Blog Post

How Office Policies Can Benefit Remote Workers

lilticksMy employer’s currently on a kick to reduce printing costs, so those in the office are being strenuously encouraged to reduce our print output, and when we do print, to print everything double-sided with black ink only, unless single-sided or colored printing is absolutely imperative.

Of course, technically, this rule doesn’t apply to those of us who can also work remotely — if we really want to, we can print everything in color and on heavy stock, single-sided in our home offices. But of course this low-print policy is also sensibly applied in my remote office as well as at company HQ.

The die-hard anti-corporate web worker may not want to hear this, but as it turns out, many corporate office policies may come in handy in your remote workplace. I can think of three very common policies that can also fit well into a remote work philosophy.

The Paperless Office

The concept of the paperless office isn’t new, and it’s popular even though few of the organizations that strive to achieve it actually do.

Why Would You Do It?
The paperless office is said to have a number of benefits: it’s neat; it’s cheap; it promotes environmental consciousness; it can help you keep track of ideas, content and work; and you never find yourself without your calendar/notebook/pen/address book.

Why Wouldn’t You Do It?
Although the sustainability issues cited as an argument for paperless offices are valid, the sustainability of the technology required to run a truly paperless office is surely just as much of an issue.

But the reason why most people who reject the paperless approach do so seems to be work practice. If you’re used to working on paper to brainstorm, plan, work out process flows, and so on, you may have trouble transitioning those practices to the electronic environment. The simple preference to do some of your work off the computer as a means to put yourself in a different frame of mind may also play a role in keeping some tasks on paper.

What Might Work?
An approach that reduces paper usage in the name of cost and the environment, but still allows you to do the tasks you love on paper might be a good way to align your home office more closely with a paperless ideal. The added features of the many handy applications that can help you cut down your paper usage may just seal the deal!

The Professional Dress Policy

I was once presented with a 30-page document on attire for women in one place I worked. Fortunately, most office dress policies are less restrictive.

Why Would You Do It?
Adhering to some degree to your company’s office attire policy in the home office can help you feel like you’re “on company time”. It can also boost motivation and provide a sense of professionalism in an environment that’s often intensely personal. And if you need to meet with clients throughout the day, it might be a necessity.

Even wearing your organizations branded t-shirt can help you identify more closely with that company, its shared sense of purpose, its team and its culture when you’re physically distant from it.

Why Wouldn’t You Do It?
It’s fair to say that a large proportion of remote workers stay out of the office specifically to avoid policies like those surrounding attire. Some feel they get more done, and feel more relaxed, in their favorite old jeans and much-loved slippers. For many, wearing whatever they like is one of the key fringe benefits of working remotely: if they can do it, they will.

What Might Work?
Each of us probably knows what works for us personally, but sometimes, if I find I’m lacking motivation, I make myself presentable, leave my home office, and head out to work in a local coffee shop for a while. This reminds me that I’m still part of the world, and usually helps me get back on track.

The Charity-leave Policy

My employer offers staff leave of a few days a year to undertake charity work, and though not everyone does it, my company’s not alone in this kind of initiative.

Why Would You Do It?
If your employer offers this leave, you should consider it among your entitlements, like sick leave or holidays. It will give you a chance to contribute to a cause you’re passionate about, may provide an opportunity to engage with people in your local community that you wouldn’t otherwise meet, can help you get to know people who share your interests, can help to refresh your approach to life (and work!), and so on.

Contributing to a good cause can expand your personal horizons, shift your perspective, and renew your sense of self and purpose — and these are just some of the potential benefits!

If you work for yourself or your employer doesn’t offer this kind of leave, taking time off work to undertake work for a not-for-profit organization may be beyond your budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t consider slotting it into your schedule somehow. Perhaps you’ll need to do your bit out of hours, in smaller blocks than whole days, or over a weekend.

But two or three days’ worth of charity work a year should be doable for many of us — and given the potential benefits, in terms of the social aspect as well as the personal satisfaction you’ll gain, it’s definitely worth it.

Why Wouldn’t You Do It?
The time-cost associated with taking a couple of days’ leave to work for a not-for-profit organization is undoubtedly a major hurdle for any of us, but especially for the self-employed. For them, time is actually money, and time off may create holes in the cashflow that can be difficult to manage.

Even those whose employers offer social responsibility leave may have trouble justifying it at certain times of year. Some may feel a sense of obligation to bosses who “allow” them to work remotely. But just as we all have busy times, many of us also have quieter times at work, and these can provide a good opportunity to contribute our time to a good cause. After all, if you’re not going to be achieving much in the office anyway, why not get out and challenge yourself in another way?

What Might Work?
I really think donating some time to a good cause is worthwhile. You may feel you’re too busy — in life and at work — to donate your time to anything other than relaxing, and you might think that finding the right kind of work will be too difficult. But if you don’t do it, you’ll deny yourself the personal benefits of contributing to a good cause. If you can’t dedicate a whole day to charity or not-for-profit, you might consider a couple of hours a week, or a day on a weekend. You won’t regret it!

Do you apply any office policies in your remote work? Have any worked for you?

4 Responses to “How Office Policies Can Benefit Remote Workers”

  1. Thanks, great for that article.

    It shows that there are new ways (really not that new at all) that can shift the momentarily seen behavior (going to a company 5-9, stick to the office-desk and not seeing outside your organization to get new insights that feed back into your daily work).

    Using the new methods of working however is heavily based on TRUST between the parties (stakeholders).

    Building up the trustful relation is essential for the mentioned changes.

    When is trust being built within the Web-age and acting in the virtual space? What does it need?