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Eight Things Your Remote Work Policy Should Cover

Eight Things Your Remote Work Policy Should Cover

It may seem like a simple, generous gesture to offer employees a remote work option. The trend is certainly up, as over a third of full-time employees are projected to work remotely in the next ten years. And with such high demand, the ability to work from home can give your business a competitive edge in the war for talent. 

However, offering the option to work remote isn’t as simple as just saying yes. Compliance risks must be considered alongside the creation of a definitive policy. Rich Henson from HR Morning writes

“Without a legally sound remote work policy, your well-intended efforts to improve working conditions can unexpectedly create big legal problems for you.” 

Potential legal pitfalls include FLSA violations, discrimination and disability issues, workers compensation, health and safety issues, data security concerns and more. 

Still, while 63% of companies have at least some remote workers, the majority don’t have a remote work policy in place. Unsurprisingly, many companies operate under unspoken or informal guidelines, as remote work is still a new concept and companies are learning to adapt. 

Unspoken rules may work for a time, but ultimately lead to confusion. To set employees up for success, there must be clear expectations for work, both in and out of the office. Trust is more quickly and easily established when both employees and supervisors work under clear guidelines. 

So how then do you create an airtight policy that wards off legal pitfalls and establishes straight-forward expectations? So glad you asked! The following rule-areas offer eight great starting points for drafting a cohesive remote work policy.

  1. Eligibility: Your policy should clearly state what positions are allowed to work remotely. If none of your positions are remote-compliant, state this from the beginning to eliminate any further questions or potential loopholes.
  2. Availability: Outline specific expectations for when remote employees should be available. You may need employees available from 9am to 5pm, or you may allow employees to set their own work hours. Either way, make rules on availability clear in the policy.
  3. Responsiveness: Are remote employees required to immediately respond to coworkers? What is the best way to communicate with remote employees—chat, email, Slack? Be sure to specify how responsive employees should be, and what modes of communication should be used.
  4. Measuring Productivity: This one is especially important. Make sure your policy outlines how employee productivity will be measured when working outside the office.This establishes employee accountability and trust with supervisors as well as with other coworkers.
  5. Equipment: Remote work only works if employees have the right tools at home. Companies must state what equipment they are willing to offer remote employees, and what equipment the employee must provide themselves. For example, the policy must state whether employees must use personal laptops, or if they will be issued a company laptop.
  6. Tech support: If remote employees have technical difficulties at home, what is expected of them? Should they return to the office, or complete work at another time? Specify a plan of action and identify what tech support can be offered to remote workers.
  7. Physical Environment: Some employers prefer/require the approval of an employee’s physical environment before remote work is allowed. This should involve a focus on a safe environment designed to reduce the risk of workers’ compensation injuries.  Whatever your company’s stance, state it clearly in the policy.
  8. Security: Doing work outside of the office can compromise security. Policies must provide employees with specific protocol for doing work in public, such as how to properly dispose of confidential papers and how to take electronic security measures.

Daunting as it may seem, drafting a remote work policy simply requires employer anticipation of employee questions. Preventing legal issues and offering a clear, consistently implemented policy not only protects your company, but establishes your company as thoughtful and prepared. 

Have more questions or need help starting your remote work policy? Risk management is an area Servant HR specializes in. We’d love to help you lose the administrative burden of policy making so you can focus on what you specialize in! Contact us today and see what we can take off your plate. 

Infant-at-Work Programs on the Rise

Infant-at-Work Programs on the Rise

In an effort to meet employee demand and attract top talent, workplace benefits have continued to broaden. Flex schedules, ping-pong, pets in the office—you name it, someone’s probably trying it. 

But for many new parents in America, childcare benefits are the highest priority and still the most difficult to find. Stockpiled PTO and sick days go by quickly, and even those with paid parental leave still may feel they must put a child into childcare sooner than they would like.

The Cost 

Being away from a baby for hours at a time, as well as managing the burden of day care costs, has a significant impact on families. According to 2018 research by the Maryland Family Network, the median family income in Baltimore County is $86,700 and day care for two children in Baltimore County costs an estimated $20,200 per year. That’s nearly 25% of income spent on childcare. Other studies showed that in many states, childcare costs more than a college education. 

Many families opt for one parent to stay home until the child is older, but this is often as much a financial sacrifice as day care—if not more. This causes problems for employers too. Finding people to fill positions while parents are out of the workplace can be an HR headache, backlog projects, and slow overall efficiency.

