Work from home (WFH) has recently become a hot topic. In 2020, the world witnessed a historic shift in the working style as work from home became the new norm. According to an estimate, by 2025, 70% of employees will be working remotely at least five days a month.
Nevertheless, remote work is not a new concept; we were already living in the age of remote work even before the pandemic hit us. However, with the onset of COVID-19, remote work—once given by companies as a perk—has become the need of the hour.
The growing popularity of remote work has companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft looking at remote working as a permanent practice. It seems like we are heading toward a future that might have the bulk of the population working remotely. Moreover, it is not a far-fetched idea. Several companies are managing their entire operations virtually. Here is a list of work-from-home companies:
The Growth of Completely Remote Companies
The World Economic Forum report indicated that workplace flexibility is the future of work. Millennials and Gen Z make the majority of the workforce today, and they prefer to work in a decentralized environment, which might mean that many want to work from home permanently. For companies to appeal to the new generation of workers, the outdated system of doing things must change. Furthermore, the world’s top researchers say that workplace flexibility boosts the bottom line of the company.
Recent studies on remote work reveal the following details:
- Teleworkers are 35%–40% more productive than regular office workers.
- The defect rate among remote workers is 40%, less in comparison to their office counterparts.
- People working from home are 41% less likely to miss work.
- Organizations with part-time telecommuters accrued 21% higher profitability.
Are companies with 100% distributed teams successful? Yes, they are. Consider the example of Zapier. What started with only three employees has grown to have more than 300 teleworkers onboard from 17 time zones and 28 countries. On the financial front, they have scaled to $14M ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) and $5Bn valuation. Zapier has been a 100% virtual firm from day one and was one of the first companies to prove the concept of a fully remote setup.
Benefits of a Work-from-Home Model
Telecommuting companies, also called virtual or distributed companies, have no physical office; instead, employees connect virtually from their locations. Here are the benefits of running a virtual company.
No Geographical Limitations
A company can be restricted to hire talent from its office locations. Hiring from another place means a higher cost of onboarding due to increased relocation costs. Conversely, a fully remote firm can hire talent from any part of the world; geography is not a limitation. They can access a larger and diverse talent pool in comparison to physical companies.
A huge portion of operations cost comes from renting office space, hiring janitors, providing food, stationery, and transport. Moreover, the maintenance of the physical office is a costly affair. A virtually working organization has no burden of such expenses.
Lower Attrition Rate
According to a survey, 54% of employees agreed that they would not switch jobs if given flexible schedules. Employees prefer working from home for their own set of perks. A remote working job allows them to maintain a better work-life integration, which translates into higher employee satisfaction and a lower attrition rate.
Focus on Performance
In a physical office, working long hours can sometimes be misunderstood as being productive. Whereas in a virtual setup, work done or not done defines productivity. Companies benefit by being able to monitor productivity instead of time spent on doing the job.
The above-mentioned are only a few of the benefits a virtual firm enjoys, and research shows that fully remote jobs are bound to increase further.
That said, how do these companies effectively manage their satellite teams from afar? The answer is—through effective work from home policies.
What is a Work-from-Home Policy?
A work from home policy includes a set of guidelines that define the rules of engagement between the employer and the employee. The policy aims to establish boundaries, instill norms, and list best practices for employees working from home.
Reasons for Having a Work-from-Home Policy
A work from home policy is an official document that records the work-from-home guidelines for employees explicitly. A policy document is an effective explanation and ensures that the employee and the employer are on the same page.
A dress code, the right physical environment could be some of the prerequisites for a particular job. A policy with a detailed description of special requirements helps the employee prepare well for work.
Protection of Data
Digital security is a serious concern with the telecommuting workforce. Connection to an unsecured network or downloading apps with malware can introduce viruses to the company network. Policy on the protection of data educates employees about the guidelines for cybersecurity.
In a physical office, talking to someone is as simple as walking to the next desk. However, communication is on a different level in a remote setup. A simple conversation sometimes becomes time-consuming. Setting response guidelines will make the employee understand the response duration. In the case of employees in different time zones, responses can be asynchronous too.
Sets Work Standards
Working from home is still work. The employee has to be productive and adhere to rules set by the employer. A work-from-home policy ensures that employees understand what is required of them when they work remotely.
Policies are proof of a business’s competency. They give a better view of the organization and assure employees that the company is stable and in control.
Prevents Employee Burnout
Overwork is a common complaint among teleworkers. A remote work policy guards employees from the risk of burnout by defining the boundaries of work.
Consistency in Management
Policies ensure that fair and consistent rules prevail across the organization. Additionally, they help in identifying and dealing with underperformance and misconduct.
All companies have realized that remote working is the way forward. Several tech giants, like, Facebook and Microsoft have introduced policies that give work-from-home jobs with benefits equal to that of a regular job.
The Facebook work-from-home policy aims to deliver “the Facebook Experience” whereas the Microsoft work-from-home policy emphasizes leading with empathy.
