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It's Time to Make Some Decisions Around Remote Work

Jen Dewar
Aug 26, 2020 11:33:16 AM

It’s no secret that workers have long coveted remote roles. Seventy one percent said that the ability to work remotely would make them more likely to choose one employer over another in their next job. Seventy four percent of workers say that a remote work option would make them less likely to leave their employer. Despite this, many employers were reluctant to allow remote work until the COVID-19 pandemic forced them into it in early 2020.

This foray into remote work has gone better than expected, especially given the circumstances. Sixty eight percent of people say they’re successful working from home, and 70 percent of leaders say that working from home is the same or better for their team’s work performance. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, more and more high-profile companies are choosing to transition to remote work long-term.

But the vast majority companies are holding off on making long-term remote work decisions. While this may allow for greater flexibility later, it holds employees in ambiguity and can take a toll. Not knowing the company’s plans for the future increases stress on employees and keeps them from making important decisions. For instance, working parents are already struggling with distance learning, which will become infinitely more difficult if they have to return to an office before schools open. Without knowing what to plan for, they’re stuck in limbo and unable to adequately prepare.

Making a decision around remote work will give your employees the insights and time they need to make some personal decisions of their own.

How to decide

Think about your long-term remote work policy independent of COVID-19. We don’t know when or how the pandemic will be officially over, so writing it out of the equation bars it from complicating matters. Regardless of whether your office plans to officially reopen in January, next summer, or later, think through what your long-term remote work policy should look like. You will want to work out important details like how remote work will be structured, who is eligible, and how you will pay remote employees.

In the planning phase, it can be helpful to:

  • Learn from leaders on other remote or hybrid teams: Chat with peers or read up on remote work best practices to learn what you can about different aspects of a remote work policy. For instance, learn about synchronous versus asynchronous communication, remote compensation, and how to overcome common challenges of remote work.
  • Round up your leadership team for a discussion: Get your company leaders together for a Zoom meeting to hear their thoughts and brainstorm remote work policy options. Learn what their experience with remote work has been like, and find out what they are seeing and hearing on their teams.
  • Survey your employees: Run some questions by your entire team to gather their thoughts on remote work. Survey your employees to find out things like their remote work preferences, challenges with remote work, and commuting habits, and factor that into your decision-making process and policies. (See Figma's remote work survey for inspiration.)
  • Rope in legal and compliance: It’s always a good idea to run HR policies by legal and compliance to ensure you’re following all applicable laws and mitigating legal risk. For instance, employment law can vary by state and country, so it’s important to consider how your remote work policy should address that.

How to communicate

The sooner you can communicate with your employees about your remote work policy—even if that is to say you will not allow remote work post-COVID—the better.

If you choose to transition to remote work, create a written policy that can be referenced asynchronously, and make sure all employees know where to find it. Then gather your team and discuss your transition to remote work. You should outline things like:

  • Eligibility: Who is eligible for remote work. For example, which roles are eligible, or how long employees would need to work at your company to become eligible.
  • Compensation: How remote compensation will be set for new and existing employees.
  • Stipends: Which home office expenses can be reimbursed. This may include a desk and chair, or internet and phone service.
  • Availability: Availability and responsiveness expectations, including core hours everyone should be available or days everyone should be “in the office.”
  • Security: Protocols employees are expected to follow to ensure safety of confidential company information.

When reviewing your policy with your team, it can be helpful to share some context around how and why specific decisions were made. This level of transparency can help increase employee trust, even if they disagree with specific decisions.

Final thoughts

COVID-19 has likely resulted in many life changes for your employees. Shelter-in-place orders and remote work options have many people considering a move away from large cities. For instance, 64 percent of San Francisco Bay Area professionals would consider relocating if given the opportunity to work from home as much as they would like.

Relocating could bring employees closer to their families, who could help solve the common COVID struggles of isolation and childcare. It could reduce the cost of living, dramatically improving quality of life. And moving out of big cities usually equates to more space, so employees can set up an appropriate home office.

Making a decision around remote work—and soon—will allow your employees to more fully adjust to the changes brought about by COVID-19.

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