How to adapt HR policies for the Remote Work Era


“Work from home” isn’t just a perk anymore. It’s the future of work. And HR leaders will want to create or adapt remote work policies that fit the new reality.

Nearly 60% of CFOs say they’re ready to make – or already have made – remote work a permanent option for employees, a recent PwC pulse survey found. And Harvard Business School researchers predict almost 20% of the workforce will continue to work from home long past the pandemic.

Finally, the C-Suite is on board with the merits of remote work! And the upheaval to businesses is settling. Now HR leaders need to get policies and practices aligned with current working conditions.

“Given the rise in remote work, it’s almost critical to review and update HR policies, especially since it used to be when a person joined a company, policies were in place,” says Max Muller, Principal at Max Muller & Associates. “Now policies are chasing the reality, and the reality isn’t well-formed.”

But your policies can be.

Of course, every organization will need to adopt policies that fit its unique situation and needs. That’s why we’ll focus on six best practices to amend or build HR policies for remote and hybrid work – and how to best communicate them.

Think, act with flexibility

Whether you need to revisit and revamp an existing telecommuting policy or create a new remote work policy, be flexible. The policy itself, and the guidelines you provide, will likely need to change as time goes on.

“Most policies were written based on there being true co-presence,” Muller says. “Now they need to reflect changing factors in interpersonal relationships based on simulated co-presence over the internet.”

Start adapting policies here

HR leaders want to be flexible because working conditions change often these days. Those changes create another problem: Where do you start when everything feels like it’s in flux?

“Survey the line managers,” Muller says. “Ask them, ‘What are your pain points?'”

What they say will help you identify the policies that need to be clarified, replaced, updated and created.

For instance, managers might bring up issues that didn’t exist when employees were on-site. And now you need to address things such as availability, ways to monitor activity and communication expectations for the new remote work reality.

Involve a crew

Most HR policies that affect employees work best when employees have a hand in developing them.

At Successfuel, our leaders equipped all employees who could work remotely weeks before the governor mandated it. Like most companies, we cranked up the Zoom calls for collaboration. We doubled-down on what we could do to keep our customers informed and satisfied, and honed in on what our company needed to focus on to succeed. And we found we could do it in a mostly remote situation.

So it was natural to take the next step: Create a remote work policy that fits our company’s needs. The HR Director built a team of employees from different functions, tenure and perspective to talk about what a policy should look like. The HR Director researched other companies’ existing policies and the group collaborated to revise it until it fit our needs.

From there, we had a focus group review the proposed policy. Then the leadership team took a look to offer insight and edits. It’ll take a couple of months from start to finish, but the final policy will be something that works well for employees and the company because both were involved from the start.

Communicate early and often

When changes can affect the entire way employees work, people need to know as much as possible as early as possible.

“If there isn’t a good communication plan, information will be floating around, but it won’t be in sequence,” Muller says.

So if you’re considering remote work policy changes or need to lay out a return-to-work plan, share information early and give the “nature, frequency and duration of the communication,” Muller says.

Try to explain how changes will affect the company and employees strategically (longer term), tactically (in the next year) and operationally (day-to-day). And get their feedback throughout the process.

Most importantly, use many channels – calls, email, text, Skype, Zoom, etc. – to communicate across lines, so every department and person understands how (and if) they need to react to changes.

Remote work policy keystones

Again, every organization will need to design a remote work policy that fits its situation, needs and demands. HR professionals most often cover these topics in their remote work policies:

  • Eligibility. Establish criteria for the jobs that are suitable for remote work, and the characteristics an employee must have to be allowed to work remotely – such as a history of good attendance, proven organizational skills, initiative and self-motivation.
  • Expectations. Most policies require employees meet and maintain minimum performance levels to work off-site. Beyond that, many policies also include an expectation for work space – that it’s adequate for and conducive to professional effectiveness. Many also lay out work time expectations based on employees’ exempt or non-exempt status.
  • Technology. Most HR leaders team with IT to determine the minimum technical requirements employees must have to work with the same degree of accessibility and data security as they do on-site.
  • Fluidity. Because roles, responsibilities and business in a post-COVID 19 world often changes, most organizations include flexible guidelines on how remote employees and their managers will handle training, transitions and the need to work on-site for some time.

As always, be fair and consistent

Ensure your work-from-home, remote or telecommuting polices are fair and consistent, so there’s no negative or disparate impact on protected groups.

Some positions and roles lend themselves to remote work. Others don’t. It’s OK to make decisions on positions that can work remotely, positions that must be done on-site and positions that might be eliminated – as long as you can show a legitimate, non-discriminatory and business-related reason for doing so.