Developing a Work From Home Policy

By: Amanda Morse

Close your eyes and picture an office. What do you see? Perhaps a reception area, some cubicles (or maybe desks arranged in an open floor plan) and a breakroom. But what about a small room with a desk that sits right off a living room or even just a kitchen table? The latter two options might seem like unusual office spaces, but we’re quickly moving toward a time when those will be the norm.

 

In a 2018 survey of 3,000 Atlanta-based technologists, 43% of respondents rated the ability to work from home as the top perk they’d like to see from future employers. Even more telling, respondents with more than 15 years of experience were three times more likely to insist on working from home.

 

These findings beg the questions: Should you consider developing a work from home policy for your company? And what might that policy even look like?

Should Your Company Consider a Work From Home Policy?

The survey results reveal that today’s workforce wants flexibility, particularly when it comes to working from home. So should your company consider catering to this desire?

 

It’s easy to think about working from home in a negative light, picturing your employees sitting on their couches in their pajamas all day. But in reality, working from home offers several benefits to employees and their employers alike.

Benefits to Employees

First, the ability to work from home gives employees more time back in their day since they no longer have to spend any time commuting to and from the office. This setup helps create a better work/life balance by giving people more personal time, and it can even increase productivity, since employees don’t come into an office and spend the first 20 minutes regrouping from a taxing commute.

 

Second, working from home also creates a better work/life balance by making it possible to work from anywhere. For example, this means employees can visit family in another state for a week or two without having to take time off or even make a move to somewhere they’ve always wanted to live without having to worry about finding a new job.

 

Third, the ability to work from home gives employees flexibility to balance work and personal responsibilities, such as the need to be home when the kids get back from school or when someone comes to make a home repair. This benefit is especially important for employees with children who would need to explore expensive childcare options otherwise.

Benefits to Employers

Notably, it’s not just employees who benefit from working from home.

 

All of the benefits listed above help keep employees happy, which typically leads to a higher level of motivation, increased productivity and less turnover. Furthermore, the ability to keep working in the same job even as needs like moving to another state or being home for young kids arise also helps increase the tenure of employees.

 

Finally, developing a work from home policy gives your company access to a broader talent pool. Beyond the fact that experienced workers are more likely to insist on working remotely, a work from home policy also means your recruiting team is not limited by geography for commute times when filling open roles. That means you can recruit for the best talent and most experienced workers without feeling limited by a maximum 30-45 minute commute time radius.

How Can You Develop a Work From Home Policy?

Despite the numerous benefits that working from home provides, challenges do exist. Chief among these is developing a work from home policy that provides the flexibility employees want without sacrificing collaboration, productivity and accountability.

 

Nevertheless, developing a work from home policy that balances these needs is possible. Here are seven steps to get started:

 

  • Start small: Going from zero to 60 with your work from home policy can prove difficult for your employees, their managers and your overall culture. So instead of going full-time remote right out of the gate, start with a trial and ease your way into a broader work from home policy. For example, you might start by letting employees work from home one day each week and growing that number slowly as you see success.
  • Ensure you have the right collaboration tools: When employees can no longer meet in a conference room or swing by a co-worker’s desk to ask a quick question, having a strong technology toolset for communication and collaboration becomes critical. As you introduce your work from home policy, it’s important to ensure you have tools that make it easy for people to chat via instant message and video (e.g. Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts). These tools should make it easy for people to connect quickly and meet “face-to-face” often
  • Establish regularly scheduled check-ins: Next, you need to make sure people check in with their managers on a regular basis. These check-ins should not only help with accountability, but they should also ensure your remote workers get the support they need. The format of the check-ins can even be similar to weekly 1:1s just like managers would have with non-remote employees, but they should be conducted over video chat as much as possible to ensure employees get the appropriate amount of face-time with their managers.
  • Develop a performance plan: Developing a performance plan can also help maintain accountability. This plan should help employees understand exactly what’s expected of them and help managers ensure their employees are delivering work as planned, meeting key performance objectives and growing in their careers.
  • Create a feeling of community: It’s easy for remote workers to feel disengaged, and that feeling can actually counteract the morale and productivity benefits of working from home. Fortunately, there are numerous steps you can take to create a feeling of community so that your remote workers don’t feel disengaged. For example, you might host weekly video chats on non-work related topics that people can attend, have social group chat forums that people can post in throughout the day (e.g. Book Club, Game of Thrones Fans, Animal Lovers) and/or host monthly or quarterly social meetups (in person) in different areas
  • Encourage office visits: Another way to combat disengagement, help co-workers get to know one another better and improve collaboration is to encourage remote employees to work from your company’s main office on occasion. You need to find a cadence that works for your entire team, but you might start by having remote employees spend time in the office at least one day a month or a few days a quarter.
  • Establish trust: Most importantly, you need to establish trust. This trust is the key to making everything else work. First, your company -- HR, managers and non-remote employees -- need to trust that any remote employees are working the same as everyone else. Second, your remote employees need to be aware of this trust and feel responsible for maintaining it by working as expected.