The pandemic has hit all industries hard, and many companies have either downsized or gone bankrupt. Many professionals have lost their jobs because many companies do not have the ability to digitize their processes or have not been able to do it properly. We highly recommend reading the in-depth study on this topic, which looks at all industries and professions affected by these unfortunate events.
But today, we will look at companies whose production has not fallen but has significantly grown. Of course, we are referring to companies working on digital products. After all, while people are limited in their moves, the growth in demand for online services and the consumption of content has also grown incredibly.
However, it's worth noting that not all have shown the same growth dynamics. Think back to how many movie shoots were postponed and how many new devices announced never became available for purchase in the required quantity. At the same time, there were many new platforms, applications, and services, especially related to data analysis, which increased manifold during this period.
This is the moment when it is equally important not only what but also how. If a company's product can be consumed online and developed remotely, it can survive even in stormy conditions. However, in order not just to survive but to succeed, its remote development must be organized in the best possible way, using the best practices. All of them are prescribed in the Remote Work Policy, to which this article is devoted.
What is work policy?
It is an internal company statement that imposes uniform standards on all processes and regulations and obligates employers and employees to comply with them.
This statement can cover absolutely any process, from the communication rules of the project members to compliance with labor law and other legal provisions. It is a precious and essential thing that gives a clear picture of the company's values, brings order to its organization, and allows employees to have a comprehensive understanding of their rights and obligations.
Remote work policy
Remote work policy defines the rules for working remotely. It outlines the rules and platforms for remote communication, the rules for using work environments and tools, corporate accounts, and company data. Also, it outlines the rules for different roles on the project like expectations, responsibilities, and schedules about it. And, of course, it outlines general rights for all employees and special rights depending on the employee's position and project. A good example is Twitter, where CEO Jack Dorsey said that most employees could stay working remotely forever.
Hybrid work policy
Hybrid Work Policy tries to take the best of both office and remote approaches. It outlines everything mentioned above and includes rules for using public spaces and equipment, hygienic requirements, and medical indications. In any case, it is only within the company's walls that it can provide maximum opportunities for personal and professional growth, from live communication with colleagues to equipped spaces for productive work, stress relief, healthy eating, and physical activity.
Of course, the rules for interacting and using all of this are also written. If they are well written, it is possible to take the best of both worlds. Otherwise, workers are not given enough flexibility and freedom, nor are they given the environment and conditions to work together as productively as possible.
A case in point is Apple, which has always remained committed to office work even during the pandemic and is now trying to bring most employees back into the office. Of course, office work time is rapidly going to a minimum, and even Apple should recognize that. But at the same time, Apple has been setting historical records for its capitalization for the past several years, even while switching to a hybrid system during the pandemic. This is an excellent example of Office Work Policy, and now Hybrid Work Policy, even though it causes a lot of scandals around the company.
Flexible remote work policy
Here we are not talking about the rules of working in one location or another, but about the schedule. Many companies, especially if their employees work from different parts of the world, cannot work simultaneously because of time zone differences. And this is where each company manages differently.
Some companies ignore the difference altogether and ask employees to work in their time zone. This is immediately written in the remote work policy, to which the employee either agrees or not. There is nothing illegal here. Yes, this is not the most efficient use of human resources. But some companies can not work otherwise due to the specifics of their product or service, for example, if it is a support service.
Other companies write a flexible remote work policy, which specifies the number of working hours and scope of results an employee has to provide. But not precisely when they should perform this job. It can also be written what time they have to be in touch within the communication channels and other teams.
What the remote work policy benefits?
Well, some companies still want to bring employees back into the office, as you can see by looking at Apple's remote work policy and Netflix's remote work policy. Some companies are floundering in their choice if we talk about Microsoft's remote work policy and Linkedin's remote work policy. But fewer and fewer people want to go back to the office. Many people want to go back to the office a few times a week, which is entirely understandable.
It is worth noting that all this is highly dependent on the country, age, conditions of remote working employees, and many points are very individual. An excellent study on this topic was done by The Economist, which we highly recommend you check out.
But the majority's desire is still to entirely and permanently switch to a remote format of work. You can see this from the report. And some companies are beginning to fully transition and listen to the wishes of their employees as much as possible, such as the new Twitter remote work policy, which allows almost all employees to stay remote forever. So let's see the advantages of doing it right and making a well-written remote work policy are?
