How to Organise Remote Work for Employees

Last revision: Last revision:24th May 2023

In the modern age of work, remote working has become more than just a trend; it has transformed into a mainstay of the corporate world. This paradigm shift, where employees no longer need to be physically present in a traditional office, has been accelerated by technological advances and societal changes, and most recently, the global pandemic. A remote workforce can provide numerous benefits, including increased flexibility, improved work-life balance for employees, and access to a wider talent pool for businesses. However, effectively managing a remote workforce involves overcoming numerous challenges and complexities, requiring thoughtful planning, clear communication, and comprehensive documentation.

This article delves into the details of various issues for employers to consider including some of the broader legal, managerial, human resources, and employee wellbeing aspects of remote working. It also identifies some key documents necessary for managing a remote workforce effectively. We'll examine employment contracts, remote work policies, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) (also called confidentiality agreements), and health and safety policies. Furthermore, we'll look into their significance and the best practices for implementing these in your organisation.

While these documents establish a clear framework for remote work, they should be complemented by an overall culture of trust, empathy, and openness in the organisation. Only then can you fully reap the benefits of a remote workforce.

General Business Considerations

Before we delve into the specifics of the documents, it's important to recognize the broader business and legal context in which they exist. Remote working comes with a host of unique legal, business, and managerial implications. When managing a remote workforce, it's vital to ensure that you're not only protecting the company's interests, but also maintaining compliance with local and international laws, and taking care of your employees' wellbeing.

Business Factors

From a business perspective, remote working comes with numerous business considerations.

(1) Productivity

One major concern a lot of employers have is whether remote work will enhance or hinder productivity. While some studies show that remote work can increase productivity due to fewer distractions and no commute time, others point out that it can also lead to increased procrastination and difficulty in separating work from personal life.

(2) Costs

On one hand, remote work can lead to cost savings in terms of reduced overheads. On the other hand, there may be additional costs involved, such as providing the technology and tools needed for remote work. Businesses also need to think about the financial implications, such as tax considerations for remote workers, potential cost savings from a reduced physical footprint, and the costs associated with setting up a secure and efficient remote working environment.

(3) Employee Recruitment and Retention

Remote work can be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining talent. It allows companies to widen their talent pool beyond geographical boundaries and provides employees with greater flexibility.

(4) Company Culture

Maintaining a positive company culture with a remote workforce can be challenging. It requires intentional efforts to create opportunities for social interaction and collaboration.

(5) Training

For remote work to be successful, both managers and employees may need training. This could cover topics such as using technology and tools for remote work, communication and collaboration in a remote environment, and managing stress and work-life balance.

Managing Remote Workers

Managers are often on the front lines when it comes to dealing with the challenges of remote work. Effective management of a remote team requires a different skill set than managing an in-person team. Managers need to be able to communicate effectively with their team members, maintain team cohesion and morale, manage performance and productivity, and ensure their team members have the tools and resources they need to perform their work. Managers also need to be mindful of maintaining work-life balance for their team members, as the lines between work and personal life can often blur in a remote work setting.

Human Resources Considerations

Managing a remote workforce also involves key human resources and wellbeing considerations. HR plays a crucial role in creating and implementing policies, providing support to managers and employees, and ensuring the overall wellbeing of remote workers.

HR needs to adapt their practices to suit the needs of a remote workforce. This includes areas such as recruitment, onboarding, training and development, performance management, and compensation and benefits. HR also plays a key role in communicating and enforcing company policies related to remote work. They need to ensure that employees understand their rights and responsibilities and have the necessary resources and support to work effectively.

Employee Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is particularly important in a remote work context. Without the natural break points that come with commuting and physically separate workplaces, employees may struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance. There's also the risk of isolation and the lack of social interaction, which can have a significant impact on mental health. Companies need to proactively address these issues, perhaps by promoting flexible working hours, encouraging regular breaks, providing resources for mental health support, and fostering opportunities for social interaction amongst employees.


