Q&A: What’s the best strategy for when to update our handbook?

Lora Patterson, HR Advisor at Zenefits
Jan 28, 2021

A head-spinning amount of our practices and processes to run the business changed in 2020. With that in mind, when is the best time to take the time to update your company handbook to keep your people updated?

Change, change, change. Whether or not you like it, you got plenty of it in 2020. And you’re in good company, nearly 80% of small business leaders told us that how, where and with whom they run their business changed— forever—in 2020.  Ostensibly, all that change should be captured in your handbook.  What’s interesting is that use of the employee handbook changed too.  In a 2020, poll we learned that 67% of workers find their employee handbook useful: as the world of work shifted, the handbook became more of a touchstone on changing expectations.

In this episode of POPS!, Zenefits HR advisor Lora Patterson shares why now is the best time to update your employee handbook, and policies to consider adding as the pandemic stretches into 2021.

POPS Star Bio

Lora Patterson gets small business. In fact, she grew up helping out at her family’s two small businesses: cleaning cars at their auto dealership and working on the farm, which her parents saw as a good source of exercise and stress relief. Today, her role at Zenefits is also about helping small businesses strike a balance between building a foundation for People Operations and ensure regulatory compliance to fielding an array of questions about emerging—and often urgent—issues. When she’s not at work, Lora is a bibliophile with a gorgeous color-coded wall of books to prove it. She’s also an ardent traveler.

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Lora Patterson: So much keeps changing. What is the best strategy for when to update our handbook?

Didi D’Errico: Welcome to POPS, the show that shows you how to shift from human resources, paperwork to people, operations for the new world of work. How by answering one question at a time today to help us answer your question. Here’s Lora Patterson, HR advisor at Zenefits. 

Lora Patterson: So good news now is the best time to update your handbook. I recommend to all of our clients to take a look at their handbooks in January and really see, not only if there are new laws, you want to address in the handbook, but look at your existing policies.

And look, if, look at, if the policies are working for your company. Or if there are ways you can change them to make them more helpful and effective. Um, I know the last year, and even this year, there’s been a lot of new policies that I’ve recommended companies. Looking into, um, and those would be around work from home.

I know that’s such a big thing that employers are looking into right now is having employees work from home and not come to the office. So I would recommend thinking about creating a policy around that maybe it would address eligibility. What kind of equipment employees need, how to request work from home.

Those types of policies make it easy for employees to say, I think I can look into this. I think this is possible. And they even know that it’s an option. So another policy is a cell phone reimbursement policy, or even an internet reimbursement policy. So with employees working from home, I’ve seen companies create these types of policies to help support that.

Um, and something to note is even on the state level, some states do require employers to reimburse those costs. So I would take a look at your state requirements and then see if you really need to create a policy around that. And the last thing that I would really recommend looking into. Is a leave of absence policy.

So a lot of employees have been needing leave in the last year, whether it’s because they have COVID or, um, you know, maybe they need to stay home to take care of a child or care for someone who’s been affected by COVID. And while there are federal benefits that allow for some paid leave. Some of those benefits are limited.

So I’ve seen companies look into creating their own leave of absence policy that says, as a company, we’ve decided to give X amount of time to employees and it doesn’t have to be paid. It could be an unpaid three weeks amount of time that you can apply for if you need it. And in that policy, of course, you can dictate what the eligibility requirements are.

But I think it’s a way for companies to show employees that, you know, we are all in this together. We are trying to look into benefits that really help the company as a whole. Another policy to consider is a return to work policy. So right now a lot of companies are under strict County, state, and state guidelines telling them to stay at home, but that’s not going to last forever.

So companies should also be considering, okay. When the day comes that employees can come back into the office. What are we going to have established to make that transition go smoothly? And how do we protect our employees as we transition them back into the office? So I think that’s also a really helpful thing to look into.

I know our Zenefits team has come up with several articles on return-to-work strategies that I would definitely recommend taking a look at. Um, and that can help you guide yourself through a policy for that new handbook. 

Didi D’Errico: Do you have a question for our experts? Click the link in the show notes, or if you’ve got other ideas and feedback about our show, send them to [email protected]


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