Cost, time, and reputation savings
All employees have the same comprehensive idea of what to do and how to do it. It greatly reduces the chance of making mistakes in processes, leading to a trivial waste of time or serious money expense and reputational losses.
Processes stability and flexibility
A well written remote policy work gives the best approach to processes and encourages all employees to follow them equally. It also suggests the best solutions to difficult situations and provides several ways to solve them so that work does not stop and always runs at the best level.
A well-written remote policy work also encourages the necessary and proper use of tools that make processes transparent. In particular, these are specific rules for using the time manager, task manager, project meetings, and reporting.
Attractiveness for customers
The crisis has made it clear that the more processes are moved to the digital space, the more stable the business. That's why companies that successfully practice remote working inspire confidence and willingness to cooperate. It can only be achieved only with a well-defined remote work policy.
Attractiveness for talents
It is possible to attract talented people and professionals from all over the world. After all, they are welcome in any company, and the challenge is to create the best conditions for them so that they can show the best of themselves. That's why remote work policy should be written the way that will be a huge advantage compared to a large check from another company.
It ensures that employees' physical and psychological health measures are in place. The employee can avoid daily stress on the way to work and prevent the lack of sleep for this reason. Employees also have the opportunity to work in silence and to practice yoga or meditation at any time without any embarrassment in front of their colleagues. And, of course, employees should not work overtime or work for a few people, even if they desire to gain new knowledge and experience. A well-defined remote work policy provides for and encourages all such things. And it often includes a budget for various internal or partner courses and medical services.
Employees can afford to work with a much higher level of comfort. Sure, the office can be equipped in the best way possible, and the relationships in the team can be just fine. But for many people, nothing will be as comfortable as their individual choice of furniture and equipment in their apartment. Or their beloved pets, funny slippers, and no extraneous noises or people around. It creates a positive atmosphere around the employee, allows them to concentrate better, be less distracted and create the perfect individualized work environment. Many companies even specify a separate budget for the employees to equip their home workplace.
Of course, all of the above is directly related to employees' productivity. The better the conditions in which employees work, the better they feel and the more actively they engage in work processes and perform their tasks better. They have more time and energy to discuss issues, make the best decisions and implement them. Of course, provided that both the employer and the employee behave conscientiously and responsibly, and the remote work policy is properly written.
It can significantly reduce employee attrition, especially in senior positions, and allow HR to find new talent rather than replace proven professionals better. According to the survey, most senior specialists will not move to another company for a slightly higher salary, but they may do it for better conditions. So if you have a good, clear, and obligatory remote work policy, which accounts for the wishes and needs of employees, it will be a powerful argument for them not to consider other offers.
What are remote working guidelines?
Well, it may be a fair question, how to get all these benefits voiced earlier? What exactly should be in my remote work policy? How do I properly implement everything in it? The Guidelines answer all such questions, which specify what to look for and in what order.
We have collected the most essential of them here because every company is different and requires an individual approach. We at Mad Devs use hybrid and remote systems and constantly share the best practices in our detailed articles. For example, we highly recommend reading how we measure the productivity of our employees.
First, determine the demand for remote work from employees and government agencies. If most employees are happy with the office environment and government agencies in your location are not demanding, you may not want to rush into an intense transition. But as we pointed out above, the trend toward remote working is steadily growing, and it's most reasonable to nicely prepare in advance for the transition to a remote or hybrid system.
If you realize that the trend has gotten to you and has become necessary for supporting the well-being of the company and employees, then clearly identify which positions are available for remote work and which are not according to the nature of the company's services and products or customers. Also, determine which positions are available for hybrid work or exclusively for office-based work. All of this should be discussed carefully between top management, department managers, and project managers.
You need to define a clear order of requests to move to a hybrid, remote or flexible remote job. Also, you need the right person to review this request and decide on a particular employee accounting for their position and project specifics, the project manager, for example. On the other hand, there should be persons who understand how it will affect the department or the company as a whole so it can be a joint decision of the project manager and the department manager.
Attendance and availability
You need to specify clear expectations of when and how much an employee should be online. In the case of flexible remote work, you should specify when the employee should be ready to take work messages from other team members and ready to go to various meetings. In the case of regular remote work, it should also be specified at what time the employee should work directly on the project along with the rest of the team. In the case of hybrid work, it is also specified how many days a week and how many hours a day the employee needs to visit the office.
