Six tips for creating your remote work policy

January 25, 2021

It’s safe to say that 2020 was the year that caused HR professionals and businesses to accept a new virtual reality and adopt people-focused technologies. Along with leaning more heavily on digital platforms, many companies learned that they could be productive in a virtual environment. Perhaps for the first time, organizations are asking: how remote is too remote?

This virtual environment has forced leaders and HR professionals to prioritize internal communications, technology adoption, and understanding the way their employees work. With no precedent, it’s easy to feel at a loss, as building a new remote work policy that meets the needs of this ever-changing work environment, both in a pandemic and post-pandemic world, is tough! 

In this month’s edition, I share six considerations to keep top-of-mind when updating your remote work policy. And even better, we’ve partnered with lawyers at Turnpenney Milne LLP to provide you with a free policy template that you can edit and use for your own company.  

1. What are my organization’s parameters around remote work? 

Some roles have legislative requirements that impact the ability to work anywhere. For example, an advisor’s license may prohibit them from working remotely outside of Ontario. Ensure these restrictions are apparent within the policy. Understand the policies that are already set and think about what changes you’d like to implement. Is remote work typically only for exceptions or is it a company-wide perk? Use what you learned from how the pandemic shaped the work environment to analyze company-wide policies and even onboarding. 

Remember: Remote work can have both business and personal payroll remittance and tax implications. Think these through carefully when drafting policies.

2. How does my organization define “remote work”? 

Now that remote work is a necessity rather than a luxury for many organizations, employees are taking advantage of working, well, anywhere. Your organization must now consider: where is remote work? If your company allows remote work outside of the province of employment outlined in the employee’s contract, how long can they work in the new location? 

Remember: OHIP coverage extends to 212 days (out of the country), after which coverage no longer applies. Your benefits coverage may have different requirements for in-province or in-country coverage. Factor elements such as this into the policy to determine and communicate how this may impact their coverage.

3. What happens post-pandemic? 

There is great debate among Canadian businesses as to what the post-pandemic work environment will look like. Whether we can expect a 100% transition back to the office, a 100% adaptation to fully remote work, or somewhere in between, it's essential to consider and communicate (via policy) when and how the company can expect its employees to return to office.

Set parameters for whether remote work will be accepted once it’s safe to return to the office and review the remote work policy (if there is an existing one) for needed changes.   

Remember: Consider using a survey tool to understand your employee’s mindset and refer to this consensus when deciding on the remote work normality in a post-pandemic environment. 

4. What are the communication guidelines in a remote setting?

The policy should outline communication frequency and expectations. If your company operates between 9 am - 5 pm, outline the working hours, limitations of communication (e.g. no emails after 7 pm), and the required response time for email and internal instant messages. Setting boundaries and maintaining engagement is important in a virtual environment.

Remember: Set boundaries and outline potential repercussions should an employee repeatedly fail to meet performance expectations while working remotely. Repercussions may include disciplinary actions up to and including termination. 

5. How do we factor in health and safety?

The health and safety of employees is the responsibility of any business. The remote work policy must outline the expectations of employee health and safety. Although discussing the safety of an employee’s home may be easier said than done, create a policy that defines employee standards and acceptable working stations. Defining parameters will help maintain reasonable workplace safety standards - even at home - and ensure employees are doing their part when working remotely. 

Remember: The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act exists to protect the health and safety of a company’s employees, whether they’re physically present in an office or working from home. Generally (and there are exceptions), employers in Ontario are required to remit employer premiums to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board; these remittances provide coverage if there is an injury sustained while on the job.

6. When should the policy be presented to employees?

For your current team: Present the policy to employees with reasonable time to review before implementation.  

For new hires: Present the remote work policy to new hires prior to joining the company. When possible, provide this in conjunction with an offer of employment. 

Remember: Post the policy in a central space for essential workers during COVID-19 or online (for remote workers) to allow employees to read and acknowledge the policy.

Not sure where to start with your policy? We’ve got you covered. We partnered with Turnpenney Milne LLP to provide you with a free policy template you can edit and use for your own company. Click here to download it. 

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