In the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace culture shifted. Companies worldwide had to empty their offices and transition into hybrid or fully remote work models.
Some workplaces haven’t gone back, and working from home is increasingly popular — especially among employees. When a company gives employees the option to work from home, 87% of workers agree to do so.
In 2022, 13% of American workers worked from home once a week, while 32% spent their entire workweeks at home. And the opportunity spans across industries, from computer engineering down to healthcare services.
While workers want more flexibility, your company might face unique challenges, especially if you’ve never considered remote work before. Developing a solid work-from-home policy, or WFH policy, is a good way to maintain workplace culture and keep things running smoothly.
Why is a work-from-home policy important?
A formal policy sets clear guidelines and lets you and your employees know what to expect if and when they work remotely. It may be part of an employee’s contract or implemented as the workplace changes.
Either way, it should be accessible and clear so everyone involved is on the same page, and you should collaborate with human resources (HR) to make sure you don’t miss anything.
A strong work-from-home policy also outlines why you’re implementing remote work so everyone can understand the decision. Not everyone will immediately prefer working online to in-person, and managers and workers don’t totally align on the value of working from home.
Managers think that remote work leads to less productivity, while their workforce feels like they’re actually getting more done.
Regardless of how you feel, adapting to the labor market’s demands attracts and retains talent. Remote work is often part of a strong employee value proposition, and it can benefit everyone involved if done correctly. With a clear remote policy, it’s possible to have a smooth and productive online workplace.
Pros of working from home
1. Frees up time
American workers waste over 50% of their workdays with unnecessary commuting, meetings, and emails. Although working from home isn’t free of distractions, remote work gives employees the freedom to create a more focused workflow and avoid potential time-wasters.
2. Allows personalized work environments
Remote work means employees can more easily control their workspace. They create a work-from-home setup that fits their style, whether that’s creating a cozy separate office or working from their dining room table.
If someone is easily distracted by loud side conversations and office chatter, for example, they can control their office space to avoid those distractions.
3. Promotes a healthier staff
Modern workers are so fearful of the repercussions of absenteeism that they feel guilty about calling in sick, even if it puts others at risk. Working from home lets employees march on if they’re well enough to work but don’t want to get others sick.
This could be a temporary choice or benefit of permanent remote work.
4. Encourages inclusivity
While organizations should strive to create accessible and inclusive spaces for all, employees may feel more comfortable working remotely for a number of reasons, like chronic illnesses, neurodiversity, or mobility issues.
Offering work-from-home options lets employees know they’re valued in the spaces that make them feel most comfortable.
5. Sparks creativity
Working from home gives employees the opportunity to take small breaks throughout the day without distracting coworkers. They can more easily use methods like The Pomodoro Technique to take a few minutes and stretch their legs, take a moment to rest, or complete short non-work tasks.
Cons of working from home
Here are some disadvantages to consider when structuring remote and hybrid work environments:
1. Can be difficult to unplug
With remote work, people’s home spaces blur between personal and professional. Over half of remote employees say it’s hard to disconnect from work at the end of the day. This can be particularly difficult if they don’t have a separate office space or they use the same devices for work and life.
2. Increases burnout
According to one survey, 47% of fully remote workers and 41% of hybrid workers are stressed about their new work-life balance. The same survey found that, when they started working from home, 53% of workers reported increased hours, while 37% reported decreased vacation time.
3. Isolates employees
Modern workers yearn to find meaning and purpose in their work. Humans crave company, even in the workplace. Although working remotely can help improve focus, workers might feel isolated or alienated from other employees.
As an employer, set up communication structures, regular one-on-one meetings, team building activities, and initiatives to keep workers in sync and united.
4. Leads to fewer breakthroughs
Without the chance to run into each other in an office space, workers may only interact for work-specific tasks. But productivity increases when coworkers interact. Removing this process could lead to less innovation and creative collaboration.
5. Spurs miscommunications
Humans use face-to-face communication to gauge the context, intention, and meaning of someone’s words. However, digital communication cuts out important nonverbal body language like hand gestures, facial expressions, and other mannerisms.
This can lead to misunderstandings that negatively impact a team’s health.
11 clauses to include in a work-from-home policy
Working from home requires more than a computer and an internet connection. Establish formal and organized policies to support remote workers and encourage a culture of engagement from afar.
Collaborate with your HR team, and make sure relevant departments — like legal — review it to avoid mistakes.
Here are some effective work-from-home policy points to include. Feel free to use the following clauses as a work-from-home policy template to create your own.