A Third Option

However, as benefits continue to flex, Infant-at-Work programs are on the rise. According to Parenting in the Workplace Institute (PIWI), more than 200 workplaces across the United States are now implementing Infant at Work programs.

PIWI is an organization dedicated to convincing companies to let employees bring babies to work. The institute has proven that letting new parents sport a baby carrier at the office has a positive impact on efficiency, teamwork and office morale, improves recruitment efforts and helps moms and dads get back to their desks quicker.

Demonstrating Value

Beth Shelton is the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa and a mom herself. For Beth, implementing an Infant-at-Work program was less about helping employees save on day care costs, and more about showing employees they are valued.

“With the Infant-at-Work program, we’re supporting parents in their transition back to work, and creating a space where having children and advancing your career can happen simultaneously,” she explained.

The benefit provides obvious perks for parents, but it poses challenges as well. Despite the benefit’s increasing popularity, babies-at-work programs are generally met with skepticism. The biggest concern is disruption to the work environment since babies can cry… a lot.

But the founder of PIWI, Carla Moquin, says that with correct expectations and implementation, doubtful employers and workers become believers. 

“The policy results in parents being very responsive to meeting their babies’ needs at the first sounds of distress,” Moquin noted. “Babies are much happier, calmer and quieter than expected, and then coworkers and managers find themselves bonding with the baby.”

Moquin has seen workplace morale actually improve, as colleagues contribute to “the village” mentality. Employees generally consider the new baby a part of their community and are willing to help out, as new parents are essentially now working two full-time jobs.

Setting Expectations

If you’re thinking of offering an Infant-at-Work program at your company, the following bullet points provide specific recommendations by employers:

  • Pilot the program first for three to four weeks. This gives employees a chance to experience the dynamic before it’s set in stone. In many cases, the program is successful and becomes permanent.
  • Set an age for eligibility. PIWI recommends accepting children up to 6 months, but some companies allow children until they are crawling. Others do not have a cutoff.
  • Clearly communicate when the child will be in the office, so everyone is aware of the schedule.
  • Identify a few backup employees to provide support if needed. 
  • Understand it’s an adjustment. It can take a while and the first week is usually the hardest. 

Something to Consider

The program doesn’t work for every organization and it doesn’t work for every family. Business owners will have to think about all of the ramifications if they wish to consider.  Some jobs require too much accomodation, some parents are unable to manage the balance of attention and not all babies enjoy the social stimulation of office-life. 

Still, like many other unique benefits, it’s something to contemplate as a tough talent market has employers pulling all strings. For many employees, just having the option can communicate a company’s thoughtful care and investment.

Talking Politics at Work

Talking Politics at Work

On the heels of 4th of July, and with off-cycle election season quickly approaching, you may be finding yourself in a few more political conversations than usual. Talk at weekend BBQ’s, family gatherings—even checkout line chatter seem to land on politics.

But what about the workplace? Hot topics are still buzzing, but how much can employees engage in political conversations at work? If there is a line, what happens if it’s crossed?

Can you actually fire—or be fired—for talking politics at work?

Many assume First Amendment protection, but free speech isn’t so simple. According to writer Stacey Lastoe at The Muse, “There’s free speech, and then there’s free speech in the workplace.”

Private vs. Public

Private and public employers operate by different sets of rules. Private employers can generally set regulations about what is or isn’t appropriate for workplace discussions. There is not an inalienable First Amendment right in a private employer’s workplace.

Examples of private-sector employment areas include financial services, law firms, estate agents, newspapers and hospitality. Examples of public-sector employment areas include government employment, some healthcare, teaching, emergency services, armed forces and civil services.

Because politics are so polarizing, private organizations can easily and justly prohibit political discussions while at work. However, federal law also protects employees’ right to discuss labor issues with each other (i.e. wages and working conditions).

So the line is hazy—as guidelines pertain to specific topics of political conversation. For example, employees are protected if discussing support for a candidate who promotes higher wages. But as soon as the conversation switches to a candidate’s stance on foreign policy, those same protections technically don’t apply.

Variables

So what actually happens if an employee discusses politics in the office? 

Of course the political answer is, it depends. There are a few variables that determine potential consequences:

  • Your state. You might work in a state where the law protects employees from workplace discrimination based on political affiliation or extends other protections that would tend to protect you from being fired for talking about politics. Click here to read the different laws for each state regulating politics in the workplace.
  • NLRA protection. Most employers are covered by the National Labor Relations Act, which makes it unlawful to fire employees for participating in “concerted activity.” (Read our article about concerted activity on social media here.) If employees are discussing how they might improve the terms and conditions of their employment, or the previously mentioned labor issues, NLRA protection is granted.
  • The situation. Bosses have the right to call out employees chatting on the clock. Politics aside, if an employee is not working when they’re supposed to be working, it may be cause for disciplinary action. If discussions are “creating a disruption,” this can also lead to discipline.  

