6 tips to create an effective work-from-home model for your team

A single mom sitting in her kitchen at the table, taking some notes and working from home on her laptop.

The start of 2020 has already hit us quite hard, thanks to the coronavirus. While trying to battle COVID-19, many countries are practicing social distancing and many others are under lockdown. Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered 1.3 billion Indians to stay at home for 21 days to stem the spread of this virus. Due to this scenario, many multinational companies have turned to working-from-home.

One important aspect is to build specific guidelines for your team in order to collectively achieve business goals. Your remote employees will have questions that not everyone in the team instantly has the answers to. When am I expected to be online? Can I use my own device? Do I get paid for extra hours? And the list goes on. An inclusive remote work policy answers these questions for new employees and acts as a ready guide for the entire company. It clearly defines the rules of engagement and helps set the right expectations - both for the employer and the employee.

Bhavin Turakhia, Founder & CEO of Flock, a proprietary messaging and collaboration tool, shares tips on how to create an effective work from home model for your team:

1. Lay down hours of work with time zone overlaps:
Quantity and specificity are the two aspects at play here. How many hours do you expect your remote employee to work on any given day? More importantly, what set hours do you expect them to work? Depending on the business requirements, you can set a strict schedule or let employees decide on their own about their working hours. Some remote companies even go as far as ignoring the number of hours worked as long as the outcomes are delivered. Availability at specific hours can be an issue for teams that are spread across the globe, and real-time collaboration is a challenge. Even more so, if your team members are separated by a 12+ hour time difference. Specify working hours of your remote team. If they are spread across time zones, ensure that there is some overlap in their working hours.

2. Make provisions for asynchronous collaboration:
In remote teams spread across one too many time zones, real-time teamwork is definitely a luxury. While crafting schedules with time zone overlaps helps, it is not always doable. The solution for this is to focus on asynchronous (async) collaboration within the team through proper planning and communication. Because waiting for dependencies due to time zone differences can be frustrating and at times end up affecting the outcomes, your remote work policy should set clear expectations on handling tasks and follow-ups async. This involves setting ground rules for availability and non-availability and respecting each team member’s working hours. Additionally, your remote work policy should mention what tools are used for real-time and async collaboration - team chat, video conferencing, project management, etc.

3. Add guidelines for information security:
A remote team works from private as well as public networks (homes, cafes, co-working spaces, etc.), therefore guarding the company’s information systems from unauthorised access is always a task. To address this, create information security guidelines and make sure to add them to your remote work policy. Develop information security guidelines that involve provisioning secure hardware to all remote employees or insist on safeguards to be imposed on employee-owned devices.

4. Set clear expectations on compensation and benefits:
Companies that offer remote work options like PwC, Xerox, and Sodexo say that there should be no key difference in pay or benefits between an office-based role and its remote employee. But you do have some flexibility in fixing pay scales for your remote team. For example, you can make an allowance for the geographical location of your remote employee. The cost of living in Mumbai is obviously higher than, say, Hyderabad or Kolkata. Few factors to consider are compensation for core work hours, overtime policy, reimbursement policy for internet bills, IT supplies, co-working space, etc. Lay down clear expectations on compensation and benefits for remote employees. To attract and retain top talent, you may need to go the extra mile to provide benefits tailored to remote employees’ needs.

5. Develop a code of conduct for the organisation:
Differences in cultural backgrounds and sensibilities are more often a strength for remote teams. However, they can also lead to misunderstandings and conflicts, especially when most of their communication is async. Establish a code of conduct for the organisation (including remote employees) to pre-empt any cultural misunderstandings.

6. Tailor make your remote work approach:
Your remote work policy has to be tailored to your exclusive business requirements. Addressing these points around hours of work, collaboration tools, compensation and benefits, code of conduct, and compliance requirements is a great way to start doing just that!