1. Purpose and scope
Start your remote work policy by explaining why the policy was created and if it’s temporary. For example, if you’re renovating your office, your company may permit remote work until the renovations are finished. Establish when you expect workers to come back.
And if you’re going fully remote, clarify that the work-from-home policy is permanent until further notice.
2. Type of remote work
Although most people prefer it, not everyone wants to work from home. Consider your options, and decide whether you want to offer one or several remote work situations. Here are some types of remote work:
Fully remote. Employees work completely from home.
Hybrid. Employees have a set amount of days they should be in or out of the office.
Flexible. Employees set their work schedule, number of hours, and days spent in the office or working from home.
Decide which roles are eligible for remote work and clearly define the working-from-home requirements for each. Contractors, part-time employees, full-time employees, new hires, and interns all serve different purposes within the organization and require different considerations for remote work eligibility.
Interns, for example, might need more supervision and benefit from being in the office daily.
You might allow some employees to work from home if they have seniority or work a certain number of hours — though seniority systems aren’t recommended.
Other employees might have certain job duties that need to be performed on-site, whether they’re client-facing or involve high-security documents. As well, you might hire people in areas that don’t have an in-person office nearby, meaning they’ll be remote either way. Make the standards clear for everyone.
4. Approval process
If your company isn’t fully remote, employees might have to go through an approval process to work remotely. Outline the steps they need to take to make the request. Create a clear application and inform workers of the proper channels to consult with, like human resources or their manager.
5. Communication expectations
Being transparent about communication expectations — whether it’s being available on Slack or attending Zoom meetings with cameras on — will avoid unnecessary miscommunication and give employees continuous support.
When making your remote work policy, answer these questions about availability and communication:
Availability. What hours do you expect your employees to be available? If you choose a traditional 9-to-5 structure, will you be flexible to different time zones, or will everyone be expected to be online in the same period? Are there core hours where everyone should be online across time zones, with the rest being flexible?
Responsiveness. How quickly should workers respond to emails and messages? Is the level of urgency different for clients or managers?
Collaboration. Will you expect workers to attend meetings every day? How will you avoid Zoom fatigue? What team-building exercises will be available to keep everyone connected, and are they mandatory? What software will they use to collaborate with team members?
6. Digital tools and software
Consider how employees will set up their workspace at home. During the employee onboarding process, communicate whether employees will have to use their own computers — and what specs they should have — or if you’ll provide one for them.
This is also a good time to calculate a budget for overhead costs.
Include a list of software in your work-from-home policy so employees know exactly what they need and how to get it. Consider what messaging apps, video conferencing platforms, and project management software they need to access.
You might also want to encourage virtual private network (VPN) use to protect company data.
7. Tech support
Telecommuting is susceptible to technical difficulties, and employees should know how to address problems across platforms. Create a list of IT support options, like a Slack channel or help desk, in your remote work policy so workers don’t have to resolve technical problems on their own.
8. Team building
Just because people are online doesn’t mean they should be isolated. Create virtual team-building activities to keep workers connected. Remind them of their meaningful roles within the organization to improve their social health.
If you use Slack, consider starting a “#random” channel where coworkers can share non-work-related chats. You can also schedule regular social meetings, like a virtual game night, or in-person meet-ups if employees are in the same city or region.
9. Legal obligations
Be aware of your legal responsibilities as a WFH employer, particularly for hourly employees. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay overtime if they work over 40 hours per week, even if they work remotely.
A work-from-home policy should be explicit about the maximum number of work hours for different types of employees. If you have a significant number of hourly workers, consider implementing a time-tracking app to ensure they’re keeping up with their required hours.
A remote policy can also include standards for compensation and benefits. If an employee decides to move to a new location with a higher cost of living, will you be responsible for increasing their hourly fee or annual salary to match? Are they allowed to travel and work from other countries for a few weeks each year?
Be clear about what remote workers can expect, and let them know how flexible you will be about lifestyle and location changes.
Be transparent about what disciplinary actions you’ll take if an employee breaks a rule. This could be a warning system or more severe consequences, depending on what your priorities are as an employer.
Make sure employees know what the expectations are when working remotely and what happens if they don’t meet them.
Remote work is here to stay
Modern work culture has changed. Even if workers are excited to return to the office, your organization should consider a flexible work policy to fit your staff’s diverse needs and lifestyle changes.
Remote work proposes unique new challenges, and a clear and detailed remote work-from-home policy helps employees feel supported. Your organization can transition from in-person to remote work without sacrificing productivity, innovation, and collaboration.