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Employment and Labor

Hybrid Workplace: Top 10 Things to Consider When Updating Employee Handbook

Hybrid Workplace: Top 10 Things to Consider When Updating Employee Handbook

An Employee Handbook Should Fit the Current Workplace Model

Following Covid-19 shutdowns, many employers have moved to a hybrid workplace, where a section of the employees works remotely for all or part of their workweek. There are many benefits to this, including a reduction in the cost of rent and office expenses, and effective recruitment and retention of employees, who need a more flexible schedule.

On the other hand, company culture can suffer when employees are not at all working in the same location. Moreover, there can be a lack of mentoring and difficulty in connecting with remote employees. Therefore, careful thought should be given to updating the employee handbook to better fit the current workplace model, ensure control over the work product and facilitate consistency and connectivity.

One of the reasons for having an employee handbook is to provide clear communication to the employees about policies, expectations and responsibilities. This eliminates confusion and sets up employees for long-term success within the company. A thorough and well-written employee handbook can also provide factual and legal support for the termination of employees, who refuse to follow company policies.

Here are ten things to think about when updating the employee handbook for a hybrid workplace:

1. Logistics of Remote Work

Employers should have a concrete plan for remote work that makes sense for the business. For example, identifying the job positions that can work remotely all the time, those that cannot work remotely at all, and those that can be hybrid (working in the business location for part of the week and remotely for the remaining part). Also, you need to determine what jobs will be performed remotely, whether they need to be done fully remote or part-time, and any requirements or limitations for the remote work.

For example, some employers have implemented policies that allow certain job positions to work from home two or three days a week, once the employees in those positions have worked for the company for a specific period of time.

Finally, employers should think about what equipment will be provided to those who are working remotely and how to handle expenses incurred in connection with remote work (such as the cost of Wi-Fi, phones, equipment, office supplies, etc.). Once all the logistics are worked out, the employee handbook should be closely reviewed with that in mind and revised, where necessary, to address how the company’s policies apply to remote work.

2. Culture

One of the challenges for companies that have employees working remotely is implementing and maintaining a strong company culture. In updating policies, employers should think about what they want their company culture to be and how their policies can support that vision. For example, if a company wants to foster strong mentoring between senior and junior employees, then a mentoring program should be developed and included in the employee handbook.

3. Job Descriptions

Job descriptions may need to be updated to specifically describe the work to be accomplished, address how and when the work will be performed from a remote location and set forth any expectations for reporting to supervisors or checking in with a team.

4. Working Hours

A typical policy in an employee handbook identifies the hours that employees are expected to work. However, employees working remotely may not need to conform to those specific hours. Or perhaps it is
important that they do keep the same schedule. Either way, this should be addressed in the handbook.

5. Dress Code

Similarly, it may not be necessary for remote employees to comply with the company dress code, so the dress code policy could be revised to apply only to those working in the office in-person business meetings/trainings, or while on-screen in virtual meetings.

6. Security/Privacy

With employees working remotely, employers lose some control over the private information of the company and its customers or clients. There may need to be stricter policies in place to protect that
information. For example, employers may want to require remote employees to utilize a Virtual Private
Network (VPN) for connecting to work, prevent employees from downloading sensitive information
and documents onto personal devices and require sensitive documents and information to be encrypted
and sent using only the company e-mail or document sharing program (like Dropbox or Sharefile).

7. Equal Employment

Employers should make sure that their anti-discrimination/equal opportunity policies address remote and hybrid work schedules and are implemented and enforced consistently amongst the entire workforce. Clear procedures for reporting claims of harassment or discrimination should be included in the handbook, so that any claims can be effectively and timely investigated.

8. Wage and Hour

It is more challenging for employers to track the hours that remote employees are working. Employers
should have strong policies in place for recording time worked and prohibiting overtime without advance approval. In addition, employers must closely supervise remote employees to ensure that those policies are being followed. Employers will be responsible for payment of all time worked by remote employees, even if they violated the policies and worked “off the clock.”

9. Etiquette

Employers may wish to implement etiquette policies to ensure that all employees, including those working remotely, act consistently when communicating with others. For example, an etiquette policy may describe when and how to communicate (during office hours; via e-mail, text messages, or video), what software or programs can be used, and what type of background is appropriate for virtual meetings.

10. Drug-Free Workplace

Many employers have adopted and enforced a drug-free workplace policy that prohibits employees from being under the influence of alcohol and drugs, including legal medications, while at work. This policy
may need to be updated to specify that it applies not only to employees reporting to a business location but to remote employees, as well. Once updates have been made to an employee handbook, it is a good idea to have the updated handbook reviewed by an employment attorney to ensure that the policies are in compliance with local, state, and federal laws. Once finalized the updated handbook should be provided to all employees.

The employee should sign a document stating that they have received a copy of it. Training on the updated policies is essential to ensure that the employees know what the policies are, and
supervisors know how to consistently enforce the policies.

With comprehensive and thoughtful planning, an employee handbook can help businesses to run more
smoothly, promote productivity, reduce personnel conflicts and maximize employee satisfaction.

This article originally published on on March 2, 2022 and is republished here with permission from the publication.