When COVID-19 struck, many companies had to quickly pivot to allow employees to work from home. Seat-of-the-pants policies were implemented as firms improvised to stay in business. Now that remote arrangements look to be an ongoing option for many workers, the time has come to make sure guidelines are clearly documented.
That means updating your employee handbook.
Whether your company has an actual printed book or information about your business is accessible on your intranet, your handbook needs to clarify what you expect from people working from home, whether on an everyday or hybrid basis. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page reduces the chances of confusion.
Here are some tips on how to update your employee handbook, as well as a few pointers on how to introduce it.
Remote worker status
At minimum, your handbook must outline the process by which remote and hybrid employees and their managers agree on work schedules. Different companies handle this in different ways. It may, for example, take the form of an interactive conversation where workers first state the number of hours or days they want to work from home every week and managers respond based on the team’s and organization’s broader needs. These conversations should happen periodically so that employees can switch to a new schedule if their circumstances — or those of the business — change.
On-site versus remote roles
If your company can’t allow all jobs to be carried out remotely, you’ll need to list the positions eligible to work away from the office. For some roles, the reason may be obvious, such as the need to interact personally with customers. With others, it’s a good idea to explain why you’d prefer employees to report into an office each day, i.e., the advantages of them doing so.
If you've hired remote workers who are spread out across the country or worldwide within different time zones, one person’s 9-to-5 can be another’s noon-to-8. You’ll need to clearly define when employees are expected to be available and responsive.
Learn about Robert Half's Remote Talent Solutions.
Guidelines for office access
Since health and safety measures around COVID-19 have been constantly changing and are likely to continue to change depending on the number of new cases where your office is located, you’ll probably need to update this section of your handbook frequently. Explain requirements for entering and being inside the building, including vaccination status, temperature scans, the use of masks and social distancing — whatever is currently applicable.
Employees classified as full-time remote workers probably won’t have a dedicated workspace, so you should also include instructions for reserving a desk or hoteling space. Hybrid workers who don’t have a fixed schedule may also need to go through a reservation process.
In most cases, it will be up to you to provide remote employees with the technology they need to do their jobs. List any hardware or software they should expect to receive, plus a phone number, email or intranet link for requesting service from your IT help desk.
You may also need to add policies for ensuring an employee’s home internet service meets your company’s minimum speed requirements. Provide instructions for testing speeds and explain what employees should do if they need to upgrade.
Managing digital risks is another top priority. Include what to do if employees receive suspicious emails or come across web links that may seem unauthorized. Also include instructions for accessing your company’s virtual private network (VPN), if applicable. In addition to mandatory policies, outline some best practices with regard to cybersecurity — periodic password changes, for example, and 2-step verification.
Introducing your new employee handbook
Let employees know new policies and procedures are coming in a revised print or online handbook and when they can begin accessing it.
In your rollout communications (not in the handbook itself), provide phone numbers and emails of staff who can answer questions about various topics addressed in the handbook.