Do you intend to have your team work from home permanently? Or just until after the circuit breaker? Whichever the case, you will need to implement an effective work from home policy in your company.
A thoughtfully designed work from home policy is important for 2 reasons.
First, it makes clear to your employees what is and is not allowed. This prevents disputes from happening.
Second, it protects you as an employer, in case any issues arise when your employees work remotely.
Table of content
- What is a work from home policy
- Benefit of remote working
- Risks faced by work from home employees
- Key elements of work from home policy
- Essential tools for remote workers
- How to engage and motivate work from home workers
What Is A Work From Home Policy?
A work from home policy is a set of guidelines used by the company to define the responsibilities and your expectations of employees who work from home.
Most policies will also set out who’s eligible to work from home, how employees can request to work from home, and what the approval process is.
A properly written policy helps to protect both you and your employee if something were to arise from a work from home situation.
What Are The Benefits Of Working From Home?
At this point in time, with COVID-19, it is mandatory to have part of your workforce work remotely for their safety.
However, there are other worthwhile benefits for companies to have a fully or partially remote workforce:
- Reduced commute
The average Singaporean spends 84 minutes of their time commuting every weekday.
This is equivalent to 7 hours or almost 1 full working day per week!
With remote work, your employees can use the time saved on commute to recharge, or spend it on their interests, or with their family.
2. Better work-life balance
If your employees work from home, they can organize their time more flexibly.
They can arrange their schedule to pick their kids up from school, or ferry their aged parents to the doctor’s.
As an employer you benefit because when employees feel empowered to manage their own time, they tend to do better at work too.
3. Increased productivity
Offices can be a distracting place.
Common workplace distractions include visual distractions for open plan offices, background noise and co-workers intruding on deep work sessions.
When employees can focus on their work task away from these distractions, this translates into greater productivity.
Employees gave their input on this study as to why they are more productive when working from home:
- Fewer distractions (75%)
- Fewer interruptions from colleagues (74%)
- Reduced stress from commuting (71%)
- Minimal office politics (65%)
- Quieter noise level (60%)
4. Attract and retain employees
Many employees like to have the option to work flexibly.
Studies have shown that employees are even willing to endure a pay cut just to work remotely.
In this study, 66% of employees said they are willing to take a pay cut to work from home, with almost 30% being willing to take a pay cut of 6% or more.
With work from home being such a valued benefit, being a flexible work employer will help you stand out from the rest of the pack in a competitive job market.
5. Access more talent
There are many people who would like to work, but are unable to commit to jobs based in offices. This could be due to family responsibilities or other reasons.
Being open to allowing these people to work from home will give you access to this sought-after talent pool.
What are the potential risks with people working from home?
While the benefits are substantial, working from home also brings about risks.
It helps to be aware of these risks and address them through your work from home policy.
- Health and safety work from home risks
Employees can get injured when they work from home.
Common injuries include:
- Physical injuries caused by accidents such as slips, trips and falls when working on work tasks at home;
- Ergonomic injuries caused by poor home office setup and / or improper use of equipment.
2. Cyber work from home security risks
When employees work from home, they use digital mediums to communicate with their colleagues.
This opens up cybersecurity risk with home WiFi network, weak passwords, phishing scams, exposure to hacking due to multiple devices usage and data breach or theft.
3. Damaged company equipment
Employees require the same tools when they work from home, as when they work at the office.
And it’s the employer’s responsibility to equip them with the right tools and equipment, so they can be productive.
However, when these equipment get damaged at an employee’s house, the question is who is responsible for it.
Find out more about the Top 3 Risks Your Employees Face When Working from Home.
What to include for an effective work from home policy
- Policy brief and purpose
It’s useful to highlight the purpose of work from home policy and what you wish to achieve by creating this opportunity for your employees.
For instance, some companies say that their purpose of remote work is to improve employees’ work experience, by giving them more flexibility to arrange their time.
2. Define who can and cannot work from home
It’s only fair if your employees know the objective criteria of who is and who is not allowed to work remotely.
So in your policy, you will want to clearly list down your approval criteria
- Does the nature of the job have to allow it?
- Does the employee need to have been in the company for a certain period of time?
- Does the employee need to have performed beyond a certain mark?
Tip: Seek your managers' input when designing these criteria, so you can get their buy-in at a later stage.
3. Establish an approval process
The entire approval process should be laid out clearly.
Employees should know if they can make a formal request, to whom and when they can expect to hear back.
Tip: We suggest that both Human Resource (HR) and the direct manager should be part of this approval process, so they can both buy-in into the decision.
4. Establish work from home hours and frequency of remote work:
Do you expect employees to be checked in by 9am?
Or do you leave them more flexibility to decide, as long as they complete their tasks on time?
It’s good to be upfront with your team and state your expectations regarding their working hours and availability in your policy.
This will establish clear standards for your employees and help managers ensure close communication and work deliverables.
5. Communication channels when working from home:
Do you expect your team to use Slack for informal chats and emails for formal, lengthier ones?
Do you discourage them from using WhatsApp?
It helps to clearly state your communication channels upfront.
This will ensure your employees knows what the right channel is and reduces the chance of them missing any important information.
Tip: Consider this segmentation:
6. Response time when working from home:
Now that you can’t just pop by someone’s desk to get their input on something, what do you do?
