Even before the pandemic, more and more companies embraced remote work. Social distancing sped up that trend.

In June 2020, Stanford news reported that 42% of the US workforce is now working from home.

That shift is far from temporary. In our recent study about the impact of the pandemic on remote work, we found that 58.25% of companies will allow some remote work, while 26.25% plan to work entirely remotely. Only 15.5% of companies plan to return to the office full time.

58.25% of companies plan to combine remote and in-office work in the future

With the long view in mind, it’s time to create your work from home policy.

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What is a work from home policy?

A work from home policy is a document that explains how remote work is handled at your company. It gives all the details about who can work from home and what you and your employees expect when they do.

42% of US employees work from home

A good policy answers all of these questions:

  • Which departments and positions are allowed to work from home?
  • What criteria need to be met for those employees to be approved for remote work?
  • Under what circumstances, if any, are employees not allowed to work remotely?
  • While team members work remotely, what will management do to keep communication flowing?
  • Who provides the necessary equipment to work from home — the employee or the company?
  • Is asynchronous work acceptable, or do remote team members need to maintain the same schedule as their in-office counterparts?
  • How will you handle security?
  • What happens in conflicts arise?

If you’re new to remote work or your team is working from home out of necessity, you’re probably figuring things out as you go. That’s okay for a short term solution.

However, it’s wise to invest time to figure out these details. These questions will come up, and you should have consistent, fair answers for your team.

We’ll walk you through each step so you can create a policy for your team. Download our free template to help you get started faster.


Get our free work from home policy template




Think about this before you create your own policy

You may need to change the way you think about remote work.

Before the pandemic, a lot of companies treated remote work like a privilege. A few trusted employees could occasionally work from home as a special treat, but most people were expected to work from the office under direct supervision.

That type of thinking won’t serve you well in the current economy.

Working from home is a way to get things done

Remote work isn’t a treat or a special occasion. It’s just another way of working. Working from home isn’t better or worse than working in the office.

As you create your own remote work policy, you’re not trying to answer the question of who “deserves” to work from home. Your job is to figure out the logistics so that your policy is fair, clear, and consistent.

Why you need to define your work from home procedures and policy

Documenting your processes and procedures is always a good idea. Those policies become the source of truth. Everyone in the company has the same access to the same information, so you’re less likely to face conflicts about the way things are supposed to be handled.

Your remote work policy keeps things fair. Instead of subjectively deciding who “deserves” to work from home, you set clear standards for everyone.

For your remote work standards, this is especially important.

The way people work is changing. Employees increasingly expect you to allow and embrace remote work. If you just keep figuring it out as you go, you’re taking unnecessary risks.

Working without a clear policy is risky

Let’s imagine that your current “policy” on remote work is to respond to requests on a case-by-case basis. Two of your employees want to work from home this Friday.

You evaluate both requests.

Jane’s work is up to date and she doesn’t have any important meetings scheduled on Friday. She has a great track record of meeting deadlines without needing reminders, and she keeps her team in the loop by leaving comments on the tasks assigned to her.

Mary is running behind on several important projects. Every time you want an update, you have to ask her directly because she’s inconsistent about updating her tasks. This Friday, there’s a project meeting that has already been pushed back once because Mary’s tasks are past due.

Based on this, you approve Jane’s request, but ask Mary to work from the office.

So, Mary files a discrimination complaint against you with human resources.

"Figuring it out as you go" is risky

You had valid reasons to decline Mary’s request, but it’s tough to make your case. You are the sole decision maker, and your criteria are subjective. Even if you explain why you denied one request and approved the other, Mary can make the case that you’re just justifying a decision that was really made for other reasons.

Even if Mary doesn’t file a formal discrimination complaint, she still feels like she’s being treated unfairly. To her, it looks like you approved Jane’s request because you like her more. Mary’s productivity will suffer because she’s demotivated and resentful.

If you had a work from home policy in place, your decision would have been clear.

Any time you rely on subjective criteria to make decisions, you can create unnecessary conflict. Remote work can be an emotionally charged subject. That makes it even more likely that you’ll face pushback from your team.

Create a clear, written policy so that your decisions can be objective and fair.

A good policy gives your team confidence

When you leave your policy open to interpretation, it creates more stress for your team.

Employees wonder if you distrust them. They worry that you’ll assume they’re lazy if they ask to work remotely. When they consider asking to work from home, they stress about whether or not you’ll even consider it.

