According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), nearly 25 percent of U.S. workers did some or all of their work from home in 2016. Today's employees want flexibility and having a work-from-home policy is one of the ways to provide it.
Simply telling employees that they can work from home doesn't mean that you have a work-from-home policy. It takes planning by both organizations and employees. Here are eight steps to consider when implementing a work-from-home policy.
1. Determine your goal. Work-from-home policies can increase productivity, improve employee morale and retention and reduce the organization's operating expenses. You may be pursuing several of these goals as you develop a work-from-home policy. Establishing a goal allows you to assess the program's success.
2. Decide what types of flexible work you want to offer. Will you only allow employees to work from home on a case-by-case basis—perhaps when they are trying to schedule around home deliveries or doctors appointments? Or will you allow flexible schedules that permit employees to regularly work remotely? Additionally, you will need to consider if all positions are eligible under your work-from-home policy, or if certain roles require that team members conduct their business in the office.
3. Discuss legal considerations. Human resources should bring legal counsel and accounting into the loop when discussing a work-from-home policy. Accounting can offer guidance about how employees will keep track of their time for payroll purposes. And legal should offer advice on how to structure an employee agreement to work from home. Performance expectations need to be set so there are no misunderstandings.
4. And risk management considerations. Another aspect to working from home is ensuring the employee's new remote environment is conducive to work. Employers and employees need to have conversations about internet security, file security and ergonomics. As much as the notion of working from anywhere sounds great, it opens up the company to various security concerns. It also requires employers to consider how they can assist employees in creating home offices that are conducive to working productively and in a healthy manner.
5. Build the necessary IT infrastructure. Your technology team will need to evaluate the safest and most affordable way to allocate hardware, provide security and offer support to a remote workforce. Additionally, videoconferencing software can allow for virtual meetings and cut down on travel expenses.
6. Train managers on how to work with virtual employees. When employees work from home, managers roles change dramatically. They must learn how to communicate with employees they cannot see every day. Managers need to discuss with employees those moments when they will need to come to the office for a meeting or special project. They will also want to discuss the consequences of poor performance under the work-from-home policy.
7. Performance and personal responsibility. Not being able to monitor when and how you team is working requires a tremendous amount of trust. And employees must hold themselves accountable, be available when needed and avoid abusing the freedom that comes with working remotely. Deadlines should always be met, and communication is critical.
8. Consider a trial period. A pilot version of your work-from-home policy with a test group of employees from various teams will allow you evaluate its impact on your company. At the end of the trial, you can review the program outcomes and ask employees for feedback. Then revise the policy accordingly and establish an implementation date.
There are many advantages to developing a flexible work or work-from-home policy. But like all policies, it needs to be crafted correctly for maximum benefit. By clearly defining goals and expectations, organizations can start to put their minds at ease and give employees a benefit that they really want.
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