Sooner or later, an employee will ask you if it’s OK to work
at home on either a part-time or full-time basis.
Before that happens – or even if it has already happened
– it’s a good idea to have a written policy in place.
The document, which should be written in plain,
easy-to-understand English, should outline
what’s allowed and what is not.
In addition, it should spell out expectations,
rules and repercussions for violating the rules.
Here are some guidelines for putting together a remote-work
policy. You need not be too formal or heavy-handed about
the document. Merely slip it into the employee handbook,
remind people about it when they ask to work remotely and
adhere to it when you have to discipline someone for
violating the rules.
Who’s Allowed to Work Remotely?
The remote-work policy must spell out whether working from
home is permitted at all. If it’s not, enough said. If it is,
a lengthier document is required. You will want to describe
the types of positions where remote work is not allowed.
You also might consider language describing the arrangement
as a privilege based on trust – one that can be revoked at your discretion.
If nothing else, the policy needs to explain your organization’s
expectations for communications, performance and reachability.
If you want remote employees to check in daily or twice daily, spell it out here. If you expect a daily
summary of work performed, state it as a requirement. You also should state preferred methods
of communication between managers and telecommuters.
Email and instant messages might be preferred over telephone conversations
because the former are more easily tracked. Finally, you also should state whether you expect
your telecommuters to be reachable at all times during work hours.
Clearly define the workday in the policy. At-home employees,
especially top performers, often run into trouble with stopping work.
Office time can quickly bleed into family time and disrupt the work-life balance.
That could lead to disruptive family problems, so it’s a good idea to
remind your at-home employees that they should set and stick to a regular quitting time.
Also, include a clause where you reserve the right to call a remote worker into the
office for special events or meetings. In such cases, everyone is expected to be in the office.
A well-defined policy will clearly state whether the company or the employee is responsible for the cost of
telecommuting, including bills for the Internet, computer maintenance, telephone and electricity. If the
employee has to drive somewhere to meet a client, will the car mileage be calculated as if he were driving
from the office or from his home?
At the office, your employees may be barred from using the company’s equipment and time to do personal
work. Your work-at-home policy must specify whether the same rules apply to telecommuters. Remind
remote workers that all the terms of the employment contracts – including how to handle confidential
information and company property – remain in force even while the employee is working from home.
Equipment and Security
Your policy should make it clear whether the company will supply the PC and the software required to do
the job. It also needs to spell out that only the employee is allowed to use it, and that everything must be
returned if the worker leaves the company for whatever reason. The policy also should make it clear that
the company retains ownership of its software, its hardware and anything that the employee creates using
Health and Safety
Inform would-be homeworkers that you expect them to maintain a healthy environment wherever they
are working. Also clarify how any on-the-job injuries would be handled. If you’re unsure, consult your
attorneys on how best to phrase this section of the policy. Your legal adviser will help protect you and
your company from claims should there be a mishap at the remote workplace.
Identify Process for Non-Compliance
Your policy for remote workers must explain the consequences of breaking the rules. Employee is found
to be under-performing or slacking off while working at home should be subject to discipline. Your policy
should spell out what violations will result in warnings, what will result in a revocation of remote-work
privileges, and what will result in termination.
The most important part of the policy is not how it’s written but how it’s followed.
Uneven enforcement of the rules is not only unfair but also opens the door
to lawsuits. Once everyone has read and agreed to the policy,
all remote workers must comply with it.
Anyone who doesn’t must be disciplined according to the policy guidelines.
Written policies might seem like unnecessary bureaucracy,
but they are invaluable if problems arise with remote-work arrangements.
They also help you clarify your expectations and ensure that employees
understand what they need to do to be successful remote workers.