What Are the Key Elements of a Telecommuting Policy?

A telecommuting policy is an agreement between workers and the organization that outlines the basic tenets of the arrangement.

With the right approach to telecommuting and with the right policy, organizations can expect to see a number of improvements across the business.

Not only will employees become more productive, they will be more satisfied and engaged with their work – at least, according to most research on telecommuting.

However, in order to create an effective telecommuting program, it is necessary to create a sound telecommuting policy.

In this article, we’ll examine the key elements of a telecommuting policy, such as:

  • The required hours
  • Expectations around work
  • Coverage of costs related to telecommuting

Having a well-designed telecommuting policy is essential for clarifying obligations and responsibilities, as well as ensuring that employees stay productive and efficient.

The Most Important Components of a Telecommuting Policy

Here are the most important elements to include in a telecommuting policy:

Hours and Attendance

Every remote working arrangement is different and has different requirements around hours and attendance.

Generally speaking, an employee who works in an office would have the same hourly expectations as when working in an office.

In other cases, employees are given flexibility, both in terms of the schedule and the number of hours that they work.

Regardless, it is a good idea to clearly outline:

  • The required number of work hours
  • Requirements around scheduling, if there are any
  • How those hours will be recorded and reported

Having these definitions is one way to ensure that employees remain accountable and productive.

Quality and Quantity of Work

Another way to ensure that employees stay on task and on target is to explain expectations around the work itself.

Again, generally speaking, employees who work in an office will be held to the same expectations around work as they would be if working in an office.

This section of the telecommuting policy should define:

  • The amount of work expected
  • Quality expectations around the work
  • Deadlines and timelines related to work

Naturally, any job-specific or department-specific instructions related to work should also be included in this section.

Communication

Communication is essential for telecommuters to be successful.

In fact, collaboration has been rated as one of the top struggles in one survey of remote workers.

For this reason, it is important to establish communication protocols in the telecommuting policy, which should include:

  • The apps that workers will use to collaborate
  • Procedures and special requirements
  • Required availability times, if any

Since productivity and efficiency depend on effective communication, this section should be a top priority – and it should be adjusted over time if necessary.

Coverage of Costs

There are a number of costs associated with telecommuting, some of which may be borne by the organization and some by the employee.

Organizations will often be the ones to choose which expenses to bear and which ones not to bear.

These can include:

Commuting to and from the workplace, fortunately, will be one cost that is usually taken off the table.

Process for Requesting a Telecommuting Arrangement

A telecommuting policy can also outline a procedure for requesting a telecommuting arrangement from superiors.

For instance, steps can include:

  • Filling out a request form and submitting the request to superiors
  • Explaining the reasons for the request
  • Sending the request to HR
  • What to do if the request is denied
  • How to re-submit a request

These procedures, once documented, can act as an easy reference for employees and managers alike.

Requirements for the Alternate Work Location

Since every telecommuter will be working off-site, the organization may have certain requirements that apply to that work location.

These requirements can cover:

  • The type of equipment that must be present
  • Which types of locations are permissible (such as a home, a different branch, and so forth)
  • Which types of business can be conducted at those locations

An organization, for example, may choose not to allow employees to meet with clients at their alternate work location.

Required Software

An organization should also clearly define which software programs employees must use when telecommuting.

These can include:

  • Chat apps
  • Conferencing apps
  • Video or audio communication apps
  • Security-related apps

Job-specific software may also be included, depending on the employee’s roles and responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

Certain sections of this policy may be covered by other organizational policies. 

Cybersecurity or software policies, for example, may be covered by IT policies. In these cases, it is certain best to refer to those policies, rather than reiterating them or creating a conflicting policy.

Also, an extra “Miscellaneous” section at the end of the policy can define other expectations not covered elsewhere in the policy, such as how to terminate the policy, tax implications, and so forth.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.