Work environment and communication channels
You need to set up the entire working environment of the projects, the team's communication channels and write strict rules for their use. This is necessary for everything to work as a unified system, which will be useful for developers, transparent for project managers and customers, efficient, and safe for the company.
The list of these tools can vary, but as a rule, it includes corporate accounts through which access to repositories, cloud storage, and other work resources. It also includes task managers organizing project work, tracking productivity, and reporting, such as Jira. And, of course, communication platforms with flexible settings and the ability to implement custom modules, such as Slack. Of course, these are just the basics. This can include corporate subscriptions to Adobe or corporate accounts in Figma with extended access to all the platform's functions. Premium accounts in Google Drive for unlimited space to store work documents and materials. And there are so many more tools that employees need for a full-fledged professional job. But the basic idea is that all of this should be accessible, work well, have sufficient functionality, and be used following all the rules in remote work policy.
At Mad Devs, we use Jira because it allows us to set up very individual work tasks, use Agile best practices, and produce many reports, including custom ones. We also use Slack with our custom software modules, which allow a lot in the automation and regularity of different types of communication. And many other tools that elevate our synchronous and asynchronous communication to the most effective on all stages of development, as you can see in our article.
Equipment and technical support
You need to make sure that your employees have all the equipment they need and are in proper condition to work. If your employee's home computer uses unlicensed software, is infected with viruses, or is not powerful enough to perform the tasks at hand, you need to fix this situation one way or another. It is worth noting that many companies use the money saved on office rent and maintenance in this way. They write into the remote work policy the possibility of using or buying corporate computers and even furniture.
It is also worth taking care that employees always have technical support in case of problems with software or hardware parts of working tools. Dedicated people will do this much faster and more efficiently without losing various warranties and licenses. Roughly speaking, everyone should do their part, as this is the most efficient approach to solving problems. All of this should also be considered, written, and strictly enforced following the remote work policy.
Safety is of paramount importance, which is especially critical now. Because, since 2020, the growth of cyber attacks on companies has increased monstrously, as shown by research from Sophos. And only by using the best practices and following the rules can it be ensured at a sufficient level. Part of the rules from the previous paragraph applies here. But also here are the rules regarding the use of VPN and public WiFi, screen recording, screen sharing, and so on. All potential dangers must be taken seriously and written into the remote work policy. One might ask if a remote work policy controls all aspects of work, can an employer dictate where you work remotely? Yes, it can, but it is often only about safety in some aspects. For the rest, the remote work policy is upfront about the employer's requirements and the employee's rights. And none of the parties can violate these rules, and the consequences of their violation must also be stipulated and written. For more conclusions see the interesting interview with famous cybersecurity reporter J.M. Porup.
Compensation and benefits
It is essential to specify the terms of compensation for overwork and emotional burnout. And rewards for solving tasks with increased complexity or responsibility, bringing additional value to the company, and so on. Compensation can be in the form of money, professional courses, medical services, or corporate events. In essence, it all comes to the company's traditions, values, and capabilities. It also works the other way around. If an employee has acted dishonestly, endangering company funds, data, or reputation, the consequences should also be written in advance. This is an extremely important point that clarifies to both parties in advance what will happen if the rules are not followed with respect to each other.
Differences in cultures, traditions, and laws in other countries
Laws vary from country to country, and you need to consider this fact when hiring people from other countries. For example, under United States law, employers are not required to provide employees with paid time off, unlike in European countries. State or religious holidays, which by law are supposed to have days off in different countries, do not coincide or do not exist at all. Therefore, employees may have fair questions. What is the policy for remote work when an employee is on vacation? Or does the remote work policy provide for flexible hours during Ramadan? And many other questions. It is critical to approach all of these with the utmost care and respect but with the same level of fairness for all. So this needs to be discussed very carefully with lawyers and company management before approving a remote work policy.
In conclusion, we can say that each company is individual, and it is impossible to say in advance what form is better. It requires a thorough discussion with all the company's key persons and external experts. Many companies greatly help carry out digital transformation and create conditions for flexible work and stable growth of the company even in moments of crisis for the whole world.
In particular, we at Mad Devs help businesses of all sizes and fields move as many processes as possible into the digital space and optimize and automate them most effectively. You can see for yourself how successful we are in this and how satisfied our clients are with working with us.
Previously published at maddevs.io/blog.
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