Remote work not only provides people with the ability to work from home, but has also introduced new dynamics to the workforce, including flexible work schedules and cost savings for office space for employees. In fact, 9 out of 10 workers thinking about a job change consider hybrid or remote positions, according to research from business consulting firm Robert Half.
Remote work has perks for both employers and employees. Companies making a more long-term or permanent switch to a remote environment can help the adjustment be successful by ensuring a smooth transition, excellent remote management plans and a well-devised remote work policy.
What are remote work best practices for businesses?
To help ensure remote work is a success across your organization, follow these best practices:
1. Maintain a company culture.
Some employees choose an employer for its company culture. Whether your company is only recently remote or has always been, maintaining the culture that attracted employees to your organization in the first place can help keep employees happy and working for your company. For example, you could support a caring culture by broadening your wellness benefits, as Actualize Consulting did. Its $750 wellness benefit is available to each employee for use toward a gym membership and fitness purchases such as treadmills and classes.
As another example, Sarah Danzl, communications officer and vice president of customer marketing at Degreed, said that a priority for her was to ensure the holistic care and mental health of her team with regular check-ins, specifically to ask about how they’re doing and dedicate some time to non-work chat. Degreed also provides access to mental health support and wellness options like the Calm app.
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2. Use video tools to stay connected.
Working remotely can be difficult for people who strive for face-to-face interaction. Utilize the best practice of acting as if you and your team are in the office with the help of technology. Consider keeping spirits high and teams connecting by hosting a Friday video happy hour, video team meetings and virtual employee lunches. The goal here is to stimulate activities that would be done in the office, outside the office.
Addressing remote work difficulties often involves corporate wellness initiatives with a specific emphasis on mental health.
3. Go paperless.
Just about everything can be done digitally these days. Use a tool like DocuSign for contracts that need signatures, and encourage employees to lean on the best customer relationship management (CRM) software and other digital tools instead of paper for notes, project management and other tasks.
4. Invest in internet security.
A network is only as secure as its weakest link. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have turned their workforces remote. As a result of more people working from home, weak security links are inevitable. By investing in internet security, you can provide (and even mandate) the tools that keep everyone’s devices safe. This, in turn, keeps company information safe. Most importantly, it minimizes the risk of personal data being leaked through a vulnerability in your infrastructure. At the heart of your internet security is a virtual private network (VPN). It allows for direct, safe communication between all remote workers and the office.
5. Consider employee monitoring.
Employee monitoring is necessary for large organizations. A significant part of leadership and management is keeping people on task; however, with remote work, that becomes challenging.
Employee monitoring systems allow you to see a worker’s computer activity. This informs you as to how much of a workday is actually spent on work projects and tasks. Employee monitoring solutions allow you to track the productivity of the work-from-home model. [Read related article: The Best Employee Monitoring Software of 2023]
6. Accommodate flexible work schedules.
There are many benefits that come with remote work, such as reduced overhead and lower liabilities, to name a few. If, though, remote work is hastily or poorly implemented, the downside is lost productivity. The key to preventing lost productivity (which can be difficult for a company to come back from) is to allow employees to work a flexible work schedule.
Many at-home employees are juggling child care and school. Flexible work schedules empower them to find a better work-life balance that enables them to work productively around their kids’ schedules. One suggestion to make this transition smoother for your company and team is to shift to a completion-based work model. In this model, the focus is less on how many hours an individual works and more on what they accomplish.
7. Invest in collaboration tools.
Collaboration tools are everywhere. Some of the biggest names to rise to the top include Skype and Microsoft Teams. Of course, the most popular by far is Zoom. These tools allow for adjustable online workgroups. They include video and audio chat, and they allow for screen sharing.
You can also look into apps that create shared workspaces. File sharing systems are similarly important. You can even look at dedicated communication servers with resources like Discord and Google Chat.
To ensure remote work success, businesses should maintain company culture, use video tools to stay connected, go paperless, invest in internet security, consider employee monitoring, accommodate flexible work schedules and invest in collaboration tools.
How do you create your remote work policy?
