Setting CLEAR Remote Working Policies

SPB Blog Remote Working

A recent email from Gusto’s HR Support Center asked very simply: “Can we require remote employees to inform us when they move to a new city or state?” The answer was, “Yes, you actually are required to do so!” Basically, if someone moves to a different jurisdiction there will be different taxation issues your payroll department will have to work with, as well as the possibility of different requirements for sick leave, minimum wage, unemployment compensation, and even the payout of unused vacation time when the employee leaves the company.

The question got us thinking about the larger issue of remote working policies and how important it is for companies to think about them BEFORE they allow workers to work from home. The first thing to consider, of course, is whether your company has jobs that even make sense as remote working opportunities. Obviously, retail sales in a storefront environment or manufacturing furniture along an assembly-line are non-starters. Outside sales, however, where an employee spends the majority of their time visiting clients (and prospects) is a very good reason to not carve out extra office space for someone. And can your customer support reps do just as good a job from home? Maybe!

It occurred to us that there are 4 big things to be clear on right from the beginning.

CLEAR Expectations

One of the first challenges to overcome is the determination of exactly what is required of the remote worker. Are there specific hours you need them to be available? Particular days? A CSR may need to be at his or her desk from 9 am to 5 pm…in your time zone! So if you’re based in Atlanta and they move to Los Angeles, they will need to be at their desk from 6 am to 2 pm.

Do you have particular turnaround times that need to be adhered to? If a customer is used to hearing back on a request…via email or phone call…within 30 minutes, your remote workers will need to know that is still expected, regardless of where they work.

The best practice is to put all these things in writing and let the workers know ahead of time exactly what is expected of them. Equally important, though, to know is what the remote worker will require of their management. Maybe they need to know where to look for answers to specific questions in a moment of need. Or perhaps they have to have a reliable line of communication to a supervisor during regular business hours.

CLEAR Metrics

Along with expectations, the remote workers will need a way to measure their success in meeting those expectations. Are the metrics going to be recorded through your computer system or will it be more of an “anecdotal” measurement requiring supervisors to note each time an employee meets or fails to meet a requirement?

This might be a perfect time to institute more “outcome based” metrics standards. Remote workers can generally be afforded more freedom to not “punch the clock” and just fill a space while counting the hours until they are done for the day. If they are getting their job done well, does it really matter exactly how many hours they are spending doing so? 

Go back to the issue of expectations…if you have instituted a requisite list of things a remote worker has to achieve and they do it in 6 hours a day, do you really expect them to sit at their desk the other 2 just so they can say they worked 8? With that freedom, though comes the responsibility of getting the job done even if it takes more than 8. Remote work is much better suited for salaried work rather than hourly.

CLEAR Responsibilities

When you decide to let someone work remotely, the responsibility for the work conditions becomes split. The company may provide the computer equipment, or the company may just provide compensation for the use of the employee’s personal computer. What about internet access? The employee is likely going to have it before working remotely and will definitely be using it for Netflix after-hours…so does the company need to compensate for any of it? Or will it be the employee’s responsibility to calculate the hours used for business versus personal use and fill out the appropriate tax forms for unreimbursed work expenses?

When an employee is sitting at a desk at your offices, the company is generally responsible to create a pleasant work environment. At home, that ends up being almost, if not completely, up to the employee. If the surroundings are not conducive to getting working accomplished efficiently, though, how much responsibility does the company shoulder in making that better?

CLEAR Communications

At the end of the day, all of this boils down to having great communication with your employees before you decide to let them work remotely…and continuing to work on those communication skills as they work from home. In a remote work situation, you will need to have frequent verbal or written communication with the employee, making sure they know what is required today, tomorrow, and the rest of the week.

That may take the form of a week-beginning Zoom call, so they know you are still aware of them, value the work they do, and that your expectations have not changed. When they call with an important question, someone needs to pick up the phone. When an email from them arrives, someone needs to answer it as quickly as possible.

And the communication doesn’t stop with just “work stuff.” Even if they are not working in the office…even if they are working from a different state!…employees want to feel “part of the whole”…”a member of the team.” If they are local, make sure they are invited to work parties and picnics. If they are far remote, consider flying them in to be with their teammates a couple times a year. The costs of doing so will probably be well-balanced against the savings of the extra desk space and other cost-reduction factors involved with a remote workforce.

We are proud to work with Gusto and leverage their Human Resources might, along with their outstanding Payroll program, for companies of all sizes. Call us today to learn more!

Setting CLEAR Remote Working Policies