June 13, 2023

How to Create an Effective Work-From-Anywhere Policy

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Key takeaways:

  • Work-from-anywhere (WFA) policies allow employees to choose where and how they work as long as they meet company performance expectations.
  • An effective work-from-home (WFH) policy considers company culture and values; communication and collaboration; technology and cybersecurity; productivity and work-life balance; and laws and regulations.
  • The best work-from-anywhere policies should include clearly defined location limitations, approval processes, and work expectations.

Explore our HR Software Guide for products to help manage your distributed workforce.

Elements of an effective work-from-anywhere policy

If you’re considering changing your hybrid or work-from-home policies — or if you’re setting up remote working policies for the first time — consider the following elements when creating your WFA policy:

Including these elements in your policy can help you balance your employees’ desire for flexibility with your company’s values and needs.

Read How to Successfully Onboard Remote Employees to ensure you’re setting your remote employees up for success.

Company culture and values

Companies that value learning and development, open-mindedness, and adaptability can implement WFA policies to highlight these ideals. For instance, companies exemplify their openness to various working and learning styles by allowing employees to choose environments to maximize their productivity.

However, a work-from-anywhere is not viable for every company. In addition, beyond the in-person requirements for some businesses and industries, implementing a WFA policy could damage company culture. 

For example, if WFA privileges are only available to select employees due to job roles, or if some employees use the perk more than others, it could defy company diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Meanwhile, employees who choose to work remotely could experience a degree of proximity bias, such as being overlooked for promotions or excluded from team activities, compared to their in-office peers.

Sentiment analysis and pulse surveys can help you understand whether offering a WFA policy to employees will help strengthen or erode your company’s culture and values. To promote fairness and career growth, consider providing comparable benefits like extra paid time off (PTO) or development opportunities to employees who are unable to work remotely due to job demands.

Communication and collaboration

WFA policies must include language around employee communication and collaboration expectations, especially if they primarily occur asynchronously across different time zones and working hours.

Technological advancements in remote communication, collaboration, and productivity tools, like Zoom, Slack, and Google Workspace, can easily accommodate and align distributed teams. However, these solutions remain limited by the capabilities of the internet. In other words, no matter how instantaneous information transfer over the internet is, there is always some delay compared to in-person communication.

If your company is moving to a remote working policy for the first time, consider how communication and collaboration will change across your teams, whether it will impact any team members, customers, or clients, and adjust your workflows accordingly.

Technology and cybersecurity requirements

WFA means companies must provide their distributed workforce with the hardware and software tools to complete their work effectively. It also means complying with security, data, and employee privacy laws in different states and countries, such as CCPA and GDPR. Moreover, depending on the business, employers may need to consider how WFA policies will affect highly sensitive information, such as:

  • Client data with payment information.
  • Patient data with HIPAA-protected medical records.
  • Employee data with demographic information like birthdates and Social Security numbers.

IT departments, consultants, or software vendors can help you implement a system to provide these tools to employees, remotely maintain them, and minimize security risks. Consider options like digital workspaces for remote employees so they can access the platforms they need from any compatible device. Although costly, they are easier for IT departments to maintain and more flexible for employees.

Productivity and work-life balance

While employers must provide all necessary tools and support for employees to work from anywhere, employees’ remote or hybrid productivity must remain on par with their in-office peers. They also are subject to similar performance standards.

At the same time, companies should encourage employees working from anywhere to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Because of the flexibility of WFA policies, there is a risk remote employees will feel obligated to work longer than onsite coworkers. To combat this, continuous feedback and check-ins with managers can help remote employees establish realistic goals to manage their performance.

Laws and regulations

Laws and regulations vary between states and municipalities, let alone between countries and regions. As a result, companies must learn how to navigate these to support employees who plan to work outside of their permanent residence.

Some of the laws companies should be aware of when crafting their WFA policies include the following:

  • Compensation, including minimum wage and overtime.
  • Anti-discrimination.
  • Benefits, such as medical insurance, paid vacation, paid sick leave, parental leave, holiday pay, pension, and workers’ compensation.
  • Pre-employment screening, including background checks and drug tests.
  • Tax regulations and treaties.

Unless working with an employer of record (EOR), companies must also ensure they can legally conduct business in other regions. For example, employers must obtain licenses in every U.S. state their employees choose to work in. Likewise, companies must establish a foreign branch or a subsidiary in each country where their employees work.

Check out some of the top global payroll solutions to help manage your remote workforce:

How to create a work-from-anywhere policy

As with any company policy, survey the opinion of stakeholders affected, such as executives, employees, and customers or clients, to ensure working from anywhere is a viable solution for your company. And, of course, put the policy in writing, distribute and communicate it to your staff, and develop a system to obtain their acknowledgment.

Besides considering the elements mentioned above, be sure also to address the following questions.

Limits and restrictions:

  • Are there a limited number of days you can work from anywhere in a benefit year?
  • Are there any states or countries where employees cannot work, whether for safety, geopolitical, or tax reasons?

Approval process:

  • How much advance notice do managers and HR departments require?
  • What eligibility requirements — such as waiting periods or performance standards — do employees need?
  • Who approves employees’ WFA requests?

Work expectations:

  • Are employees expected to attend the same meetings if working in different time zones?
  • What are the consequences for failing to maintain minimum performance standards, keep a stable internet connection, or adhere to the policy?

Clearly outlining a work-from-anywhere policy, identifying employer and employee responsibilities, and annually reviewing it for relevancy ensures it remains fair, consistent, and supportive of diverse employee lifestyles.

If you need help creating, maintaining, and sharing your WFA policy, check out our HR Software Guide for a range of solutions to fit your varying needs.

Work-from-anywhere policy FAQs

A work-from-anywhere policy is a policy that allows employees to work from any location as long as they continue to maintain all work expectations. Employees highly covet WFA policies, and companies that can implement such policies can tremendously impact future hiring goals.

Work-from-home policies allow employees to work remotely from their permanent address in their state or country, with limited exceptions. In contrast, a work-from-anywhere policy is less restricted. Employees can choose to work in the environment of their choosing, whether that’s their home office, a co-working space, or another state or country, as long as they meet specific eligibility requirements from their employers.

WFA policies can mutually benefit employees and employers. It gives workers the flexibility to work when and how they want to maintain a better work-life balance. For companies, it can increase retention, employee productivity, and cost savings on office space and supplies. It can also give employers access to a global talent pool.

Most importantly, WFA policies are a great way to combat burnout and the early signs of unhappy employees by trusting employees to meet their personal and professional priorities from wherever they choose. In fact, research from Gartner shows this autonomy is a sought-after benefit, with 12% of employees stating they are more likely to leave their workplaces without hybrid work norms.

For many companies, the technology, time, and knowledge required to comply with varying labor laws and regulations in each country are major deterrents to implementing a WFA policy. In addition, knowledge sharing across a distributed workforce and keeping sensitive information safe can dissuade many companies from considering such a policy.

The answer depends on where employees want to work and your willingness to support them. Immigration and tax policies differ in each country, not to mention varying labor laws, which you and your employee must adhere to. Failing to do so results in huge tax and financial risks for your company and your employees; educating workers about this risk is essential to prevent them from secretly working abroad.

However, countries with digital nomad visas, such as Australia, Brazil, and Spain, are making it easier for employees to work remotely, depending on their job and length of stay. Likewise, leveraging remote working software and global payroll solutions can streamline HR and risk management for a distributed workforce, making it easier for you to support your employees’ nomadic lifestyles.

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