Legal Implications

From a legal standpoint, facilitating remote work at your organisation is not without its challenges. It's important to understand that employment and labor laws still apply to remote employees. This includes laws related to wages and hours, discrimination, and workplace safety.

(1) Wage and Hour Laws

Companies need to ensure that they are in compliance with wage and hour laws, including the payment of overtime. This can be a challenge with remote workers, particularly if they have flexible work hours. Hence, it's important to have clear policies about work hours and to accurately track the hours that employees work.

(2) Discrimination Laws

Employers must ensure that their remote work policies do not discriminate against certain employees. For example, if only certain employees are allowed to work remotely, the employer must ensure that this decision is not based on discriminatory factors like race, gender, or age.

(3) Workplace Safety

Employers are responsible for providing a safe working environment, and this extends to remote work as well. While it's impossible for employers to control the conditions of a home office, they can provide guidelines for creating a safe and ergonomically sound workspace.

(4) Data Privacy

Ensuring data privacy is a significant legal consideration. Employers need to implement strict data security protocols and employees must adhere to them. In a remote work setting, there's often an increased risk of data breaches, as employees may be working on unsecured networks or using personal devices for work. Employers should make sure they outline the steps employees must take to secure data, including using secure networks, encrypting data, and not sharing sensitive information with unauthorised individuals. They should also specify what to do in the event of a data breach.

The Key Documents for Managing Remote Work

Having addressed the broader considerations of remote work, let's now delve into the specifics of the key documents that play a pivotal role in managing remote employees. These documents not only help to establish clear expectations and guidelines for remote work but also serve to protect both the employer and employee.

Employment Contracts

An employment contract is the foundation of the employment relationship. The contract should specify the employee's role, responsibilities, remuneration, benefits, place of work (if they have a specific one), their working hours, and any flexibility around these.

In a remote work context, it's crucial that the employment contract clearly states that the employee will be working remotely, either fully or partially. Additionally, the contract should address expectations around availability and responsiveness, and should specify what tools and equipment will be provided by the company, and how expenses related to remote work will be handled. It's also important to include clauses around data protection and confidentiality, especially given the increased risks associated with remote work. The agreement helps to ensure both parties are clear on the expectations and responsibilities associated with the remote work arrangement.

We have several different employment contracts available online, including our standard Employment Agreement, our shorter Letter of Offer of Employment, and our Remote Work Agreement which has specifically been tailored for remote work.

Remote Work Policy

A Remote Work Agreement and a Remote Work Policy are both integral to a remote work setup, but they differ in their scope and purpose. A Remote Work Agreement is a contractual document, usually between the employer and an individual employee, that outlines the specific terms and conditions of the employee's remote work arrangement, including their duties, work hours, equipment provision, and data privacy responsibilities. It's personalized and unique to each worker, often signed on an individual basis.

On the other hand, a Remote Work Policy is a general document that outlines the company's stance, guidelines, and expectations regarding remote work as a whole. It applies universally to all remote employees in the organisation and includes general policies on issues like communication norms, work hours flexibility, data security, and employee well-being. While the agreement focuses on individual terms, the policy serves to create a coherent framework for remote work within the company.

A comprehensive Remote Work Policy is a crucial document for managing a remote workforce. It should provide clear guidelines on a range of issues related to remote work, including expectations around work hours, availability and responsiveness, communication protocols, data security, health and safety, and performance management. The policy should also outline what support the company will provide to remote workers, such as providing equipment or covering certain expenses.

This document serves as a reference point for both managers and employees and helps to ensure consistency and fairness in the treatment of remote workers.

Confidentiality Agreements or Non-Disclosure Agreements

A Confidentiality Agreement (also called a non-disclosure agreement or NDA) is a legal contract between an employer and employee that outlines what information is considered confidential and cannot be disclosed by the employee.

Confidentiality Agreements are particularly important for remote workers, who may be more likely to unintentionally expose confidential information. The agreement should clearly define what information is considered confidential, what the employee's obligations are in relation to this information, and what the consequences are for breaching the agreement.