What to Include in a Work-from-Home Policy for a Completely Remote Firm?
A remote work model allows professionals to work outside of the traditional office environment. Since they are not in a controlled office space, framing a suitable policy is necessary. Here are key components of a work from home policy.
Work and Break Timings
State the number of hours the employee must work. If there is a set time to log in and log out, ensure to mention it. One of the biggest perks of teleworking is flexible hours where the employee can take a break at a convenient time. Therefore, it is vital to give a time limit for intervals between work.
Attendance and Availability Guidelines
Though virtual offices operate on trust, there are a few rules that are requisites. Absence management through daily attendance tracking and vacation tracking needs to be done. Instead of opting for special software, companies are finding ways to do this on collaboration tools like Slack and MS Teams.
AttendanceBot is one such tool that can be used for time and attendance tracking to ensure that your employees are working at peak productivity.
Another big challenge in remote working is availability. Since employees are allowed to structure their day according to their convenience, finding a suitable time to collaborate with colleagues can be difficult. Forming guidelines on availability for daily standups helps to tackle the problem.
Process for Taking a Day Off
The policy must contain information on types of leaves offered and federal holidays. Further, it should explain the process of applying leaves and set a clear expectation about the timeline of application.
For instance, we at AttendanceBot are a completely remote team that offers unlimited time off. All sick leaves are automatically approved. But vacations have to be applied a week in advance.
Raising leave requests is easy with AttendanceBot. Your employee just needs to request leave for the specified dates and their manager receives a message asking for approval. Once the leave is approved, it goes on the company leave dashboard. No more endless email back and forth.
Tech Support Procedure
Technology is the backbone of a virtual work setup. Thus, IT work-from-home policy must be well-defined and working-at-home policy and procedures adherence is a must. Outline the procedure to raise IT tickets and escalate issues in the policy to avoid prolonged technical downtime.
List out all prerequisites for using unprotected WiFi, external storage devices, and downloading software. Violation of digital security rules is a serious issue and hence must be specified in the policy.
With employees working in multiple time zones, remote work can often be asynchronous. In this situation, it is key that process documents are created and employees have a reference document to work with. This ensures compliance, standardization, and ease of work.
When in-person communication is not an option, internal communication must be seamless. Outline the mode of communication to be used and an average response time to be followed.
Promote a culture of collaboration and proactive participation. One of the downsides of working from home is isolation. To overcome feelings of isolation, encourage employees to ask for feedback, conduct cross-functional teaching sessions, and participate in fun activities.
Does the company pay for WiFi? Can telecommuters bill a quarterly outing to the company? Is working on weekends compensated? List all benefits that are guaranteed to the remote employee.
Implementation of a remote work policy requires cooperation from employees. A work-from-home policy is much more effective when employees are self-motivated and do not require constant monitoring. Virtual companies operate on trust, and employers rely on teleworkers not to abuse the policies.
Tips on Drafting a Successful Work-from-Home Policy
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind while creating a work-from-home policy.
Policy documents with crisp and concise points are easy to comprehend and remember; do not add unnecessary jargon. Employees from all fields of work should be able to understand the policy.
Do Not Overcomplicate
Too many conditions and clauses will make the policy complex and confusing. Everything cannot be covered in the policy. Further, the policy must make the work-from-home expectations straightforward and understandable.
An overcomplicated policy will give an impression of overbearing culture in the organization, which is bad for employee morale.
Say No to Micromanagement
Micromanagement is against the remote style of work. In a setup where facetime is less or none at all, managers tend to become obsessively controlling. Micromanagement is a type of harassment. Progressive work-from-home jobs treat employees as responsible people and encourage them to be self-driven.
Dos and Don’ts
Every company has its dos and don’ts that must be adhered to. A company dealing with sensitive client data must have a set of clear work-from-home guidelines on data management. There must be no ambiguity when writing policy on crucial matters. Employees must have clarity on rules and regulations.
No policy is perfect, and it needs to adapt to the changing times. Create avenues to gather feedback regularly and iterate it when required. Collect anonymous feedback on making changes. Evaluation is a continuous process and is a responsibility of the leadership team.
Work-from-Home Policy Templates
Referring to work-from-home policy templates will help define the elementary structure of the policy. There are several templates available online that can be tailor-made according to a company’s needs.
Follow the Success Policy
Going completely remote is possible only for companies that belong to a few sectors. A McKinsey research report states that the finance and insurance industry has the highest potential of going remote, followed by management, business services, IT, and education sectors. In a post-pandemic world, where most companies are making the transition from a physical office to a virtual one, the continuity of the remote work model will depend on productivity.
A work policy significantly contributes to workforce productivity by establishing guidelines on work hours, time off, process compliance, and ensuring consistent application of rules across the organization. Policies are beneficial for both parties—employer and employees.
An employee policy that goes hand in hand with the mission, vision statement, reflects the organization’s culture and instills boundaries while giving creative and personal freedom is a recipe for success.