The stress continues during the remote workday. If they take a break, are you going to assume they’re not working at all? What if they take a few minutes to answer a message? Are you expecting work to get finished faster because you don’t have as many interruptions?

Uncertainty is stressful. Make things simpler for your team with a clear, written policy.

Uncertainty makes employees feel uncomfortable because there’s always a chance that they’ll do something wrong.

With a clear policy, that’s not a problem. They know what to expect from you and what you expect from them. Structure and clarity breed confidence.

Get better results from remote work

Building your work from home policy helps you determine the standards to which you hold your team. It forces you to think about what results you want and how you plan to get them.

For example, you can use remote work to boost team productivity. In that case, your remote policy should include rules like these:

  • Instead of scheduling daily status meetings, comment on each task you work on with a detailed update. If you do not get to everything on your task list for the day, update the expected delivery date of incomplete tasks as needed.
  • During work hours, use Hubstaff to track your time and measure productivity signals. This automates your timesheets and reduces the need for manager check-ins.
  • It’s okay to turn off notifications for up to 2 hours at a time so that you can focus on an important task. Make sure to use an appropriate Slack status.
  • Though uninterrupted work time is encouraged each day, please be available for meetings and messages from 8 AM until 11 AM each day. During this time, please respond to messages within 1 hour. Whenever possible, team meetings will be scheduled during this time to allow focused work in the afternoon.

Managers are often concerned about their team’s productivity and communication when people work from home.

By setting standards like these, your remote work policy helps you avoid those problems while reaping all the advantages.

Here’s a bonus tip

Communication can be tough even if your team always works in the same office. If you plan to leverage remote work for the foreseeable future, it’s a good idea to invest some time in your team communication strategy.

Here’s an article that can help. Go there now.

How to create a work from home policy

The best policies are thorough enough that they answer all the important questions, but still simple enough to read and understand in a few minutes.

Strike that balance by including your team from the beginning.

Tell your employees that you’re creating a standard work from home policy. Explain why it’s important.

Then ask for their help.

  • What questions can you answer for them?
  • What policies do they want to include?
  • Do people want to work entirely remotely or would they prefer a hybrid approach?
  • What challenges have people faced while working from home?

Your team will ask you questions that you wouldn’t have considered on your own. Plus, when you publish the final policy, the team will be more invested because they helped create it.

Keep in mind that your standard company policy, security policy, or individual employment agreements may cover a lot of the information you need. You don’t have to reiterate everything here. It’s okay to point to those other policies for details.

To help you get started, here’s a template that covers all the basics. Download it for free and save yourself a lot of time.


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With your template in hand, here’s how to complete each section.

Define what, who, and how

Start of your policy by answering these three questions:

  1. What kind of remote work is allowed?
  2. Who is eligible to work outside of the office?
  3. How do those team members meet the standards to work from home?

Let’s talk through each of these questions.

What kind of remote work arrangements do you offer?

There’s no one “right” way to include remote work in your business strategy.

For some businesses, working from home is allowed, but only occasionally. It’s a way for employees to continue working when their child is sick or they need to let a repairman in.

Other companies fully embrace remote work as a tool to get more done. Some or all of their team works from home full time.

There’s no right or wrong way to use remote work for your business. Just make sure that the rules are clear.

Your work from home policy should describe how this works for your company.

Here are some ideas:

Completely distributed

Your entire company works remotely. There is no central office.

If this is your remote work style, your policy should talk about things like standard working hours, how team meetings are hosted, and whether or not you are willing to reimburse employees for equipment or coworking space.

Some employees work from home full time

You have an office or physical location. Some employees work from that location, and others work entirely from home.

This is common in companies that have a retail storefront or other roles that can’t be done from home. You may also have some people who always work from home and others who sometimes work from the office.

If this is your remote work style, make sure you define any situations when you will want your distributed employees to come into the office. For example, if you expect your team to work on-site for each quarterly all-hands meeting, put that in your policy.

Employees can work from home sometimes, but not permanently

You allow remote work, but employees are required to work from the office sometimes, too.

There’s a lot of variability in this type of arrangement. Some people might work from home every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. You might restrict remote work to special circumstances only. Employees may be allowed to choose a certain number of days each month to work from home.

If this is your work style, be very detailed about the circumstances under which you will approve requests to work remotely. Case-by-case approvals leave a lot of room for conflict.

And that brings us to the next question:

Who is eligible to work from home?

