COVID-19: Remote Work and Access Policies

Quarantine, isolation, and stay-at-home orders have had, and will continue to have, rippling effects across the economy, including the large section of the workforce now expected to work from home. For many employers, having some or all of its staff accessing the system remotely is new territory.  Having a remote work and access policy can help create guidelines and structure for this new territory of business operations.

First, consider having employees complete authorization forms for remote work and access (RWA Forms).  The form will state a duration of time for remote work (use the end date for your local stay-at-home order and prepare new forms if/when this date changes) and the reason for working remotely.  Place the form in the employee’s personnel file.

Second, draft a policy setting forth guidelines for remote work and system access.  In addition to reminders to follow all company policies and the employee handbook, it should include provisions regarding use of employer-provided equipment (software and hardware), as many employees might be working from home/remotely for the first time and have newly-acquired company electronics, like phones or laptops.

Some items to include in your policy:

  • Employees must follow all usual work policies and procedures (and the policies and procedures in the Employee Handbook, if you have one – consider making this and the policies and procedures accessible online or sending electronic copies to all employees)
  • Employees will confirm the secure use of company and client information during remote access
  • All remote work-related information should be stored in accordance with the company’s document storage system
  • Track and record hours worked in the same manner required as when working at the regular company worksite
  • Employees shall be reachable by phone, text, or email during agreed-upon work hours
  • Overtime and meal and rest break policies remain in place, and the employee needs to record hours worked and breaks taken
  • If the employee is unable to maintain a work environment that is ergonomically sound, clean, safe, and free of obstructions or hazardous conditions, they need to let their supervisor/HR/designated contact person know immediately
  • Employees agree to report work-related injuries
  • If employees are required to use their personal cell phones, devices, computers, printers, supplies, etc., they need to request reimbursement by submitting the appropriate expense reimbursement form
  • Employees with company-issued equipment agree to care for it and prevent any intentional damage to the equipment, damage resulting from gross negligence, damage from a power surge without use of a surge protector, or damage from failure to maintain virus protection software
  • Employees are expected to preserve company information and maintain confidentiality – do not leave documents up on computer screens, do not take client calls where others can hear you

At the end of the policy, include an acknowledgment of receipt for the employee to sign and return to you.  This document should be added to their personnel file. Make sure to include contact information for a company representative and/or direct employees to their supervisors if they have any questions – this is uncharted territory for many employers and employees alike, and it is important to encourage open communication and asking of questions in order to create productive work-from-home environments and ensure the company’s work product and confidential information remains secure.

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