At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations and businesses all over the world closed their offices to keep employees healthy and safe. Now that we are on the other side of the health crisis, workers are reluctant to go back to their office full time. Management and business owners are taking notice and are implementing new work-from-home policies to appease their workforce. Before you decide if this is right for your business, let’s discuss what a work-from-home (WFH) policy is, how to create one and some advantages and disadvantages.
Here are three things to keep in mind when considering a WFH policy.
Recruitment: a younger workforce or newly onboarded employees may not want to go back to being in the office full time. When looking to hire for positions, a thoughtfully crafted WFH policy could be a powerful recruitment tool.
Retention: those employees who thrived and/or preferred to work from home during the health crisis may want this benefit forever. Offering a flexible WFH policy can keep them happy, engaged, and productive.
Respect: when you offer your workforce a WFH option, you are letting them know that you trust them to perform their jobs how and where they prefer. When they know that you care about them as a person (and not just a worker), they will feel valued and invested to your company.
What are some pros and cons to a WFH policy?
While we can’t list all possibilities, below are some common examples of pros and cons.
PRO: No or less commute time; more time to be productive
PRO: Ability to live in a more affordable or desirable location
PRO: Fewer sick employees in the office
PRO: Better work-life balance; more time with family, friends, hobbies
CON: No or less face time with colleagues; limited networking and socialization
CON: Potential to become less connected to company, its mission and their role in it
CON: A WFH policy is not accessible for everyone (i.e. childcare, extra space, desk, etc.)
CON: Difficulty setting boundaries leading to potential burnout
What is a work-from-home policy?
A simple definition of a work-from-home policy can be as follows: an agreement between employer and employee that clearly communicates and defines duties, expectations, and responsibilities in their employment while they work in a place other than the main office or campus.
These are next steps to consider when creating your WFH policy.
- Define who’s eligible. Ideally, you’d want every employee eligible to create a sense of equality among the company, but some jobs must be done in the office.
- Designate approval process. Decide if you want employees to choose daily where they work or have them choose in advance and stick to it. Will the policy be able to change if there’s another public health emergency?
- Set regular working hours. Every employee should be very clear on which hours they will be required to be in office and/or online.
- Define expectations for salaried vs. hourly workers. Federal law for hourly workers requires them to accurately track and record their hours worked. Make sure these employees have the correct tools to do so.
- Set communication guidelines. Constant communication is key when some or all your employees are working in different places. Set clear expectations on communication and how often you will be checking in with employees. Also determine the best means of communicating company wide. For example:
- Email = long form messages and client communication
- Instant Messaging (such as Slack or G-chat) = internal use, quick responses
- Zoom (or other platform) = office meetings, client meetings that are not in-person meetings
- Personal phone/text = emergencies only
- Keep company culture alive. Whether its virtual happy hours or game nights, make efforts to keep your employees interacting with each other. These don’t have to be mandatory events, but you should include them in your policy as an example on how you’re promoting the company’s culture.
- Update your dress code. Specifically for client calls or video meetings, have clear expectations on dress code and hygiene in your policy. Even for internal meetings, you can set guidelines for proper attire that’s appropriate for your company.
- Request receipt of the new policy. Although this is true for any changes to your employee handbook, make sure to send this WFH policy to every employee and request that they either sign a copy or provide written communication that they’ve seen and read the changes.
How do we implement a new policy at our business?
As a business owner, you know your employees and company culture best, but these tips will drive initial steps.
- Start the conversation. Have a townhall style office meeting or send out an anonymous survey so that all employees can participate and offer feedback and preferences freely.
- Equality is important—always. A WFH policy shouldn’t apply to only executives or senior employees. To promote equality and fairness, every employee should be eligible. However, some jobs require in-person participation to execute. Be sure to provide similar benefits that are appropriate for each position.
- It doesn’t need to be permanent. If you’re hesitant to implement a WFH policy indefinitely, it may be wise to create one in times of emergency or public health crisis (such as COVID-19).
- Offer an allowance. To make all employees feel included and valued, it may be reasonable to give employees a stipend to purchase an ergonomic chair, desk or appropriate set up.
- Consider a hybrid model. Some employees may need or want the flexibility of being able to choose their place of work. Consider letting employees choose a full time in-office, full time remote, or hybrid schedule.
Setting new guidelines and policies for working from home is new to many companies. By encouraging constant feedback from your employees, you’re showing that you truly care for them, their health and safety, and their professional performance. Also, their feedback will be critical to keeping your WFH policy up-to-date and relevant.
Sources: snacknation.com, npr.org, washingtonpost.com, hbr.org, cnbc.com