Not every job can be done remotely. But a lot of them can.

Some jobs only require an on-site presence some of the time. For example, a videographer might need to be physically present to shoot, but they can edit from home as long as they have the necessary hardware and software.

Equipment is another consideration. Some jobs can be done remotely, but they require specific tools. That may be the determining factor for whether a person can work from home or not.

For example, telephone customer support is very often done from home.

Those remote service representatives need a phone system and high speed internet to do their jobs. Setup takes time and the equipment might be cumbersome to move. The most practical approach is for these employees to work either from home or in the office, not a combination of both.

In these cases, it’s smart to use your work from home policy to list any job roles that are not eligible to work remotely.

Otherwise, you can simply list the criteria.

Not every job can be done remotely, but there are probably lots of employees at your company who can work from home with minor accommodations.

How do you determine if an individual employee is eligible to work from home?

We mentioned it earlier in this article, but it’s worth saying again:

It’s a bad idea to make remote work a special privilege for only an elite few. Working from home is just that — working. Don’t think of it as a reward.

The biggest problem with treating remote work as a privilege is this: you start thinking about which employees deserve special treatment instead of considering who should be able to work remotely.

That’s not fair.

Instead, focus on whether or not an individual is capable of working from home.

Autonomy

You can — and should — consider job performance when you determine who can work from home. People who struggle with accountability and focus in the office will have an even harder time at home.

However, most people who perform well in the office will perform just as well at home.

The key here is autonomy. Employees who want to work from home should be able to work with minimal direct supervision.

That’s probably most of your team. Even when everyone works in the same office, autonomy is an important skill. Anyone who needs constant supervision has probably already been trained or moved on to a different position.

Pro tip: if job performance is one of your criteria, make your standards very clear. An employee who isn’t meeting your standards should probably be issued a formal performance improvement plan from human resources. This protects you from discrimination claims.

An employee who is doing well enough that you don’t need to intervene is likely doing well enough to work remotely.

Internet and equipment requirements

While working from home, your team needs reliable connectivity.

Internet speed requirements depend on job functions. For example, a team member who uses video calls to onboard new clients needs enough bandwidth to reliably stream video.

Some jobs can easily be done from any computer, and others require specialized software or hardware.

As you define what kind of equipment and workspace your team needs, use this opportunity to clarify who is responsible for providing that equipment.

  • Do you provide antivirus software for employee’s personal devices?
  • Do you provide laptops, or do employees use their own computers?
  • For fully remote employees, do you pay for some or all of their internet service?
  • If a job role requires specialized equipment such as cameras or premium software, do you provide it?

One you’ve answered all of these questions, you’re ready for the next section.

Explain how requests work

This part of your policy answers all of these questions:

  • Do you need a formal approval process, or can employees text you in the morning to let you know they’re working from home?
  • Can all managers approve work from home requests, or does the decision need to come from human resources?
  • How far in advance do employees need to submit a request to work from home?

If your company is fully remote, you can probably skip this section.

For businesses with a combination of remote and on-site work, consider the types of remote work you want to offer. The process might look different for an employee who wants to work remotely full time versus someone who wants to work from home this Wednesday.

Take into account any technological needs. If you need to provide a laptop or install time tracking software before someone works from home for the first time, make sure you allow time to do that.

Try to keep the process consistent and simple. While it’s okay to set different eligibility criteria for each department or role, it’s better to make the approval process the same for everyone.

Set work hours

There are a couple of ways to approach scheduling when your team works from home.

  • Standard working hours: your team all works at the same time
  • Overlapping working hours: your team has some hours where everyone is expected to work at the same time. Outside of those hours, work is asynchronous
  • Unstructured working hours: each team member can work whatever hours they like

Working asynchronously has some advantages. Employees can work at the times where they are personally most productive. There are fewer interruptions. Often, you have completed tasks waiting for you when you log on for the day because team members worked overnight.

There are plenty of good reasons to work at the same time, too. Collaboration happens more quickly. You can call on team members to help solve sticky problems. It’s easier to build team culture when people can chat and connect.

Collaboration is possible even with asynchronous schedules

You can set different standards for different teams or roles.

For example, you might need your customer support team to be online during specific hours. Your development team, on the other hand, may be well suited to a more asynchronous style.

If you hire remotely, be mindful of time zone differences. Do you need a certain amount of overlapping work hours? Make sure that’s possible before making the hiring decision.

