Remote work is a popular topic of discussion at many firms across the country. Yet few firms sit down to flesh out detailed policies for remote workers before their first virtual employee is in place. Typically, one valuable employee requests to work from home and soon more follow, either on a full-time or as-needed basis. Before long, the firm has several employees with a wide range of remote work situations, and somebody asks, “Should we have a formal policy for this?”
If your firm doesn’t have official policies for remote work, now is the time to work on getting one in place. Here are a couple areas to consider.
What tech does the firm provide?
When your employees work from home, do they use their own computers or ones provided by the firm?
In our experience, firms provide a full setup for fully work-from-home employees, just as they would outfit a workstation in the office. When it’s a second office for an employee working remotely occasionally or on a part-time basis, there is very little uniformity.
Who provides the tech is a critical question. Is your employee accessing client data on an operating system that hasn’t been updated in a decade? Does the employee use firewalls or current antivirus software? Do other members of the household have access to that computer? Is the computer left in a vehicle when traveling or does the employee access client information while working on public networks? You may want to consider providing hardware and software that addresses all of these issues for remote workers or make firewalls, physical security and antivirus software part of your formal policy.
How will you remain connected?
This isn’t about internet speed but about maintaining a connection between the remote workers and people in the office. One of the perks of remote work is being able to work flexible hours that accommodate personal and family responsibilities. But there should be a policy in place outlining hours the employee will be available and how quickly they respond to emails and phone calls. We also recommend investing in technology that will allow remote workers to collaborate and video conference for “face-to-face” communication.
Who is eligible for remote work?
The fact is that not every employee has the discipline to work remotely and remain productive on a long-term basis. Furthermore, some positions in the firm just don’t lend themselves to remote work. Your policies should outline who is eligible to work remotely. Do employees have to earn the right after demonstrating their work ethic in the office? Or will new hires be able to take advantage right away? Also, consider a scenario in which an employee who has been allowed to work remotely isn’t meeting expectations. What is the policy for bringing remote workers back into the office?
How will remote work be measured?
When we see firms that remain resistant to remote work, the issue is never technology. They may blame tech, but the real problem is their own management style. Managers of remote workers cannot rely on measuring productivity by the number of hours an employee spends in the office. Instead, they need to look at the amount and quality of work being produced. Your policies should address how a remote worker’s productivity will be measured, and every remote worker should have clearly defined responsibilities and goals they are expected to achieve. Also, consider whether a remote worker has the ability to advance in their role as they would in the office. Will they continue to be promoted? Or will their career stagnate when they are “out of sight, out of mind?”
If your firm hasn’t started addressing remote work policies, it’s time to give these questions some thought. Your ability to attract and retain the best employees depends on your ability to offer flexible work arrangements. And the cost of making remote work arrangements successful pales in comparison to losing a valuable employee.
Jim Boomer is CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc.
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