With nearly all businesses going remote, it’s essential to have a remote work plan in place.
An effective plan helps you deal with various aspects of remote work like managing work schedules, communication, and employee engagement.
So with several things to cover, how do you create a plan that best suits your organization?
In this article, we’ll explore what a remote work plan is and why you need it. We’ll also highlight eight essential tips to help you draft an excellent remote work plan.
This article contains:
(click on the links to jump to a specific section)
- What is a Remote Work Plan?
- 8 Tips to Implement a Remote Work Plan
- Why Do You Need a Remote Work Plan?
What is a remote work plan?
A remote work plan refers to guidelines and HR policies (Human Resources) that help organizations streamline communication and workflow while working remotely.
While there are many strategies for creating a remote work plan, an effective plan should:
- Help set and establish clear objectives and goals.
- Allow employees the flexibility required to meet their goals.
- Set up a comprehensive communication plan for easy collaboration.
8 simple tips to implement a remote work plan
Let’s have a look at eight excellent tips that can help you draft a remote work plan:
1. Create a remote work policy
A remote work policy is a document that acts as an agreement between a remote worker and their employer. It includes rules and guidelines needed to streamline the adoption of remote work.
And while remote work has now become the norm following the COVID 19 pandemic, several businesses still haven’t drafted a remote work policy for their employees – which can be a big problem.
Without a good remote work policy, the teams won’t know how to conduct remote operations efficiently.
This can lead to inefficient communication and collaboration – impacting your business in the process. For example, delayed response from your remote team members can slow down a task or project.
That’s why establishing a clear policy helps your employees know exactly how to approach the remote work arrangement. This also reduces the chances of misunderstandings and miscommunication, which otherwise would impact team productivity.
How to create a remote work policy
While each organization has a different approach to remote work with various requirements and needs, there are a few essential points that every remote work policy should cover.
- Eligibility for remote work.
- Minimum work hours and availability.
- Code of conduct for your employees to maintain high productivity levels.
- Data security measures.
Here’s an excellent remote work policy template to help you get started.
2. Allow flexible remote work schedule
Work schedule flexibility is one of the greatest perks of working remotely.
A flexible schedule doesn’t adhere to the usual full-time nine-to-five routine, allowing employees to work whenever they want.
But they need to complete the minimum number of hours required in a workday or month.
How does this help?
Employees can structure their schedules around their most productive hours. They can also prioritize work and accommodate other personal activities in their schedule – creating a better work life balance.
However, not all kinds of flexible work schedules are suitable for all types and sizes of organizations.
That’s why, before making a decision, you should make an organizational assessment to determine the type of flexible schedule that suits you best.
How to implement flexible work schedule
Implementing a flexible schedule involves a lot of planning.
For example, you need to train your managers to deal with flexible shift employees, manage customer requirements, and more.
But with good planning and support from your employees, implementing a flexible working schedule can be easy.
For this, you can adopt a few measures, like:
- Create and share a flexible working hours policy.
- Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of remote employees as well as managers.
- Set and track KPIs to keep organizational goals and productivity in check.
- Introduce flexible arrangements like a condensed work week, job sharing, flextime, etc.
Check out the eight types of flexible work schedules you can implement as part of your remote work plan.
3. Set up effective communication
Though water-cooler conversations are considered unproductive activities, they help create bonds among team members — keeping the lines of communication open for work discussions.
But in a remote work arrangement, these informal discussions and in person meetings reduce significantly. That’s why remote working teams must make an effort to communicate regularly.
How to set up effective communication
To ensure effortless communication and collaboration among your team members, you can:
- Set core work hours.
- Provide standardized formats for communication.
- Use effective communication tools.
- Conduct virtual team-building activities to break the ice.
- Create non-work-related Slack or Microsoft Teams channels.
Moreover, you need to provide and encourage the use of the right remote work tools.
For example, to conduct virtual team meetings, you can use a video conferencing tool like Zoom and Google Meet. And you can manage all project-related work with project management tools like Asana.
You can also use apps that create shared workspaces or file-sharing systems. Additionally, consider setting up dedicated communication servers with resources like Discord.
4. Encourage employee engagement
Employee engagement refers to the commitment of employees towards the organization’s goals and objectives.
Greater employee engagement leads to enhanced productivity and a healthy work environment.
With high engagement levels, you’ll be able to observe lower absenteeism rates, increased remote employee loyalty, low turnover, and increased profitability.
Additionally, engaged remote team members may feel motivated and proactively contribute to the overall company growth.
However, boosting engagement isn’t easy.
If you don’t take measures to interact and engage with your remote employees, you might see a few signs of low employee engagement:
- Employees putting minimum effort into their work.
- Reduced performance levels over time.
- Unwillingness to socialize outside office hours.
- Excessive social media browsing during work hours.
How to ensure employee engagement
To strengthen remote employee relations and boost workplace morale, you can participate in activities, such as:
- Readily listen to employees to build a sense of trust.
- Encourage face-to-face conversations through Zoom.
- Recognize and appreciate achievements.
- Collect anonymous feedback from employees and act upon their suggestions.
- Use employee engagement software to keep your remote workforce motivated.