How do you get hold of them and how long are you able to wait?
This is why a good work from home policy will set standards around how and when your team members will be available.
You can also stipulate how soon your remote workers are required to respond to their supervisors.
Should this be immediately within a certain time frame, eg. 10am-3pm? Or within a specific timelapse, eg. 3 hours?
Tip: You might want to get both your team and manager's input on this one. Also, requirements for availability might differ from department to department. Teams that do transactions will likely require faster response times compared to those doing back-office tasks.
7. Productivity measures and markers:
Both you and your employees will want to know how productivity when working remotely is measured.
When there is a clearly trackable and objective metric, this will clear any niggling thoughts on your end that your remote employees are slacking off.
And it’ll also clear any doubts your employees have that their managers will overlook their work contribution.
Productivity measures will vary based on how success is measure for the employee’s job responsibility.
Is it in terms of hours spent working on a specified task? The number of customer phone calls made? A high customer satisfaction score?
8. Work from home setup
It is your responsibility as an employer under Singapore laws to provide a safe and healthy workplace for your employees.
The law considers home offices to also be “workplaces”.
Therefore, you’ll want to stipulate a minimum ergonomic standard your employee’s home office should have.
As part of your policy, you will want to let your employee know whether you will provide furniture for them (eg. ergonomic office chairs) or whether you will expect them to provide their own.
Tip: To better understand your responsibility as an employer to your work from home employee, download this free 18-page White Paper.
9. Technology equipment and tech support:
When your employee works from home, technology both in terms of hardware and software, are vital for maintaining their productivity.
Let your employees know what type of equipment you will be getting or subsidizing for them, or if you expect them to provide the equipment themselves.
Do also make sure they can access IT support in case technical issues arise.
Tip: TeamViewer is a good (and free) tool for your IT to support your employees remotely.
10. Work from home dress code:
One of the big perks of working from home is definitely comfortable lounge wear!
However, on video conferences, you will want your employees to look professional and presentable.
You can clearly state the type of appropriate attire up front in a work from home policy.
11. Remote work location
If you prefer that employees work remotely only from a particular location, eg. their homes, your policy should state so.
This could affect the way work is carried out and also impact security. For instance, working on a public WiFi makes your employees’ cybersecurity more vulnerable compared to home WiFi.
12. Channels for feedback:
Leave room for your employees to give anonymous feedback, so you can improve and evolve your work from home policy.
Essential tools to set up a productive home office
Having the right tools and home office setup is very important for remote employees to work comfortably and effectively.
In your work policy, educate your employees (as far as possible) to:
- Create and allocate a dedicated workspace
When your employee works from their bed or sofa, it mixes up their work and rest. This makes it hard for them to unwind after work.
Also, soft surfaces like beds and sofas are not set up for proper work ergonomics, and will cause your employees to suffer from back and neck pain in the near future.
You can advice your employee to allocate a corner or space for a proper desk and ergonomic chair.
This will help them focus better and create a clear separation between work and daily
2. Get an ergonomic chair
A good chair is worth the investment because your employee will be sitting 8 hours a day or more when the work.
An ergonomic chair will promote good posture and support the lower back.
Also, advice them to look out for features such as adjustable seat, armrest & backrest, lumbar support, swivel wheels and breathable materials.
3. Include a standing desk or standing desk converter
Working from home will reduce your employee’s opportunity to move about. They will miss out on their daily commute and walking for lunch.
If your budget allows for it, you can get them a standing desk.
Being able to move about without interfering with their work will bring about a whole host of health and productivity benefits.
4. Equip themselves with ergonomic accessories:
Depending on their work set up, your employee can use ergonomic accessories to help them achieve the right neutral posture.
Items like laptop stands, document holders, monitor arms, footrest, ergonomic keyboard and mice can be helpful in avoiding discomfort and physical injuries.
5. Get a fast, secure and reliable WIFI:
Working from home relies heavily on the internet. Having a patchy WIFI can be a serious impediment to your employee’s productivity.
Find out more about How to set up your home office on budget.
How to engage and motivate work from home employees
- Communicate regularly
Set up regular virtual or face-to-face meetings with your remote employees.
This will help them maintain a connection with their colleagues and get steeped in your company’s values.
To scale this up, having an internal communication channel such as Slack updates or even informal WhatsApp chat interest group.
This can help employees share interesting ideas and start conversations within the company.
- Check in daily
Make sure it’s not out of sight and out of mind when it comes to your remote workers.
Make it part of your culture for their direct managers to have regular check-ins with remote workers.
Simple questions such as “How are you getting on with your project” or “Are you facing any challenges that I can help with” is a good way to catch any problems before they become too difficult to solve.
- Train your leaders
One of the crucial challenges for companies is training team leaders to manage remote teams.
A recent HR survey has shown that 56% of employees feel that their managers should upskill to manage remote workers better.
So training your managers on the best practice for managing their teams should be of utmost important in your HR policy.
Work from home arrangement can truly benefit both the employees and employers in the long term if they can get the system right. And the first step in doing so is a clearly defined work from home policy.
Here at Esevel, we help reduce the complexity of managing a dispersed workforce, by taking care of your remote employees’ safety, productivity and day-to-day work needs.
To learn more about how Esevel can help you scale up your remote team, see here.