How to Create a Remote Work Policy: Start With These Two Sentences

Trying to put together a remote work policy? Rest assured, I’m going to save you a lot of time and effort right now.
Every company’s remote work policy should start with the following two sentences:
1. Focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office.
2. Trust and empower your employees.
I know what you’re thinking: If we trust all our employees, won’t we get taken advantage of?
Before answering that question, let’s examine where these two sentences came from, and why they’re so important when it comes to putting together your own remote work policy.

Learning from Siemens

The two-sentence remote work policy was taken from Siemens, a member of the Global Fortune 500 that currently has over 380,000 global employees.
Last year, Siemens announced that it would be adopting a new remote work model that allowed many employees worldwide to work from anywhere they felt comfortable “for an average of two to three days a week,” a new permanent standard that the company stated would extend beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office,” said Siemens CEO Roland Busch in a statement.
“We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results.”
It would seem that Siemens is doing something right. At time of writing this article, over 15,000 Siemens employees have given the company a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars on employee rating site Glassdoor. Eighty-two percent of those employees say they would recommend working at Siemens to a friend, and ninety-three percent say they approve of the CEO. (Those numbers are significantly higher than the numbers of Siemens competitors GE and Honeywell.)
Now, let’s go back to those two key points and see why they’re so pivotal to a successful remote work policy.
“We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results.”—Siemens CEO Roland Busch

Focus on outcomes. Not hours.

Most companies pay their people based on how many hours they spend at work. But in many cases, this is kind of dumb.
After all, those same companies are paid for a result: the end product or service they provide, not the amount of time it takes to produce them.
But what if, instead of focusing on hours, you focused on results?
Think about it: If someone can produce something great in less time than expected, they should be rewarded for that, not penalized.
By focusing on outcomes, you’re not counting time. You’re making time count.
Takeaway: Don’t measure success by how many hours your employees work. Instead, focus on what they’re accomplishing.

Trust and empower your employees.

Let’s come back to that question: How do you know that you won’t get taken advantage of?
The truth is, you don’t. In fact, there are bound to be a few who will take advantage of a policy like this one. But those are the same people who will try to take advantage of any working environment. They’re the same people who always pretend they’re busy at the office, so others see “how hard” they’re working.
But most of your employees aren’t like that. They’re honest, hard-working people who will appreciate your trust and empowerment. And they’ll reward you with goodwill, loyalty, and great word-of-mouth advertising, as they have with Siemens.
Trust doesn’t mean leaving employees high and dry, to figure things out all by themselves. Rather, it’s about empowering them.
Companies must provide an environment where people have what they need to do successful work.
That includes:
  • Managers who show they care, by taking time to get to know their people and their circumstances
  • Clear communication regarding work scope and milestones
  • Clear guidelines regarding expected response times for emails, messages, and meeting times
  • Good coaching
  • Freedom for employees to work when and where they feel most comfortable and productive
  • Generous, sincere, specific, praise for things done right
  • Constructive comments when things are done wrong—given in a way to help, not harm
Of course, none of this is new. These are basic management principles that have been established over years to make for effective work. The key is to adapt these principles to the virtual workplace.
Takeaway: If you can’t trust your people, you have a hiring problem.
But once you have people in place who have proved they do good work, give them the freedom and support they need to get the job done. And they will.
So, if you’re a company that’s considering going remote, or one that already has and is struggling, learn from Siemens’s recent announcement and:
Focus on outcomes, not hours.
Trust and empower your employees.
Do this right, and your people will surpass your expectations. And you’ll find that remote work not only allows your company to survive, but also to thrive.

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