While the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for a massive uptick in remote positions and policies for workplaces, the “remote” concept has been around for a bit longer than the pandemic would make it seem.
At some point, after all, the pandemic will end, and by then, working remotely is going to be as standard a practice as using the time clock.
In June 2020, Nicholas Bloom, a Senior Fellow at SIEPR (Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research) found that 42% of the U.S workforce was working from home. That number has surely fluctuated in the past year and a half, but all the same, remote work is a popular benefit for today’s workforce.
While working at home continues to rise in popularity, it is critical for companies to adopt policies and procedures specific to this model of employment.
So, Will Working at Home Work For My Business?
Some companies may be hesitant about the switch to remote work, particularly as it has become a worldwide conversation. Pressure can initiate change and innovation, but it can also hinder it.
The most valid viewpoint in this situation is the one that provides comfort to employees and accounts for practical concerns regarding public health and safety, as well as the maintenance of business operations.
Are there costs to be saved by switching to remote work?
Will company morale and culture survive in this model?
The response to both questions will depend on the business model and the company culture: where a consistently flexible workplace may strategize on the best way to adapt, a field bound to tradition and necessary routine might consider remote work on an emergency basis only.
Neither decision makes more universal sense than the other, so in lieu of directional certainty, the ability to understand and evaluate takes precedence over crises of correctness—only you will know what is best for your company.
Likewise, a transition to working at home depends on the policies and procedures already in place. Change not taken is rarely about lack of resolve, and in fact, the common reasons for staying put, such as a risk of decreased productivity or a basic contradiction of company fundamentals, get too little notice.
In 2017 and 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted a survey of workers who worked from home and how often they did so per week.
- Around 14% of the workforce worked remotely all week.
- Compared to the 18% who worked remotely less than once per month.
- While 5% of high school graduates worked remotely.
- Less than the 29% of college graduates with a Bachelor’s or an advanced degree were working remotely.
The numbers prompt questions over employee availability and conditions, expectations and philosophy. Jobs with the most remote workers featured administrative tasks and a focus on products that are meant to shape themselves to their customers’ needs, like education or finance. The blue collar work of physical labor often had no data to show, since, according to the key, the estimation did not meet the American Time Use Survey standards.
What Are Some Good Policy and Procedure Suggestions for Working at Home?
In companies where it is possible to allow employees to work remotely regularly, examining the business goals, current policy and procedure documentation, and tools available can lend important insight as to what documentation, plan, or goal changes may need to be made.
As a starting place, companies can draw upon other companies’ remote work plans.
Call it consistency or accuracy, the connecting factor sticks with clarity as it accounts for the concerns each company faces.
Cornell University put out a list of recommended guidelines for remote work in the early stages of the pandemic, and its ideas are applicable to a wide variety of industries and careers. Among the guidelines are recommendations to schedule time for breaks and practice forms of self-care.
Clearly, a work-life balance continues to hold importance in remote environments, and why not, seeing as the barriers between home life and work routine only become thinner.
The burnout scenario often discussed with conversations about working from home is, well, preventable, specifically by managers and other administrative members—all that needs to be done is to check in on workers.
The end result is easier than it sounds, partly due to preparation and somewhat inadvertently, purpose.
To want to switch to remote is to parse the goals preceding the shift, meaning, and unsurprisingly, the possibility of success requires several levels of commitment, most of which are assured by the time a company is planning remote work policies.
Managers need to balance authority with freedom from restrictions. A potential downside to companies continuing the ‘working at home’ phenomenon is the decline of policy and procedure enforcement on a large scale, and some people may say that negates the point of introducing a brand new policy.
However, updating company policies and procedures to the changing work environment showcases trust and transparency in these difficult times.
Being honest is an understated quality of remote work.
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The completed policy should reflect the concentrated effort and consideration of alternatives that went into it, otherwise, it will have no focus and will fail to meet its own rubric.
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Written by Will Boswell