INSIDE: If you're going to be working from home, you'll have to know what to look for in a remote work policy so that you can be sure everyone is on the same page. Read on to learn what what should be included so that misunderstandings don't happen.
If you are entering the remote workforce for the first time, you may be unsure of what will be expected of you. Outside of work location, there may be rules and requirements you had never considered. And things can vary greatly from company to company and even industry to industry.
Thankfully, many companies spell it all out in their remote work policy. This is a document you will not only be asked to read but also likely sign prior to starting your new position. Here are a few of the big things you will want to make sure you understand.
What to Look for in a Remote Work Policy
Before we start, make sure you know the difference between remote work and telecommuting work. And if telecommuting is what you are doing, follow these guidelines for what to look for in a remote work policy.
Now, let's dig right in. Here's what should be covered in your remote work policy…
Employee Vs. Independent Contractor
Most people come with a traditional employee background where their employer takes taxes out their paycheck and they don’t have much to worry about when it comes to filing income taxes. If your new role will categorize you as an independent contractor, you will need to save back money for taxes and perhaps even pay them quarterly. This is something you should discuss with a professional so you don’t run into any surprises.
Whether you are a remote employee or independent contractor may also determine how much flexibility and freedom you will have. Labor law regulations dictate how much control a company can have over a worker, even if that worker is remote.
Employees often have more rules they need to follow and their schedule can be more determined by the employer. Independent contractors may have more freedom but may be giving up benefits like guaranteed pay or benefits.
This is definitely something you will want to read up on and make sure you are clear about how your role will be defined.
Scheduling of work hours can be very different from company to company. Some companies may have you working the same hours and days each week. Other companies may let you choose week to week which hours you want to work but it will need to be done in advance. Make sure you know what’s expected of you, especially when it comes to a flexible working schedule.
And on that same note, get clear upfront about how things are handled should you be sick or have an emergency. How far in advance, and through what method, will you need to let them know of your absence? Will you need to find someone else to cover your shift? How much time off is allowed before there are repercussions?
Paid Vs. Unpaid Time on the Clock
Payment terms can get a little complicated in the remote work world. Unlike traditional employment where you are typically paid from the time you clock in until you clock out, work-at-home companies sometimes work things a little differently:
Pay-Per-Minute – When you see a job that pays by the minute instead of a flat hourly rate, this typically means you will be paid only for the minutes you are actively working. This is most common in customer service positions where you will not be on the phone every minute of your shift. In these cases, you are not paid for the time spent waiting between calls. You are only paid for the time you are actively engaged with a customer. Sometimes this works out well, sometimes it doesn’t. Some companies will offer a guaranteed minimum hourly rate for backup.
Pay-Per-Completion – There are some positions that offer production-based pay. This is often the case for roles in lead generation, but you will also see it in industries like transcription. You are not paid for hours worked, but instead work completed. Each lead or minute of audio is assigned a flat rate. The faster and more accurately you work, the more you get paid.
Many companies, however, do still offer a remote worker – especially an employee – a flat hourly rate. Just make sure you are reading all of the fine print.
Another requirement that may be unpaid is training. Some companies do not pay you for instruction time. This is a possibility almost exclusive to independent contractor positions so be especially diligent in looking over the terms of those opportunities.
Equipment and Software Requirements
While searching for a remote job, you will likely see some positions list several equipment and software requirements while others make no mention of it. This is very much the case when working online. Freelance writers, for example, are often able to do their job with minimal tech requirements while those in the customer service industry may have a long list of specs they need to adhere to such as internet speed, computer memory, ethernet cable, landline phones, etc.
There is no single list of requirements for everyone. Each job and each company may be different. This is a section you will want to pay particular attention to as these requirements often come at your expense and are necessary before starting work. If there should be an expense reimbursement, confirm how that request is to be made.
If you are new to remote working, one of your biggest questions may be how you will communicate with your virtual team. Some companies simply use email, others may still like to hop on the phone, others may use a special platform for remote team communication.
You will also want to make sure it is clear how responsive you are expected to be. Do they expect you to answer emails even in your off hours? How much notice is required should you need time off?
Final Thoughts About What to Look for in a Remote Work Policy
Many people go into telecommuting expecting fully flexible work arrangements and a lot of leeway with their time. That isn’t always the case.
A remote work arrangement does not have to be complicated, but it can be a little confusing at first. If you don’t understand what something means, never hesitate to ask. You likely aren’t the first person, nor will you be the last, to have that question. And remember. That work at home policy is in place to protect you too. Within it is a remote work agreement you both must adhere to.
If you need help negotiating the terms of your remote work policy, click here.
Does your employer need help creating a remote work policy? Direct them here.