Establishing a work from home (WFH) program is an essential part of a business continuity plan.
In the current COVID 19 crisis, executing a work from home (WFH) policy is a top priority for organizations. A robust work from home policy will enable an organization to continue operating during a significant disruption while limiting the impact on employees and customers.
A WFH policy requires a broad set of considerations to ensure it is adequately developed, including the provision of tools (e.g., laptop, headset, increased VPN capacity) and revised processes and practices. To assist organizations in making the shift to working from home, we developed ten questions to consider to build an effective WFH policy.
Ten questions to answer when building a work from home policy:
- Do employees have the tools required to connect and work remotely? Devices and tools include a laptop or home desktop computer, high-speed internet access and ideally a headset (although in a pinch, built-in speakers and microphones on computers are enough if employees have a quiet, isolated place to work). Employees should always keep devices charged in case of a power failure.
- Do employees have secure access to the company network? Company systems must always be accessible via a VPN connection and have the capacity to sustain all employees, including the ability to participate in audio and video conferences. A good VPN connection is essential to protecting customer and employee data and privacy.
- Does the at-home environment enable employees to work comfortably with minimal distractions? Guidelines should be established for setting up an ideal work from home environment. WFH guidelines could include how to:
- Establish a quiet workspace
- Make a workspace ergonomic
- Ensure that the background on a video conference does not contain confidential or inappropriate material
- Deal with interruptions from children and pets in a professionally way. (Bonus: this also help to make people feel at ease when working from home.)
- Is there a defined schedule for remote working? Schedules may need to be adjusted to accommodate changes in volumes, employee availability and customer demand driven by the business disruption. Regular internal meetings can help staff to stay connected while they work from home.
- At The Burnie Group, we hold a weekly town hall so all staff can get together, discuss priorities, share tips and tricks for working remotely and socialize.
- Do remote employees know how to reach one another, leaders and other teams? It is imperative to keep a database of up-to-date employee contact information and make it easy for team members to access the contact information that is relevant to them. Numerous cloud solutions can make communication easy (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams).
- Do employees know proper audio and video conferencing etiquette? Ensure your company has a “video conferencing 101” resource for employees who haven’t worked from home before. Cover the basics and give examples of how to effectively conduct conference calls, such as:
- Raising your hand if you have a question on a video
- Using mute when not speaking
- Being mindful of background noise
- How will staff receive support while operating remotely? Establish a protocol for virtual support to ensure that staff can get the help they need, no differently than when they are in the office. A defined plan to provide support should be created and shared for remote working, including:
- How to escalate customer issues
- Quality assurance and quality reviews
- Virtual coaching and development
- Where to access FAQs and knowledge.
- What are the protocols for tracking and managing employee performance? When working remotely, it is still important to track and review performance. Performance management tools that were in place prior to working remotely should be maintained, and results should be considered in the context of remote work. For example, expect an increase in productivity (fewer distractions) and a reduction in lateness and absence (no commute).
- What is the dress code? Just as a dress code must be defined for people working in an office, a work from home dress code is just as important (assuming video calling will be in use). While the choice of dress code is driven by a company’s culture and working norms, one option is to adopt the dress code that is employed when things are more casual at work, such as a Friday “smart casual.”
- How will employees be recognized and appreciated? Transferring a company’s culture to home isn’t easy. There is no complete replacement for in-person interaction and its cultural benefits. There are, however, many ways to make at home employees feel appreciated and part of a team through virtual processes and tools. This is essential to maintaining a feeling of connection and appreciation within teams. Some examples include:
- Facilitating virtual social events and formally recognizing people and their accomplishments
- Providing ways for team members to recognize each other. At The Burnie Group, we use the “praise” feature in Microsoft Teams to recognize staff on a virtual recognition board.
- Using already established incentives and awards