7 easy ideas to include in your return to work policy

Time to re-think your return to work policy. Check out our 7 ideas you might consider!

Β min. read
July 24, 2023

"Return to work" is a policy or strategy that has taken on a very different connotation since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the workplace. Historically, and likely still, return to work policies referred to an employee who has been off work due to an injury or illness (SHRM).

Now, we're thinking of it more as a physical return to work, e.g. actually deciding if and how employees work in an office or location. As vaccinations rates continue to rise (Our World in Data) and borders begin to reopen (CBC), it is natural for companies everywhere, from startups to Fortune 500, to rethink what they'll do with their workforce and physical space. The term "return to work policy" spiked 2 times over the summer on Google Trends!

It's time to draft a new "return to work policy". While this is a hot and difficult policy to produce, we wanted to offer a few short options for you to noodle on including:

1. Proximity πŸ—Ί

Looking to at least keep employees near the office? Include a clearly defined distance that an employee can live from your headquarters (or a set address) in your return to work policy.

Obviously this would not allow a worker to go fully remote and move far away, but it would mean they could potentially move out of an urban center and only need to commute in for specific events, meetings, or agreed upon days.

You know your geography better than anyone, play around with how far out you can draw this circle to enable your people to decide how & where they want to work (with boundaries). Maybe draw it wide enough to include cottage country and give everyone that dreamy summer vision of Zoom calls by the lake!

For example, from Toronto, a 150km limit on an employee's permanent address means they could live up in Collingwood and go for a swim in the Georgian Bay after that end of day check-in! Talk about balanced life.

2. Timezones πŸ•

Similar to proximity, but with a different approach, you might decide that employees return to work in a specific, or multiple, timezones. This can be very strict, "must be in EST", or flexible, "must be within 2 hour of EST". You can mandate that a person must live in the timezone, or simply that they must work that timezone.

You decide how strict & perspective you need to be. Perhaps this is only for certain roles, i.e. ones where the employee will be interacting with key customers or stakeholders and need to align with hours, or can be a company wide policy to maintain consistency.

Whatever it is, don't forget that a timezone clause in your return to work policy still allows for a lot of flexibility for your works, which is a good thing!. Someone who has to work in EST can still find themselves comfortably on a Mexican beach (wifi-dependent)!

3. Work hours ⏳

Work hours can be an easy area for flexibility, especially if you want to lean into remote or flexible work arrangements. It goes without saying that you are employing your people to work an agreed upon amount of time (in return for their salary πŸ˜…), but perhaps you can offer them up some flexibility around exactly when that time is invested. Long gone are the days where you measured productivity by the number of hours a boss could see their employees sitting in a cubicle.

Every person on earth naturally has a chronotype. You probably know them as early birds, night owls, or a "day person" (AltaMed), yes that last one is a real thing.

Allowing your team members to complete their work with only a few prescribed "overlap hours", i.e. when any team meetings or get togethers occur, is a wonderful way to demonstrate trust while also allowing flexibility.

For example, Aboard has employed developers around the world. With staff in Africa & Indonesia, we requested they adjust their work schedule to allow for a few overlap hours in EST, but not going so far to say they need to work their full days like that. We were clear up front that this is what we wanted and our team obliged with flexed work hours!

4. Flex days 🧘

Deciding to include some mandated office time? No worries, there's a good chance some of your team members will enjoy that face time and a change from the home office.

Here's a radical notion though, what if your return to work policy still allowed your employees, if they wanted to work remotely, to take a few flex days or weeks where they didn't need to be in office. Perhaps concentrate them around quieter (or colder) times of the year. This benefit means your team can go work in a fairer climate if they so choose to while still knowing they'll need to back in office later on.

5. Home office budget πŸ’»

A low hanging fruit to offer your team members in your return to work policy is some sort of home office or remote work support. This can be a lump sum when that employee starts, say $500 to $1000 on new equipment or a standing desk, or a recurring amount to cover things like internet. No need for you to be super involved in how the amount is allocated, either ask for receipts and reimburse, or hand it over directly.

Many new employees will appreciate this opportunity to create an even comfier home office (The Remote Company) or space and be more productive while getting up and running.

6. Co-working space 🀝

Not crazy about single office locations? Looking to reduce your real estate overhead? Flexible co-working spaces are a re-emerging trend now that office lockdowns are lifted.

You may have people already dispersed all over. Provide them with a specific budget to access and work from these shared spaces. They'll get out of the house, surround themselves with other professionals, and generally absorb the energy found in these spaces. If you have a few employees who are in the same vicinity, city, etc., you can even offer up access to a single location for them to get some face time in!

Some options:

7. 100% remote 🌎

Lastly, your return to work policy can simply stipulate how your organization is going to stay 100% remote and what that means for your people and the company. This might be better labelled as a "remote work policy" and keep your return to work policy very focused around the needs for temporary leaves/short term disability. There's a lot to be said about a 100% remote policy, we'll follow up with more on that!

Ready to start?