Designing a Work-From-Home Policy: Where to Begin

As we further progress into uncertain times, additional restrictions have seen many companies forced into lockdown, leaving most or all of their workforce to work from home while self-isolating and social distancing. During this time, it is critical that HR have the right resources to successfully manage staff while maintaining business continuity. The first step to quickly and efficiently implement alternative working protocol is developing a robust Work From Home policy.

Not sure where to start? Cognology’s Work From Home HR tools provide step-by-step guidance, including a Work From Home policy template. Here’s just a taste of what you’ll find in our toolset:

Why create a Work From Home policy?

Like any other policy, the purpose of a Work From Home policy is to clearly define expectations and guidelines for team members. Especially at organisations that may have been abruptly forced into working from home, taking the time to develop a formal policy helps ensure leaders are thoughtful and intentional in managing this significant transition. A comprehensive policy should address:

  • Who the policy applies to
  • Changes in operating procedures
    • Working hours
    • Work environment
    • Setting up a home workspace
    • Technical requirements
  • Breaches to the policy
  • Supportive material
  • Tips for successfully working from home

Who the policy applies to

Step one is to clearly define what roles are appropriate for a working from home arrangement, detailing eligibility criteria. Some roles or departments may rely on infrastructure or equipment incompatible with an off-site arrangement – consider what alternatives or accommodations could be made in these cases.

Changes in operating procedures

A business continuity plan is important to have in place at all times in case of disaster, social unrest, or other major, unplanned events that could impact business operations. A Work From Home policy should reference any existing plan or provide the impetus to create one.

A key component is a communication plan that outlines how the organisation will stay in touch with team members, customers or clients, and other stakeholders while operating as close to full capacity as possible. That includes ensuring all stakeholders feel satisfied, engaged, and valued.

Our Information Onboarding tool is ideally suited for crisis communications and information gathering. See some of the ways it can be used.

Working hours

Determine whether core working hours will remain or alternative hours will be in place, and consider allowing flexible hours for those with outside commitments, i.e. parents without child care resources while self-isolating. Work with customers, clients, and vendors to address any changes in response times or other impacts to service level agreements.

Encourage teams to take regular breaks, including a lunch break, to maintain physical and mental health. Stepping away from the work area allows staff to decompress and return to work refreshed and engaged.

Work environment

A Work From Home policy should instill the understanding that work must still be executed to the highest standard. Although today’s technology ensures that a professional office environment is not always a necessity, it is still important that the home work environment is designed in a way that allows team members to work effectively and communicate regularly.

Setting up a home workspace

The optimal home workspace is designed for both comfort and productivity. It should be a defined space that is safe, secure, and free from distraction, at a consistently comfortable temperature. Furniture and equipment should be as ergonomically supportive as possible.

Team members need an adequately sized desk that provides ample space for necessary equipment. All required documents or tools should be placed within easy reach to avoid unnecessary strain. At the ideal desk height, arms should be parallel to the floor when typing on the keyboard.

Fancy ergonomic desk chairs are great, but even regular old chairs can work with proper posture. The back should be pressed fully against the back of the chair, supporting the lower back with hips pushed as far back as possible. Consider accessories like a lumbar support to provide additional comfort. If possible, adjust the seat height so that feet sit flat on the floor with knees at a right angle.

Computer screens should be at arm’s length, and the top of the monitor should be at or below eye level. A monitor shouldn’t need to be tilted more than 10 to 20 degrees. Monitor stands or phone books can be used to raise the height of the screen if necessary.

The correct placement of the keyboard and mouse is close enough to the body so that elbows rest comfortably at one’ssides while using each.

Go way beyond these basics with our full guide to Designing the Optimal Home Workspace, included in our Work From Home product suite.

Technical requirements

While working from a remote location, team members should be required to have access to:

  • A reliable, secure internet connection that provides ample bandwidth to efficiently support the tasks required of the position.
  • Computer equipment and accessories (keyboard, mouse, monitor, charging cables, power board, headset, adapters, etc).
  • Remote access to files and tools. This could be established through VPN server connections or shared cloud-based storage, for example. Remember that client, vendor, bank, and other stakeholder agreements often include specific requirements around data security, so any VPN or cloud sharing tools should be carefully evaluated to comply.
  • A means for communication, such as a landline, personal or business mobile or VOIP––or online chat tools, like Slack, at a minimum.
  • Contact information for internal IT or Support teams.

If a team member is using their own device for work purposes, it is the responsibility of the team member to ensure that the device:

  • Has the latest security and system updates installed
  • Has appropriate anti-virus and anti-malware software installed
  • Can be securely locked and can’t be accessed by others
  • Has licenses for any operating systems or other software being used

An easy way to ensure your staff meet technical requirements is to use an online checklist. Talk to our team about how they work.

Breaches to the policy

Organisations need to clearly state the consequences a team member will face if found to have breached the Work From Home policy. An internal investigation should be completed before determining an outcome.

Possible outcomes, depending on severity of the violation, may include:

  • Providing additional training
  • Imposing restrictions on access to data, software, etc.
  • Revising role responsibilities
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Termination of employment

Supportive material

Implementing a Work From Policy is also a good opportunity to remind staff about compliance with other important organisation policies or expectations, perhaps via refresher online training. Ask us how we can help you with this.

Tips for successfully working from home

A robust Work From Home policy goes beyond requirements to be enforced. Team members will appreciate thoughtful tips to ease the transition to new modes of working. Tips might include:

  • Follow a consistent work schedule within any window prescribed by your employer. Plan out your day to create a routine.
  • Utilise video communications to mitigate loneliness and stay in touch with colleagues.
  • Personalise your workspace but limit decorations so as not to be distracting. Plants are a great choice––they’ve been scientifically proven to reduce stress.
  • Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes. Periodically look away from your monitor and focus on something else in the distance. You can also try eyedrops.

While it’s certainly in the organisation’s best interest to encourage these practices, as all positively impact productivity, staff will be more likely to follow through if they understand the reasons behind the tips––namely their contribution to heightened employee experience and wellbeing. We have so much more to share in our Work From Home Pack.

The bottom line

We hear you: transitioning your workforce to a work-from-home arrangement can feel overwhelming. You know a productive workforce is required to successfully continue operations in this uncertain business environment. When so much is at stake, a well-designed Work From Home policy is critical to ensuring that productivity. Let Cognology HR management tools be your guide.

Disclaimer: The content provided in this document are for informational purposes only. It is important to always seek advice from a legal professional.

Use Cognology’s work from home product

Cognology’s Work From Home product offers all the tools you need to manage your remote workforce, from policies to performance, and checklists to check-ins. We make it easy to keep your team engaged and productive, plus a quick setup and seamless integration with existing systems.
Our Work From Home tools are part of a full suite of Cognology people management products. Learn all the ways we can support you here, or get in touch now for a walk-through with an expert.