Topic Outsourcing HR / PEO,

The Case for Revisiting HR Policies in Light of Remote Work

The Case for Revisiting HR Policies in Light of Remote Work

If you want your company to join the remote work revolution, there are some HR policies that you’ll need to update. Rules designed for in-office workers aren't always appropriate for the remote workforce and vice-versa. 

Many policies created for a controlled environment lose their applicability when remote work becomes a factor. Let's take a look at four examples of such policies and review opportunities for improvement. 

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Drug and Alcohol Policy  

Since there isn't such a thing as a "standard drug and alcohol policy," each employer develops and implements one that suits their work environment the best. Common points included in such a policy are: 

  • Employees can't buy and sell alcohol and drugs on the premises. 
  • Workers can't be under the influence of drugs and alcohol while on the premises. 
  • Drugs and alcohol shouldn't be present in the employee's system while they are performing duties. 
  • The company can inspect its premises for drugs and alcohol at any time (employees have to cooperate) 

Some of these points become questionable when related to employees who are working from home. If the person is working from their couch, can they have a beer or two? What if it’s during a conference call? 

You may need to change these points to accommodate these novel circumstances: 

  • Review the drug testing policies according to your state's marijuana legalization laws (states that adopt legalization laws usually have regulations, which allow zero-tolerance policies at work. For example, Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act in Illinois). 
  • Be clear about using alcohol and drugs during videoconferences and remote meetings with clients.  

While you can't always monitor the employee's remote workplace, you can still control their drug use by implementing reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing. 

However, doing so may result in a drop in employee morale. Drug tests create the sense that management does not trust employees. Furthermore, there are issues with drugs such as marijuana staying in the body for days at a time. 

If you are dead set on drug tests, your right to arrange such a test should be clearly communicated through the drug and alcohol policy. 


Dangerous Weapons Policy  

Many companies adopt weapons-free workplace policies that keep employees from bringing dangerous weapons to the company's property. Violation of this policy usually results in disciplinary action that may include termination. 

But what about remote employees who legally own a gun in their house? 

If the employee is working from home, this policy doesn't apply since the company may not have a right to control or inspect private property. The employee can have a right to keep a gun at home. However, if they are injured while working from home, workers' compensation insurance could apply depending on the circumstances. 

This means you have to adjust your dangerous weapons policy to regulate the use of dangerous weapons during work hours. 

When it comes to workers' compensation claims for remote workers, the employee has the burden of proving that the injury is work-related. By adding a clause that regulates dangerous weapon use during work hours, you can prevent the company from facing some of these claims. 

Dress Code  

Each company develops its own dress code. The common elements include: 

  • Neat and clean attire 
  • Proper grooming 
  • Dressing appropriately to the work environment 
  • Prohibition of highly revealing clothes 
  • Business/business casual/smart casual/casual according to the rules 

Many workers prefer flexible work models because the relaxed environment helps boost productivity. However, you will want to set expectations of what employees should wear when they are meeting with clients or co-workers online. 

When changing your dress code rules to accommodate remote workers, consider different climates. For example, long-sleeved shirts for hot climates may not be appropriate. Make sure that the dress code leaves some room for maneuvers.   

Implementing a standardized remote dress code can be beneficial since it creates a feeling of togetherness and boosts morale. 

On the other hand, enforcing similar dress may have the opposite effect and feel like a constriction of employee freedoms. It all depends on your organizational culture. 


Privacy and Confidentiality  

Privacy and confidentiality become an issue the moment an employee's home computer turns into their work instrument. Family members can gain access to this computer, accidentally compromise security, inadvertently share data, and more. Meanwhile, the security software on the home device may not be in the best shape.  

Changing the privacy and confidentiality policy alone can't ensure data security. The company has to provide security software, arrange cybersecurity training, and implement multi-factor authentication.  

When an employee quits, you should make suspending their access to the company's systems and files a part of the offboarding process. Meanwhile, the confidentiality policy should regulate removing all work-related information from the personal computer. 

Revisit Other HR Policies  

Remote work introduces a wide variety of changes to the way companies work. It's up to the HR department to review all the HR policies and change them according to the new workforce's needs.    

You may find that some of the points in these policies no longer make sense or require a significant adjustment to fit the new work environment. By making appropriate changes quickly, you can avoid unexpected expenses, productivity decline, fines, and employee lawsuits. 

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Please note that the information presented above is not intended to be specific, technical, or professional advice. Our aim is to educate and provide insight into relevant topics.