Remote and hybrid work arrangements are now a fixture in the U.S. workplace. Creating a great remote workplace, however, can be a tall order. How does an employer build a cohesive-feeling corporate culture when employees are spread out around the country and often only see each other on computer screens? What are best practices for monitoring remote employees and ensuring that they are doing their best work? How do employers ensure that they remain compliant with the state and local laws where employees are now living and working?
Our OGC clients have developed a number of interesting strategies to address the challenges of remote workplaces. Employers may wish to consider adopting some or all of the following practices as they continue to strive toward creating the best workplaces for their employees.
- Promote corporate culture
Employers can help cultivate and promote corporate culture among their remote workforces by finding ways to engage with remote employees and giving them opportunities to feel invested in both their jobs and in the company. Examples of corporate culture building include:
- Sharing notes from meetings
- Offering annual stipends for development
- Adopting required minimum vacation policies (i.e., requiring employees to take a set amount of vacation every year)
- Pairing new employees with mentors
- Providing a monthly stipend to work from shared spaces or coffee shops
- Ensuring the right tone in all company communications
- Pairing cross-functional workers for 30-minute chats
- Offering “get together grants” or “visiting grants” for travel to events with other employees
- Hosting in-person gatherings – quarterly and/or annually
- Seeking input from your employees about ways to promote corporate culture
- Adopt remote work policies
Employers can set clear expectations by developing written remote work policies for employees. These can be incorporated into an employer handbook or spelled out in a separate written policy that remote employees review and sign. The latter approach may be useful in demonstrating that the employee clearly knew and understood the employer’s expectations for remote work. A remote work policy can address the following:
- Eligibility factors for working remotely
- Workday, hours, and availability expectations
- Expectations regarding appropriate childcare
- Appropriate attire for video meetings
- Communications requirements
- Any location restrictions
- Any requirements regarding the home workspace
- IT requirements
- Confidentiality of company proprietary information
- How employees should track their work time
- Workplace safety requirements in a remote office setting
- Develop processes to compliance
Processes that help to manage and track remote employees can play an important role in an employer’s compliance efforts. Consider implementing the following processes:
- Survey employees (at least annually) and document the primary work location of each remote and hybrid employee
- Monitor applicable state and local laws where your employees are located
- Regularly update employee handbooks and policies
- Comply with workplace postings requirements
- Consider implementing employee monitoring systems
- Conduct regular training for remote employees regarding prohibitions against harassment, discrimination, and retaliation
- Plan regular meetings (video conferences), including individual meetings to review goals and performance and group meetings to share big picture updates
- Provide training for your managers focused on managing remote employees
Employers should continue evaluating and revising their remote policies and practices to help create a positive workplace experience for their employees. By doing so, employers will attract and retain a great employee workforce – and isn’t that the name of the game, after all?
If you would like to discuss these suggestions or other employment related issues, please contact Margaret Scheele at email@example.com or 703-408-4718.
Margaret Scheele (Washington D.C. team) is an employment law attorney with almost 30 years of experience. Margaret has represented a range of clients in a variety of industries, including aviation, food service, telecommunications, health care, and government contracting. Her practice includes the full range of advice and counseling work that arises within the employment context, including most recently COVID-related matters.