicitly categorized as hybrid or flex workers, spending some days in the office and some days at home. But even those labeled as on-site workers are likely to do some work outside of the office, after hours, and on weekends. Staffers may take “workcations,” or do work in other countries for short periods of time. And some specific employees may rotate in and out of the “office,” “remote,” and “hybrid” categories.

The possibilities for where employees do their jobs are endless. And that’s why you need a single policy for all employees—a hybrid work policy.

What your hybrid work policy should cover

Each company’s specific circumstances might vary, but all hybrid work policies should address the following:

Security. Even if you’ve implemented a zero-trust model (highly recommended), actual cybersecurity demands well-considered policies around passwords, access, use of equipment, the use of unauthorized software, the changing of security settings, the handling of data, and confidentiality.

Safety. While we in the tech press proclaim that the workplace is “everywhere” now, the law doesn’t see it that way. Your policy needs to clearly define the boundaries of the “workplace” for all employees. State law covering workplace safety, for example, means that injuries sustained by remote employees at home could qualify as “workplace” injuries. But this shouldn’t cover the entire home property.

Cutting one’s finger with a knife in the kitchen while making a sandwich, for example, shouldn’t count as a workplace accident. Any physical space designated as the home “workplace” needs to be governed by policy to assure safety. (Note that the workplace also has a time element that should be specified in the policy.) The implication of designating a remote work “workplace” is that any work done outside of that “workplace” needs its own policy section. Nearly all employees will work outside of the “workplace,” whether it’s an office worker replying to emails while at Starbucks or a work-from-home employee finishing up a presentation on the couch.

Equipment. Determine and specify what equipment will be provisioned and used by employees for work and how that equipment is to be used.

Eligibility. Specify who is eligible for remote work and flex work and whether these arrangements are set on a case-by-case basis. Include all details in the policy.

Productivity. Set clear expectations and detailed metrics or standards of performance to the greatest degree possible. Specify all tools to be used for gauging productivity, including so-called “surveillance” software.

Communication. Lay out the requirements for attending meetings, returning emails and phone calls, taking part in messaging conversations, and other specifics about communication.

Allocation. The use of shared resources, especially in the office, should be listed in the policy. If you’re using a hot-desking process for allocating workspaces, define the reservation system, rules, and eligibility.

Availability. Identify when employees are expected to be available for office communication and work.

Termination. Spell out expectations at the point of termination for any employee who quits, is laid off, or is fired. Focus on the handling of data, returning of equipment, access to cloud resources, and everything else relevant to severing an employee from the organization.

And finally: Avoid the temptation to create the policy and then ignore it. Consider your hybrid work policy a living document subject to constant revision and reconsideration.

The future of work is here. Make sure your hybrid work policy is here, too.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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