Describe how you’re going to measure productivity

A lot of managers are concerned about productivity issues when their team starts working from home.

Here’s why:

While working from the office, managers assume that a person sitting at their desk is the same thing as a person being productive.

That’s not even close to correct. Think about all the things you can do on your computer that aren’t productive.

Years of work experience have trained us to associate physical presence with productivity. When employees start working from home, the natural reaction is to try to monitor whether or not an employee is sitting at their computer.

That’s not going to work. In fact, you’ll actually hurt productivity because you keep interrupting work to check in.

An employee isn’t productive just because they’re at their desk. Measure productivity with real metrics, not just attendance.

You absolutely should measure productivity. It’s an important part of your work from home policy.

Let’s talk about how to do it correctly.

What you should measure

Even when you’re working, you’re not necessarily productive. Your team can fall behind when people work on less important tasks instead of moving top priorities forward. There are lots of work-related time wasters.

Your team is productive when they work efficiently and focus on the right things. That means you need to know:

  • How long each task SHOULD take to complete
  • How long each task DID take to complete
  • Which tasks your team works on
  • What happened while they were working that might have changed the timeline

This is just as true for people working in the office as it is when working from home. To truly measure productivity, you have to look at the results and the work it took to get there.

Productivity means that your team is working efficiently and focusing on the right things.

If you’re heavily focused on productivity, you may also want to measure:

  • How often a team member meets their deadlines
  • The total number of projects or tasks completed
  • The quality of completed work
  • The revenue an employee generates

Want some extra tips? Here’s an article on how to measure remote employee productivity.

How to track those data points

Time tracking is the most logical way to figure out how employees divide their time between different tasks.

While employees can track time manually by recording the time they start and finish tasks, that’s both cumbersome and unreliable. You’re much better off using time tracking software.

Tools like Hubstaff help you keep track of productivity during work hours. If things get off track, you have reliable data that you can use to troubleshoot.

Here’s an added bonus: time tracking software also automates your timesheets and payroll. It’s a big time saver.

In most cases, your main measure of productivity is going to be whether or not employees finish their tasks on time. If someone falls behind, their time tracking information can help you figure out what happened.

What to include in your work from home policy

Overall productivity standards belong in your employee handbook or employment agreements. They should apply to everyone, no matter where they work.

Your work from home policy covers the specific guidelines for remote work. That includes:

  • Any time tracking and/or productivity measurement software employees must use while working remotely
  • An overview of the data points that the software will capture

To see an example, download our free work from home policy template.


Get our free work from home policy template




Provide communication guidelines

When some or all of your team works remotely, you need to update the way you communicate. Use your work from home policy to set clear expectations.

That means everyone should live up to the new guidelines. Information gaps affect the entire team whether they work from the office or from their house.

You’re the leader. It’s your job to make sure that your in-office and distributed team members are equally included.

This is what happens when you do a good job managing remote communication:

  • Everyone can find what they need when they need it
  • The information is complete and clear
  • Team members aren’t flooded with information they don’t need
  • Updates are shared quickly with everyone who needs to know

In fact, your good communication habits are powerful even if your entire team works in the same office. Imagine that one of your employees has a personal emergency and needs to leave town for a week. With good habits in place, they can hand off their work to team members who can easily pick up right where they left off.

How do you get there?

How to upgrade your communication habits when your team works remotely

The simple way to manage communication is to write everything down.

Of course, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Your team will need practice and discipline to get it right.

Stay organized by using your task management software as the main hub. Each time you open a task, you can see what has happened so far and pick up at the right spot.

Your task management software also shows the priority of each task and lists the other people who are working on it at the same time. When priorities shift, update the task and all of those people are immediately notified.

For other types of information like company policy updates, make sure that team members can find the announcement later.

It’s okay to host a meeting as long as your distributed employees can call in. Make sure they can see and hear just as well as those who are physically present. Record the meeting and post it in your company Slack so that it’s accessible to everybody.

What’s different when your team works from home?

Everything we’ve talked about so far applies to your entire team. Now, let’s talk about how to set specific communication rules for people working from home.

The biggest difference for your distributed team is that they have more control over interruptions. Their teammates reach them through direct messages or emails which can easily be ignored.

That’s great for personal productivity. But it’s frustrating if you need their input to finish what you’re working on.

