Maintaining an Employee Handbook in the Age of Remote Work

We have a few tips that can make the transition to remote work and new policies seamless for both employees and employers.

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Have you created a remote work policy for your company yet?

The workforce climate has changed drastically over the past month. It seems that uncertainty is the only thing that is certain.

All non-essential workers have either been placed on leave or have moved to working remotely. Employers have needed to navigate maintaining overall expectations and restructuring daily operations, while still forming a virtual path to reach out to employees and check on their overall wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis.

With this huge learning curve comes the added stress of maintaining overall integrity. How can an employee handbook be implemented and enforced within the context of remote work?

Why is it important to update an employee handbook on remote work policies?

The simple answer is consistency.

Regardless of the size of your team, there needs to be continuity across the board. Working remotely can be just as much a challenge for employees to navigate as it is for those on a supervisory level. Making an amendment to an employee handbook will make expectations clear for employees and answer questions that may be up in the air.

What should you include?

Updating an employee handbook to include telework policies is the first step to making sure your team continues to work well together.

COVID-19 has really opened up the think-tank for many companies, large and small. Most business owners were not ready with an emergency plan to deal with a pandemic. This situation has been a steep mountain to climb since many employers are learning as they go.

It is never a bad idea to make amendments  and updates to an employee handbook. As a matter of fact, these changes won’t just serve your company now, but will be a safety net in the future as well should you need it.

Topics to cover in a remote work policy are:

  • How to access company-wide software remotely (if applicable)
  • Standards for tracking time of hourly employees
  • Systems that are in place for submitting work each business day
  • Any change in contact information or “chain of command” for working remotely
  • Expectations on how virtual meetings should be conducted

Creating the cohesion of a team remotely can be a big challenge. Updating an employee handbook to include telework policies is the first step to making sure your team continues to work well together.

Who makes the updates?

Ideally, changes that are made to the employee handbook should be made as a joint effort between the Human Resources department and CEO.

Presently, the person or department that makes the updates will depend entirely on the business and the vitality of the business at this point. Some businesses have lost an incredible amount of employees to lay offs by now. Implementing a new policy may be solely reliant on the business owner.

The legality of new policies should always be taken into consideration! Make sure that all new remote amendments abide by labor and non-discrimination laws.

The legality of new policies should always be taken into consideration! Make sure that all new remote amendments abide by labor and non-discrimination laws.

How do you get employees to “sign off” on new policies?

Encouraging employees to sign off on new policies can feel intimidating especially from afar. There are a few tips that can make the transition seamless for both employees and employers.

    • The employer should give a “pre announcement” one week before rolling out the changes. Employees don’t want to see new rules pop into their inbox unexpectedly.
    • Employers, you should hold a Zoom meeting to review the new policies with your employees.
    • Answer any employee questions. Employers should keep the dialogue going with those employees that have questions.
    • Give employees time to sign the new policies. You should give employees 1 to 2 business days to review the new policies and sign off on them.

Employers should have a plan in place for those employees that fail to agree to new policies. Some of these repercussions may include:

  • Getting a write up for failure to abide by policy
  • Unpaid leave
  • Termination

The actions taken with employees that don’t comply do not have to be drastic, but should convey the importance of the new policies. The idea in creating new policies on working remotely is to help your team perform at their best and to care for your team at your best.

Key takeaways

New policies should be made carefully and implemented quickly, and be backed by your legal team or the overall labor laws in place. Employees deserve clear communication and realistic expectations. It’s vital that employers are in consistent contact with employees during the transition period of implementing new policies.

Covering remote work in a handbook is vital for any business, especially in times of uncertainty.

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