Your remote work policy sets the standard for what you deem acceptable and unacceptable from your remote employees. Every remote work policy should have conditions that ensure clear expectations and communication between the company and each remote team member. Here are a few pertinent guidelines on what to include in your remote work policy:
- Outline eligibility criteria. Consider whether employees must reside in the same location as your business or if they can work from anywhere. If your business is only partially remote, define which roles are eligible for working from home and how often employees can work from home.
- Develop a work plan. To create an effective remote work plan, break down company objectives into measurable goals and responsibilities. Determine the necessary tools and technology for employees to work remotely and collaborate effectively. Consider technical support for those who experience difficulties. You can then involve employees in the process of deciding how performance will be measured, using metrics specific to each role and asking for input on the best methods for tracking productivity.
- Emphasize the company rules. Although your employees are no longer in an in-person office environment, clarify the rules, regulations and policies that still apply. Employees should know exactly what is expected of them.
- Determine communication practices. Consider these communication and collaboration expectations for your remote team:
- Decide whether employees can choose their own work hours or should be available during specific hours. Take into consideration their personal schedules, and be flexible with allowing them to work within a certain window or during core hours.
- Set expectations for response times to emails and messages. Keep time zones and workload in mind. Establish a time frame for responding to important emails or messages.
- Institute guidelines for when to use instant messaging, email or video calls. Is it mandatory for your employees to use the camera when on video calls? Consider setting up non-work-related communication to keep similar aspects of an in-person work environment.
- Make sure your employees have access to online training resources or courses. Establish one-on-one meetings with supervisors and their employees for online coaching and to discuss growth and advancement.
- Discuss compensation. Transparency is key when it comes to compensation changes, especially when transitioning to remote work. By clearly outlining eligible expenses and the reimbursement process, employees will feel supported and informed. Consulting with employees on their priorities for benefits and reimbursements can aid in creating a more personalized compensation plan.
- Security and confidentiality rules. When working remotely or from public locations like cafes, there are various data security risks to be aware of, such as shoulder surfing, theft and unsecured networks. To mitigate these risks, educate employees on these threats and provide guidelines on how to avoid them, such as locking screens, using strong passwords and two-factor authentication, and avoiding discussing confidential information in public places.
Sample remote work policy
To provide guidance for employees and management, this document outlines the terms and conditions of remote work and requires employees to acknowledge their understanding by signing it.
Terms and Conditions
- Eligibility requirements: If the employee’s job responsibilities can be fulfilled using only fundamental equipment and technology, they may qualify for remote work privileges, subject to the company’s approval, provided they demonstrate reliability, self-discipline and self-motivation. In the event an employee’s job is not suitable for remote work, they may be allowed to work from home for a limited number of days per year. This policy promotes a flexible work environment that can accommodate the needs of both the company and the employee.
- Work expectations and schedule: To assure the best performance, employees are required to adhere to set work schedules, meet deadlines, maintain quality standards and submit daily reports, with some degree of flexibility permitted. Tools for time and task management, project tracking and access to resources will be provided. Weekly performance evaluations will be conducted using the same metrics for in-office work.
- Company rules: Employees who work remotely are expected to adhere to all rules and regulations in the Employee Handbook. Company policies regarding PTO, conduct, confidentiality, etc., apply to employees regardless of the location.
- Equipment and supplies: Employees will be reimbursed for job-related equipment, tools and supplies deemed necessary. Requests for reimbursement should be submitted through supervisors. Employees may be permitted to use their personal electronic devices for work purposes with prior written approval.
- Security: To ensure the security of company data and information, adherence to established security protocols outlined in the Employee Handbook and confidentiality agreement is mandatory. Violations are subject to disciplinary action, and employees will be granted access to a virtual private network to safeguard connections with company servers and networks, which must be used exclusively for work hours.
- Compensation: Working remotely will not affect an employee’s salary, which will only increase per company policy and successful performance evaluations. Remote employees will remain eligible for professional development programs and promotions, while the company will provide reimbursement for internet and electrical expenses sustained by employees who follow the correct reimbursement protocol.
- Consequences: Inability to fulfill work obligations or compliance with policies and procedures during remote work may result in disciplinary action, such as termination of the remote work agreement, placement on a performance improvement plan or termination of employment.
How can you transition to remote work?
For companies that are new to remote work, laying down a foundation for a smooth transition is the key to a productive remote work team. Here are some steps you may want to follow:
- Have a remote work policy. Draft a remote work policy that clearly communicates what your expectations are for your employees.
