Implementing a work from home policy: how to get started

In light of Covid-19, many companies have found themselves needing to shift to a remote work set up almost overnight. With such rapid change, what are the best policies to introduce to ensure it’s a smooth transition?

April 27, 2020
Katie Wan

Policies align staff on expectations of performance and behaviour. By outlining the company’s position, employees can be held to a fair and consistent code of conduct and way of work. If not careful, however, implementing a new policy can cause distrust and negative perceptions amongst the workforce as presumptions of added control and bureaucracy can preside. Here we outline some considerations that we took as we pivoted to work from home in a short space of time.

With COVID-19 causing almost an overnight shift to work from home, it would be easy to adopt a template resource found on the internet. However, taking template policies and applying them sweepingly can have its downfalls on organizational culture and employee perception. Therefore, tailoring policies to match your company’s overall culture is key to effective implementation. It is also important to update other policies to adapt to the virtual workspace.

When writing or adapting policies to support WFH, we would encourage any policy maker to think about two key points to help guide the content and structure:

Point 1) Do your HR policies shape expectations of an open and safe virtual workplace, promoting trust, respect and transparency between all employees? For example:

  • Do your anti-harassment policies/ practices have a strong enough focus on remote working?
  • Are there measures in place to catch and address online bullying and cyber safety? Are your staff aware of these?
  • What channels should employees use to raise concerns and escalations/ complaints to the company?

Point 2) How do you want your WFH workforce to operate? Have you set expectations on:

  • availability/ responsiveness
  • work hours
  • ‘meeting etiquette’ for online meetings
  • what constitutes a positive attitude and standards of behaviour
  • digital security
  • equipment and resources for homeworking

Having taken the above points into account, at Eko, we split the structure of our policy into two: ‘Hard’ rules and ‘softer’ guidelines. To help implement our policy successfully, we ran the draft policy by our Line Management body to see if they felt it was reasonable and practical. No doubt, as we keep learning about long term work from home, we will continuously improve our policy and update it accordingly.

In summary, offering occasional work from home as a benefit has different implications to having a full workforce working from home. HR policies and management mindset needs to adapt and shift accordingly to promote the right culture and to set the right expectations to staff.

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