Use your work from home policy to set rules like these:

  • Respond to notifications within a certain amount of time. For example, Slack messages might need a response within 1 hour except during lunchtime. Emails should be answered within 1 work day.
  • Employees working from home must be available for calls, messages, or meetings from 8 AM until 2 PM. From 2 PM until 5 PM, employees are allowed to turn off notifications to focus on uninterrupted work. If notifications are turned off, the employee must use a Slack status to inform coworkers.
  • All employees must attend scheduled meetings while working from home. Video is required unless otherwise approved.
For more information on how to communicate with your team effectively, check out our article on remote team communication.

Establish security standards

Cyber-attacks have increased substantially since the start of the pandemic. Establish smart security standards so that innocent mistakes don’t result in expensive problems.

If it’s within your budget, consider providing company equipment for your team to use. That way, you can restrict downloads and install your own enterprise-level antivirus software.

Cyberattacks have increased since the pandemic started

Employees who use their personal computers are still subject to security requirements. While you can’t restrict downloads, you can set minimum standards like these:

  • Keep all software on your device up to date. Outdated software is more likely to be hacked
  • Install an approved antivirus software and keep it up to date. The company may provide an antivirus program if you don’t already have one
  • Password protect all devices. Keep your computer locked when not in use
  • Do not save any documents or files with confidential information on your personal device. Use an approved document management system like Box or Dropbox to store and update these documents
  • Do not use public wifi networks while working
  • Passwords for work tools must be at least 10 characters long and very difficult to guess. Use a password manager like LastPass to manage your passwords. Never write down passwords and do not use the same password for multiple logins

Requirements may be more stringent if you work with sensitive data. Be mindful of any industry-specific regulations and include those in your work from home policy.

For example, if your team works with sensitive customer information, they may need to work from a separate office space with a locking door.

This post from UpGuard includes some good security tips for your distributed team.

Other things to address

You’re almost there!

The outline we described above covers most of the information you’ll need to create a solid work from home policy.

From here, you can include any of these optional sections based on your company culture and your team’s suggestions:

  • Performance reviews: Some companies require people who normally work from home to come into the office for their annual performance reviews.
  • Disciplinary action: If an employee has performance issues while working from home, how do you handle the improvement plan? You may require them to work from the office some or all of the time, or you may have a standard performance plan that applies to everyone.
  • Retreats and all-hands events: Lots of remote companies host annual retreats to bring their team together. Companies with partially remote workforces might ask everyone to work on-site for quarterly all-hands meetings. If you plan these kinds of events, mention them in your work from home policy.
  • Parting ways: What happens when an employee quits while working from home? Make sure to include instructions on what to do with company data on personal devices. If your team uses company equipment, give instructions and a timeline detailing how that equipment should be returned.

Your team might have other questions or ideas that we haven’t already addressed. If that’s the case, you can choose to add another section on the topic if it makes sense.

How to ensure your work from home policy is a success

You put tons of effort into creating a thorough work from home policy for your team.

Now, it’s time to put it to work.

Get your policy to all the right people

Your employees can’t benefit from a policy they don’t know about. Use your upgraded communication habits to share this new information with everyone on your team.

Don’t just email it out and expect people to get it.

Bring your team together and talk through each section with them. Explain your thinking. Invite questions. Accept criticism. Make it a conversation instead of a lecture.

Make sure that you keep good notes about your team’s feedback so you can do the next step.

Evaluate and update your policy regularly

You’re probably not going to get everything right on the first try, and that’s okay.

All of your company policies should be firm enough to provide structure, but flexible enough that you can be honest about what works and what doesn’t.

You’ll learn a lot as your team uses your policy to guide their work.

Maybe you need to update your communication standards again. You might decide to try a more asynchronous approach instead of working the same shift every day.

Don’t abandon this policy if it’s not a perfect fit. That’s so much wasted work!

Instead, think of this as a work in progress. It should evolve with you and help you grow.

Next steps

This might look like a big undertaking, but you’ve probably done most of the work already. You just need to iron out the final details.

Here’s how you should start:

  1. Let your team know that you’re building a clear work from home policy and you’d like their help. Send that email right now. Ask specific questions like “How do you think we can improve our work from home strategy as a company?”
  2. Look up the documents that cover your company policy on performance expectations, cybersecurity, communication, or other areas we talked about in this article. You can borrow from them as needed. You may also find that they need a quick update.
  3. Download our free work from home policy template and get started. Write your own notes in each section so that you can easily make changes later.

Get the free template




You might want to do some additional research on good remote work policies. Here’s some recommended reading to help you along: