The business world today is a dynamically changing landscape, and the need for social distancing has skyrocketed the popularity of remote work. According to recent statistics, over 70% of employees work remotely at least once a week, and over 40% work remotely full-time. With the rise of remote work, companies have had to adapt their policies to incorporate remote work to ensure business continuity. In response, many firms have adopted a remote-first work policy, a company policy that prioritizes remote work and offers flexible and remote work options to employees. Creating a successful remote-first work policy requires careful planning, implementation, and evaluation to ensure it meets the needs of employees and contributes to the company’s growth. This article outlines best practices for creating a successful remote-first work policy.
Benefits and Challenges of Remote Work
Before creating a remote-first work policy, employers need to understand the benefits and challenges of remote work to ensure important gains for the business are not undermined by associated costs. Remote working offers various benefits, including:
- Improved Work-Life Balance – Remote work provides employees with the freedom to work from anywhere, saving them commuting time and expenses. This allows employees to achieve work-life balance, giving them greater control over their time and leading to increased job satisfaction.
- Enhanced Productivity – Remote work can enhance productivity by eliminating unproductive meetings, interruptions, and distractions. Remote employees can focus on their tasks without being disturbed, leading to better quality work and faster turnaround time.
- Reduced Business Costs – Remote work can help companies reduce their business costs by eliminating the need for office spaces, equipment, and utilities. This can help companies save money and invest in other areas of the business.
Despite the benefits of remote work, remote work also presents challenges, including:
- Communication Difficulties – Remote work can present communication difficulties, such as miscommunication, language barriers, and lack of personal interaction. This can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and lower job satisfaction.
- Isolation and Loneliness – Remote work can lead to isolation and loneliness, resulting in lower employee engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity. This can also cause burnout and mental health problems.
- Cybersecurity Issues – Remote work can present cybersecurity challenges, such as data breaches, cyber-attacks, and phishing attacks. This can lead to the loss of sensitive company information and reputational damage.
Defining Roles and Responsibilities
Once an employer understands the benefits and challenges of remote work, the next step is to define roles and responsibilities. Defining roles and responsibilities is essential to ensure everyone understands their job duties and how they contribute to the company’s success. This will help in avoiding confusion and conflicts while enabling team members to focus on their tasks and deliverables.
Employers should establish guidelines for communication and collaboration, such as channels for communication, meeting schedules, and protocols for addressing issues. This will help employees understand how to approach their work and manage their time more effectively.
An important part of defining roles and responsibilities is ensuring project ownership. As remote work enables flexible work schedules, it is crucial for team members to understand their responsibility and ownership towards projects they are working on within agreed timelines. An approach that employers can consider is the “accountability partner” model which ensures that team members are assigned projects that they are responsible for while being checked in on as they progress.
If pursued, this model should also go alongside setting up a clear system for delegation and supervision, determining which projects will require team engagement and approval, and how different approvals can come to fruition.
Establishing Performance Metrics
Establishing performance metrics is vital to ensure that employees are meeting their targets, delivering quality work, and contributing to the company’s success. Establishing performance metrics can help you track progress, identify areas for improvement, and offer constructive feedback to employees to enhance their performance.
Employers should establish clear and measurable goals that employees can work towards. Some metrics to consider include meeting deadlines, achieving target sales, maintaining customer satisfaction, and delivering projects on time, among others. Establishing performance metrics can help employers identify high-performing employees, improve their performance, and offer opportunities for growth and development.
It is also essential to provide useful feedback in a remote work setting. It is essential that remote employees have a feedback system that helps identify key elements of high performance, highlight areas of opportunity and side by side establish clear structures for self-improvement. This feedback loop should focus on communicating openly and transparently.
Providing the Right Tools and Resources
As remote work allows employees to work from anywhere, it is essential to provide the right tools and resources to perform their work effectively. This may include laptops, internet connectivity, remote access to company software and applications, and communication and collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack, or Microsoft Teams.
Employers must invest in training and development programs to help remote employees acquire new skills and keep up with the latest technology trends. This will help to enhance their productivity, job satisfaction, and contribute to the company’s growth.
Employers can also provide support and resources for personal development, such as access to training programs, mentorship opportunities, and professional development courses. This helps employees stay motivated and engaged, leading to better job performance.
Employers must also ensure that accessibility is not overlooked. Accessibility, particularly relating to software and training provisions, is particularly pertinent as a significant proportion of remote workers may need more visual or verbal training tools to get up to speed with a given project or software.
Providing a suite of tools (or at least the provision for them), such as text-to-speech or Screen readers for those with visual impairments or language support tools for hearing-impaired employees will reduce downtime at the onset.
Any messages from employers should be accessible to all, which can also be done by considering language access, font size, and full stop ratios in written communication.
Establishing Security and Data Protection Policies
Remote work presents cybersecurity risks and threats to organizational data. It is essential to establish security and data protection policies to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive company information.
Employers should establish guidelines for encrypting data, using secure networks, and limiting access to essential information based on roles and job duties. Employers should mandate the use of multi-factor authentication and encryption tools to secure the data.
Employers should train employees on security best practices, such as reporting suspicious emails and phishing attempts and using strong passwords, to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches. Employers should provide access to cybersecurity training and resources to ensure employees are aware of the latest threats and vulnerabilities.
Emphasizing Work-Life Balance
One of the benefits of remote work is the opportunity to achieve work-life balance. As an employer, emphasizing work-life balance by offering flexible schedules, paid time off, and encouraging employees to take breaks during the workday is essential.
Employers should respect their employees’ boundaries by avoiding after-work-hour communication and offering mental health support, such as counseling services or employee assistance programs. By emphasizing work-life balance, employers can enhance employee engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity, leading to increased business success.
An important aspect of maintaining work-life balance in a remote work setting is the ability for employees to disconnect—while emphasizing flexibility; employers should establish communication boundaries and limits to ensure that employees can disconnect to avoid burnout.
Promoting Communication and Collaboration
Effective communication and collaboration are essential for a successful remote-first work policy. Employers should establish communication and collaboration guidelines and ensure employees have access to the technology to support them.
Employers should encourage employees to engage in regular team building activities, such as virtual coffee breaks, game nights, or project kickoffs, to enhance collaboration and foster team spirit. By promoting communication and collaboration, employers can create a positive work environment that fosters innovation, productivity, and success.
It’s essential to create intentional online team spaces to enable successful communication and remote collaboration. To ensure that communication occurs in a timely manner, employers can adopt tools such as “check-ins” with managers or team leads or developing protocols for staff members to follow if they’re in need of information or guidance around a project.
A successful remote-first policy has to encompass cultural conditioning with every user being aware that there are responsibilities and boundaries to professionalism in remote working environments.
Creating a successful remote first work policy is essential to the success of modern businesses. To achieve this, employers must establish a clear understanding of remote work’s benefits and challenges, define roles and responsibilities, establish performance metrics, provide the right tools and resources, emphasize work-life balance, establish security and data protection policies, promote communication and collaboration, and invest in employee training, development, and wellbeing. By doing so, employers can ensure a successful remote-first work policy that meets their needs and enhances their employees’ performance and job satisfaction.