Home Office Policy for SMEs

How to request home office days? How to track time? How to request leave? Can I watch netflix on work laptop? Answer them simply with home office policy.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: November 17, 2022
  • 6 Minutes
home office policy for small and medium businesses in UK explained by Papershift

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Working from home is becoming the new normal for many staff members across the country. But with working from home comes the need for home office policies that outline the rules and guidelines for remote workers. 

But what exactly is a home office policy and how does a small business implement one successfully?

In this article, we will answer these questions and many more.

Let’s begin.

What is a work-from-home policy?

A work-from-home policy is a set of established guidelines between an employee and their employer that cover the various aspects of working from home. This kind of policy is also sometimes called a remote work policy or a telecommuting policy.

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This document might include information on technology usage, password sharing, time tracking, expense management and more. The purpose of these policies is to support remote teams in doing their best work, while providing smooth operation for the business.

Some companies may opt for a formal document that both parties sign, while others broadcast a set of rough guidelines that their employees are expected to follow.

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Why do you need a work from home policy?

Sometimes remote work becomes necessary due to unforeseen circumstances, like during the coronavirus pandemic. An effective work-from-home policy can help employees cope with this shift in working style.

The policy can help employees and employers alike by setting out clear expectations around topics like:

  1. Who can work from home
  2. Request and approval process for working from home
  3. Work hours when working from home
  4. Communication channels with the office
  5. IT support and equipment if necessary
  6. Cybersecurity and confidentiality
  7. The set up of the physical work environment

What should I include in a work-from-home policy?

From working hours to communication guidelines to security protocols, here is a list of items that every remote work policy should include.

a. The employees expected working hours

Traditional offices tend to function on a 9 to 5 basis, but virtual office hours are at the discretion of the employer. Some organizations prefer employees to stick to a set schedule, while others adopt a more flexible approach. 

Working hours are one of the most important points to clarify within any work-from-home policy. A business should specify whether employees must be available during set hours and whether employees can choose hours. They might also mention how staff should communicate availability, for instance by blocking time on a cloud-based calendar or setting an away status within a software package.

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b. How employees are expected to complete timekeeping and hourly reporting

Because remote working hours are more flexible, timekeeping can be complicated. Many remote managers turn to time clock software to ensure that offsite employees put in the expected hours. Recording hours can keep remote employees accountable and keep them focussed for the full work period.

In any remote work policy, an employer should provide instructions and deadlines for submitting hours, and clarify the approval process. Employers will still need to follow the UK laws, so they should remind workers to take required breaks and follow other parts of the Working Time Directive. 

c. Communication guidelines

Remote collaboration cannot happen without communication. Online conversations allow employees to ask questions, give updates, and brainstorm ideas. For best results, employers should provide communication guidelines in their work from home policy. These procedures should outline how and when staff should respond and what platforms to use. 

Employees should also understand response time expectations for all means of communication and should be made aware of meeting schedules so they can make themselves available. 

d. How employees are to use technology

If remote employees are to use company laptops or other employer-owned equipment at home, then the employer should set rules for technology usage. Standards for appropriate use can vary from company to company. For example, some organizations might not mind if employees binge watch Netflix on the company laptop during off hours, while others may prefer that staff use the computer strictly for work.

A thorough remote work policy will also outline which party bears responsibility for lost or damaged equipment. 

e. What the virtual meeting etiquette is

Virtual meetings are still meetings, and meetings call for a level of professionalism. By outlining virtual meeting etiquette tips, you save your team embarrassment and prevent uncomfortable conversations.

The policy should cover issues like:

  1. Muting the microphone upon entering the call
  2. Using headphones to minimize background noise
  3. Keeping the webcam feed on
  4. Broadcasting from a clean space or use a neutral background
  5. Time limits for virtual meetings

f. Approval procedure for work from home

If your employees do not work from home full-time, then you will want to explain the procedure for requesting remote work days. Your company might require staff to submit a written request within a specific time period for it to be considered. Employees should know who to ask for approval.

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g. Who pays for expenses

In virtual offices, employees cannot just pop down to the boss’s office to ask permission to make a work-related purchase. Businesses should include expense procedures in their work from home policy, detailing whether items such as office furniture, meals, subscriptions, or mileage are recoverable costs. 

Tips for setting good home office best practices

As a business, there are a few things you can do to make your home office policy work. These include:

a. Use clear and specific wording

Having a vague work from home policy is not a good idea. If your entire workforce is remote, this document will be the employee’s main form of instruction. Spelling out your rules and expectations in straightforward language with concrete examples will ensure that all employees understand and follow the required instructions.

b. Enforce rules equally

Though your staff’s home work environments may be unique, rules must be uniform. You should enforce work from home policies and regulations equally among staff. Home workers should deliver the same quality and quantity of work as in-office staff, and you should hold team members in all locations accountable.

c. Keep the policy as uniform as possible with those that work from the office 

Providing the same guidelines, procedures, and programs to all employees whether remote or not eliminates many of the problems that lead to claims of discrimination and will allow a business to set the same productivity expectations for all staff members.  

d. Adapt the policy when necessary 

Technology evolves rapidly, and workplace situations constantly change. As a result, your work from home policy will need updating. You should revisit the document to refresh security protocols, reconsider default programs, and adapt rules to fit to new circumstances.

In conclusion

Remote work is still a relatively young concept, and there are no definitive rules that every company can follow. Regardless, we hope you have found the information above and the tips we have provided an excellent starting point for your home office policy rule book. 

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Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)