Workplace Health and Safety Policy

Even in a remote work setup, employers have a responsibility under Australian law to ensure the health and safety of their employees. A comprehensive Workplace Health and Safety Policy should provide clear guidelines on how employees can set up a safe and ergonomic home office, manage mental health, and report any work-related injuries or health concerns. Regular check-ins and appropriate training can further support these health and safety efforts.

Having a good Workplace Health and Safety Policy is not enough on its own though. Companies also need to ensure they have appropriate health and safety protocols in place for their remote workers. This may involve conducting risk assessments of employees' home workspaces, providing guidance on setting up a safe and ergonomic workspace, and ensuring employees take regular breaks and manage their workload to avoid overworking. It's also important to address mental health in these protocols, given the unique challenges remote work can pose in this area.

Employee Handbook

An Employee Handbook is an essential document that serves as an extensive guide, outlining the overall workings of the company. It's not a substitute for specific policies such as the Remote Work Policy or the Workplace Health and Safety Policy, but rather, it complements these policies by providing a broad overview of the company's practices, ethos, and operations.

The handbook typically covers a range of topics such as company history, mission, vision, values, and culture. It lays down the principles of professional conduct, detailing the company's stance on business ethics, diversity and inclusion, conflict resolution, and respect in the workplace.

In addition, the Employee Handbook outlines the general expectations of employees. This might include standards of behavior, attendance and punctuality requirements, dress code policies, and procedures for requesting leave. It also provides information on performance reviews, promotion policies, and grievance procedures.

Furthermore, the handbook might cover aspects related to employee benefits and compensation, describing the company's pay scale structure, bonuses, annual leave, and other employee perks and benefits.

Lastly, it also contains information about company-specific practices, such as how to use the company's software and systems, proprietary information handling, and data privacy practices.

Despite not containing specific policies such as the Remote Work Policy or the Workplace Health and Safety Policy, the Employee Handbook is intended to be read and understood in conjunction with these policies. This way, employees get a comprehensive understanding of the expectations and the workings of the company, regardless of their specific work arrangements.

Letter Requesting Flexible Work

In Australia, certain employees have a legal right to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009, including working from home. Employees can formalise such requests using a Letter Requesting Flexible Work. This letter should detail the requested work arrangement, reasons for the request, and any potential impact on the team or business. It's the employer's responsibility to respond in writing, stating whether the request is approved or refused.

Letter to Employees about New or Updated Workplace Policies

As your remote work protocols evolve, it's essential to keep your team updated. A Letter to Employees about New or Updated Workplace Policies can be used to communicate changes to your remote work policy, workplace health and safety policy, employee handbook, or other relevant policies affecting their work. This helps to ensure that all team members are on the same page and that any policy changes are adequately documented.

Engaging Contractors in a Remote Work Setting

In addition to regular employees, you may also engage independent contractors in a remote work setting. Unlike employees, contractors are not covered by the same employment laws and protections. They operate under a different legal framework, and it is important to understand the differences between employees and contractors in order to maintain compliance with Australian law. Our legal guide What's the Difference Between an Employee and an Independent Contractor? provides an explanation of the key differences. Our legal guide Legal Considerations when Working with Contractors also addresses some of the key issues to consider.

Engaging contractors remotely comes with its own set of considerations, including clarifying the nature of the relationship, managing tax and superannuation obligations, and ensuring that the terms of the contract accurately reflect the nature of the relationship.

We have a number of documents which may be used with contractors such as our Service Agreement, Freelance Agreement, and Virtual Assistant Agreement (Independent Contractor).


Managing a remote workforce effectively requires a combination of comprehensive documentation, clear communication, and a supportive culture. The key documents outlined in this article provide a framework for remote work, but it's the everyday practices and behaviors of everyone in the organisation that truly make remote work successful. By addressing the legal, business, managerial, HR and wellbeing considerations, and taking the time to prepare a comprehensive set of documentation, organisations can create a remote work environment that benefits both the company and its employees.

Templates and examples to download in Word and PDF formats

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