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How To Create Effective Remote-First Policies

Remote-first policies create trust, autonomy, and ownership in your teams.

So your company has officially made the decision to go remote-first. Cue the confetti! Many of us have spent the last few years working from home. But for many companies (and employees), permanent remote-first workplaces may as well be uncharted waters.

To help everyone in your organization adjust, it’s important to set our guidelines and expectations. The best way to achieve this? Effective remote workplace policies.

Why do you need remote workplace policies?

Working remotely doesn’t mean it should be a free-for-all. Just like in-office workplace policies, remote-first policies establish ground rules for your virtual office environment.

The goal should be to have a set of policies that help your employees perform their best.  Good remote policies should set clear expectations and answer common questions for your employees, such as: When are they expected to be online? How can they communicate with the rest of the team? What does success look like in a virtual environment?

The most successful remote companies have policies in place to support their employees. It sets the stage for your remote work environment to function well.

While policies never sound fun to implement, they’re a key component of fostering trust, autonomy, and ownership in remote teams. With a little care and thoughtfulness, a set of remote-first policies will keep your team engaged, accountable, and happy.

Creating remote-first policies

As a remote leader, establishing the right policies for your organization can be tricky. To help, here are some key considerations and best practices for creating remote workplace policies.

Make it inclusive
As your business workflow permanently shifts to remote-first, you need to ensure your policies are fair and inclusive. Whether you have 10 employees or 10,000, your organization’s policies should be applied relatively equally across the board. This way, no individual or no team feels left out.

While consistency is important, every employee comes from a different background. Everyone experiences remote work differently. Your policies should have enough flexibility to accommodate the diversity in your team. Having policies that are empathetic and inclusive will set you apart from other remote companies.

Some questions you should be asking about your policies include:

  • Are there restrictions on who can work remotely?
  • If you have “virtual office hours” do they account for team members across different time zones?
  • Do your policies account for different personal circumstances?

Put it in writing
Transparency is the best policy when it comes to the workplace. Employees should be aware of company policies and be able to access them easily at any point in time.

Having well-documented policies avoids any grey areas and makes expectations crystal clear.

How you choose to document these policies is up to you, as long as it works well for everyone in your organization. For example, Gitlab uses a handbook as a repository for all their remote workplace rules and policies. Buffer has their 10 Slack Agreements to highlight best practices and expectations around using Slack remotely.

Remember: Your policies aren’t set in stone. They can (and should!) evolve and change over time. Just remember to communicate any changes to the wider team.

Does it actually support your employees?

Typically, remote employees enjoy the autonomy of working from home. But this doesn’t mean you get to wipe your hands of any responsibility when it comes to supporting your team. When you don’t get to see your people face-to-face every day, it can be difficult to identify if their needs are being met. Everyone needs support in different capacities and no employee should feel like they’re working in a silo.

Outline clear expectations around communication. Who should your employees reach out to for support during the workday? When can they expect a response? Having guidelines in place helps minimize any disruption in everyone’s workflow and makes it much easier to know where to turn when employees need help.

Your remote-first policies should put your employees at the center. It’s the only way you can ensure your employees are happy and productive.

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Create opportunities to connect

Employee support and engagement don’t end with the workflow. With a fully-remote team, creating opportunities for your teams to stay connected and engaged is more important than ever before.

Yes, your remote policies should highlight expectations around business-related events like Town Halls and synchronous time. However, there should be a more human aspect as well. Your policies should foster events that help your team connect and socialize.

Fortunately, technology makes connecting virtually a breeze. Platforms like Zoom and Venue make it possible for teams to connect in real-time and share critical updates, celebrate wins, or just enjoy time together.

Prioritize business goals

Your policies should help drive the success of your business, not be a distraction. This part can be a bit challenging because it requires balancing employee flexibility while setting some boundaries for the workplace.

Sure, it might sound super awesome to allow your employees to choose their own work hours, but having no synchronous time might make communication challenging. For example, companies like InVision offer flexibility but have core office hours from 10-6 pm EST even though their team spans several time zones.

Make sure your policies align with your company’s overall mission and vision. This way you’re holding everyone on your team to the same standard and making sure they’re treated equitably – even when they’re no longer in an office together.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, when creating your policies you should be asking the ultimate question – “Why?”. If the answer is “the CEO and leadership say so,” or “because it worked in person,” it might be time to re-evaluate your remote work guidelines.

Your office policy decisions should make a positive impact on the business overall and set your employees up for success.

Recommended Reading

Building a Remote-First Culture

How to Train Remote Employees

How to Run Productive Virtual Meetings