In the final installment of our series on the hybrid workplace, we look at establishing flexible policies that will allow both remote and in-office workers to thrive.
Congratulations: You’ve made it through the chaos of abruptly switching to a remote workforce, and perhaps you’ve decided to transition to a hybrid workplace model. Now it’s time to evaluate whether your policies accommodate all workers, be they in-office or remote.
“For the most part, policies should be applicable to both remote workers and employees at a regular work site,” says Katie Brennan, a human resources knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management. “But there are certainly going to be some considerations that an employer will want to take.”
Brennan suggests that employers re-evaluate the following policies for a hybrid workplace.
Does your organization have a strict dress code? Now could be the time to rethink it.
“If no one else is looking at an employee, does it really matter if they’re wearing a suit? Usually, employers are not going to enforce that if employees are not in a public setting,” Brennan says. Consider relaxing the office dress code too—providing guidance for staffers who have face time with members, donors, and partners—to avoid any perceived favorable treatment of remote workers.
Benefits required by law vary by state, so a newly dispersed workforce needs a policy that meets requirements for all states where employees are located. Brennan says organizations can look at which applicable state requires the most generous benefits, then provide those benefits to all employees. That way, some employees don’t get better packages than others based on location.
Over the past months, you might have begun letting remote employees exert more control over their schedules instead of requiring a rigid five-day, 9-to-5 work week. In a hybrid environment, consider expanding your flextime policy to apply to the entire workforce on a job-to-job basis.
“Certain jobs can more easily flex regardless of their work location, whereas others really have to be completed within a certain time period,” Brennan says.
Flextime is often associated with remote work, but there are options for any worker, no matter the location: alternating schedules, compressed schedules, gliding schedules, maxiflex. As long as it’s feasible for your association, flextime is worth implementing in some form, as it can be a productivity and morale booster.
Workplace Safety Policies
When the office reopens, your employees shouldn’t be walking into the same environment they were in before the shutdown. New policies need to be put in place to keep everyone safe, such as guidance on gatherings, social distancing, and employee health screenings—all in compliance with federal, state, and local legal obligations.
Another consideration: how to ensure that employees follow the new health protocols. For employees who do not, disciplinary steps should be prescriptive (for example, first a verbal warning, then a written warning, then termination) but leave room for discretion.
“Employers are going to want to be consistent in how they discipline employees for the various infractions,” Brennan says. “But sometimes things don’t fit into a certain box, or [the infraction is] so egregious that it warrants skipping the whole disciplinary process and going straight to termination.”
Employees who remain remote might request more equipment to help them operate at their best from home. Add a section about remote work to your reimbursement policy, detailing what will and will not be covered.
Brennan says organizations generally provide a computer and reimburse tech expenses such as internet and smartphone-related costs, but they will not cover the costs of something like office furniture.
Paid Time Off
“Generally, PTO policies will be dependent on different criteria, like years of service or whether someone’s full-time or part-time,” Brennan says. “
Because an employee’s work location typically is not a factor in PTO, you probably won’t have to make permanent adjustments to your policy. But Brennan cautions that as more of the world reopens, your employees might feel inclined to use their saved PTO all at the same time, leading to critical overlaps in vacations.
Organizations can temporarily modify PTO policies to prevent this. For example, if you have a “use it or lose it” policy in which vacation days do not transfer to the next year, provide a grace period in 2021 when some PTO can carry over to avoid a vacation logjam at the end of 2020.
Brennan offers one final tip: As workers find their footing in this new environment, the last thing they need is to be caught off guard by a surprising change to a workplace policy. Although employers are generally not legally required to give advance notice, it’s a best practice, she says. Provide policy updates in writing so employees have a copy of what’s expected of them.
In part 1 of this series on the hybrid workplace, we examined the key questions to consider when establishing a hybrid office. In part 2, we looked at which organizational roles most benefit from a shared environment.