5. Conduct regular virtual meetings
A distributed team can be working from any part of the world – making instant messaging and phone calls the primary mode of communication.
This limits the conversations to work-related announcements and issues.
But with regular meetings or video calls, you can stay virtually connected, and distance becomes just a number.
These regular team sessions help:
- Strengthen relationships and team cohesion.
- Quick resolution of doubts and ambiguity.
- Facilitate creative thinking and innovation.
- Create transparency around work expectations.
How to conduct regular virtual meetings
Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype provide a platform to check how your team members are doing.
Use these regular check-ins to:
- Have conversations to discuss expectations or project progress.
- Ask employees to share the challenges they’ve been facing at work and provide solutions.
- Share recent personal as well as team accomplishments.
- Practice remote team building activities.
6. Monitor productivity
Monitoring your remote team’s productivity is essential to identify unproductive activities and areas of improvement.
Tracking productivity also helps you allocate tasks efficiently as you’ll know which employees are productive and who have too many tasks to handle.
However, as your employees are working from their home offices, monitoring productivity can be challenging.
In a remote work program, you can’t simply walk up to your employees’ desk to receive progress updates.
Luckily, an employee productivity tracking tool is all you need.
How to monitor employee productivity
Employee monitoring solutions like Time Doctor offer advanced features to track remote work productivity.
What’s Time Doctor?
Time Doctor is a powerful employee productivity management software used by major corporations, like BBB (Better Business Bureau) and small businesses, like Firehouse Subs, to boost employee productivity.
This user-friendly app helps you:
- Easily track employee time manually or automatically.
- Categorize websites based on productivity ratings.
- Gain actionable insights into performance with various accurate reports.
- Create and edit employee shifts and schedules with work schedules.
- Monitor attendance in real-time with detailed attendance reports.
- Track inactivity to monitor productivity levels better.
- Use the Chrome browser extension to track time spent on other apps with ease.
7. Maintain company culture
Company culture is the heart of an organization. It’s a combination of an organization’s business values, mission, and goals.
It’s not built overnight and is the result of the teamwork of employees, HR leaders, and executives.
Company culture goes beyond the physical elements of office space, and that’s why we shouldn’t ignore it in a remote work environment.
However, creating and maintaining a company culture that appeals to everyone can be more challenging.
You need to cultivate an environment of productivity and belonging that pulls the entire organization together, despite team members being spread across the globe.
And if the transition to remote work was rapid and unexpected, it’s the leaders’ responsibility to preserve the culture that was built.
How to maintain a company culture
To foster a positive culture for remote work employees, you can:
- Share company values with new hires during the onboarding process.
- Establish communication norms to build and maintain company culture.
- Build mutual trust through informal chat channels and virtual happy hours.
- Provide employee assistance programs to help deal with work, personal, and other issues.
8. Ensure virtual security
The COVID 19 pandemic has forced many companies to adopt remote work.
And while work from home (WFH) is convenient and offers many benefits, implementing cybersecurity and data protection can be challenging.
As remote workers use a combination of company-issued and personal devices for work and cloud-based platforms for communication, they become prone to various cybersecurity attacks.
Moreover, lack of security training among employees, exposure to insecure wireless networks, and a lack of basic authentication methods can all add to virtual security risks.
How to ensure virtual security
To mitigate security risks and minimize the risk of personal data being leaked, you must implement clear and comprehensive security policies.
A security policy provides tips to ensure the safety of company data and devices and helps employees understand their role in preventing security attacks.
You can also invest in internet security tools for keeping everyone’s devices safe.
Additionally, you can take a few proactive measures, like:
- Use VPN (Virtual Private Networks), which helps maintain end-to-end data encryption.
- Audit personal devices and networks for weaknesses.
- Implement measures like multi-factor authentication, monitoring access controls, and set strong passwords.
- Train remote employees to report suspicious links to the IT department.
Learn more about remote desktop security here.
Why do you need a remote work plan?
When transitioning from a physical organization into a remote setting, you need to figure out what you want to accomplish.
To put it simply, you need to set an achievable goal.
Next, you need to envision a system that will help you achieve those goals. And that’s where a long term remote work plan plays an important role.
Moreover, working remotely doesn’t mean a simple shift from a co-working space to a home.
To stay connected virtually and ensure that distance doesn’t hinder productivity and business continuity, you need to consider a few other things, such as:
- The KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) and important metrics that need to be tracked.
- Technologies to be used like productivity, communication, and a collaboration tool.
- Frequency of one-on-one as well as team meetings.
- Core business hours that require all the coworkers to be present during those hours.
These things can’t be accounted for unless you have a well-documented plan covering all the above aspects.
However, you need to keep in mind that your developed plan won’t be a one-time rollout. It’ll need to be revised regularly – which can be done through experimentation and constant learning.
Check out how the outsourcing industry is transitioning to remote work.
There’s no one-fits-all solution for ensuring a smooth transition to remote work.
However, having a remote work strategy always helps. A well-written and structured plan not only provides guidelines for operating remotely but helps achieve organizational goals.
But remember, your entire company needs to have a good understanding of what it takes to work remotely as a team.
Go through the tips mentioned here to create a customized remote work plan. Once you’re done, transitioning to a remote culture will become much easier!
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.