- Maximize technology. Technologies such as video conferencing and instant messaging make remote work a more personable and collaborative experience.
- Hold virtual “hype” meetings. Get your team excited about your company and its goals through some team bonding by holding a weekly or monthly hype meeting. During these meetings, encourage employees to talk about some of their accomplishments, and be sure to give out praise where it is due. Use this time to get employees excited about new projects and clients.
- Encourage engagement. Let your employees know you want to hear their feedback about remote work. Be sure they know you want to hear both positives and negatives. Getting that feedback will help you refine your remote work policies. Also, make sure you are available to answer any questions employees have about the remote work policies.
>> Learn more: 5 Reasons Remote Teams Are More Engaged Than Office Workers
What remote work equipment do your employees need?
Consider providing your employees with the following types of remote work equipment:
A collaboration tool helps workers stay connected. To save time and money, your collaboration tool should also serve as a complete project management, communication and productivity platform. Here are a few of the best tools for this type of work:
- Salesforce CRM: Keep track of every customer, automate tasks and send targeted emails. [Read our Salesforce review.]
- Trello: Get access to boards, lists and cards to track and organize projects.
- Asana: Manage goals, organize projects, set deadlines and more.
Video conferencing service
A video conferencing service – such as Google Chat, GoToMeeting or Zoom – lets users make video calls and host internal and external video conferences.
Whether via a mobile phone or a business phone system, employees need to be able to call not only one another, but also clients and vendors. [Read related article: The Best Business Phone Systems of 2023]
Instant messaging service
It can save your employees time if they can send a quick instant message via a chat tool, such as Slack or Google Chat, instead of texting, calling or emailing.
If you expect your employees to work effectively from home, it’s wise to provide them with a computer that is preloaded with all of the applications and security features you want.
How can you be a good remote manager for your remote team?
As a business owner or manager, you can expect your team members to look to you for leadership and guidance. While they won’t be able to physically knock on your door, you still need to be there for them. Here are some tips for how to be a good remote manager:
Keep communication open.
Let your employees know you are available for them, and don’t just wait for them to come to you. Be proactive by checking in with them regularly. When applicable, offer feedback and words of encouragement. Also, be sure to make time to meet virtually and to hold performance reviews.
Give great direction.
Whether working in the office or remotely, employees appreciate a manager who is a clear communicator and offers clear direction. For example, when you give employees instructions, make sure you are direct and offer enough information for your team to fully understand what you need. Poor communication results in frustration and lost productivity.
- Be empathetic. With the dog barking, the kids crying and the neighbor mowing his lawn, it’s not always possible for remote employees to have a distraction-free environment. But as long as your staff members get their work done by their deadlines, be empathetic about at-home demands that may pull them away from their work for a few minutes each day.
- Stay organized. If your kitchen or living room doubles as your home office, it can be easy to get disorganized. Use calendars or project management tools to keep your tasks organized and stay on top of your game.
What are the benefits of remote work?
Remote work can be a win-win for employers and employees.
Remote work benefits for employers
- Cost savings: Without office space, there’s no commercial real estate to pay for, or any of the expenses that come along with it, such as utilities and office furniture.
- Improved employee productivity: Without having distractions from loud co-workers, many employees are more productive.
- Lower absenteeism: When people don’t feel well, they may be more likely to take time off of work if they have to go into an office. If employees have minor symptoms, they may feel more comfortable working from the comfort of their home, where they also will not spread illnesses to co-workers. As a result, employers can expect lower rates of absenteeism.
Remote work benefits for employees
- Improved work happiness: Studies have shown that working from home is a perk that boosts employees’ happiness. In a study from Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, the prospect of being able to work remotely, even if only occasionally, was found to increase the happiness of 86% of workers.
- A more comfortable environment: There is a good chance that your employees aren’t thrilled with your office environment, whether it’s an open office layout or a cubicle farm. By working from home, employees are free to create a more comfortable workspace.
- A healthier workplace: When employees work from home, they don’t have to worry about co-workers getting them sick. Even before COVID-19, the flu and other illnesses spread easily among employees in the office.
Marissa Sanfilippo contributed to this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.