Takeaways for Employers

Be clear and aware. Make sure your organization has everything spelled out—what is expected of employee talk and behavior at work, how employees should use the internet on the job, social media policies, etc. 

Be aware of your state’s laws and work with HR on communication of what is and isn’t allowed. (Need help with HR? That’s our thing! Contact us today and see how our PEO model can lighten your administrative load.)

Takeaways for Employees

Know the rules. Be careful of how you’re using work time and remember that regardless of your political opinion, you’re at risk if you’re posting it during work hours. Remember that even out of the office, you represent your company and behaving professionally is good practice

Being an employee doesn’t require you abandon political causes you care about either! Simply set your social media accounts to private and make sure not to link yourself to your company—make it clear you’re representing only yourself.

Both employers and employees have the responsibility of pursuing shared goals for the good of their company. The good news is, that responsibility can easily be carried out apart from politics. Our best advice? Your #1 issue at work, should be work.

Two Ways to Revamp Traditional Incentives

Two Ways to Revamp Traditional Incentives

Many companies have approached employee incentives the exact same way for decades—sick leave, overtime pay and annual salary reviews. While these ideas are important and generous, companies must take cues from today’s market to broaden their perception of incentives.

Employee engagement is now a financial strategy for businesses and high engagement is commonly driven by recognition and reward. Two key factors have been identified in the creation of modern incentives that actually engage and produce real, bottom-line benefits:

1. Personalization

Consumer demand for personalization is up. Why would employee demand be any different?

Still, a recent Deloitte survey reported that only 8% of companies say their systems of incentives are very effective at creating a personalized, flexible solution.

Personal and frequent engagement with employees can lead to the discovery of unique incentives that work well for each individual. Incentives then become the tangible evidence that employees are truly known and cared for within their organization.

Personalization of incentives often looks like project or target-based bonuses. For some, the ability to create their own benefits packages may be most rewarding. For others, the freedom to do more independent or remote work can motivate and establish trust. Other ideas include creating company-wide recognition with company-wide games—meeting specific performance targets on a points-based system.

By personalizing incentives, employees feel known and uniquely valued within an organization. Oftentimes, being heard is a powerful incentive in and of itself.

2. Purpose-Oriented

An employee’s interpretation of the work he or she does for a company is a critical part of employee engagement. If the brightest minds feels their work is worthless, work ethic will inevitably decline.

This requires employers to give employees a well-defined and visible mission that can inspire and motivate even the most tedious work. Those from the lowest level to the top should be able to see their contributions and value in day-to-day operations.

Sometimes creating purpose-oriented incentives doesn’t even mean creating new ones—it may mean just presenting incentives in a more thoughtful way.

For example, let’s say a travel marketing agency traditionally gives an extended PTO incentive. That’s nice. But if the extended PTO is given with the intent that employees go out, travel, experience the world and bring fresh ideas back with them… that’s a purpose-oriented incentive.

A carefully developed reason for longer vacation time actually gives employees a sense of belonging, purpose and importance. Traditionally, people take vacations to escape from work. But how might organizational culture and engagement shift if even on vacation, employees felt purposeful and helpful?

Another purpose-oriented incentive could involve linking employee rewards to social causes or community issues that matter to them. This incentive is both purposeful and personalized, as it caters to an individual’s passion. Win-win.

Time to Reevaluate

Still not sure you need to revamp your traditional incentives? Try walking by some desks. Do your employees perk up at the sight of you, trying to look busy? Or are they already driven and motivated? Do you find yourself struggling to know what to say, or do you know your employees on a personal level?

Servant HR is a human resource service provider that gives business leaders freedom to focus on the parts they love about their business. Give us a call and see how a PEO can help you today! We take care of your business’s administrative tasks, so that you can take care of your employees—and we think that’s a pretty good incentive.

Preboarding as priority: Intentional hospitality as an HR function

Preboarding as priority: Intentional hospitality as an HR function

For some employers, “onboarding” is defined as that first paperwork meeting with a new hire — shaking hands, filling out tax forms and practicing signatures. For others, onboarding is simply any learning that takes place from day one on the job. Either way, both interpretations of onboarding are necessary parts of the hiring process, as employees work to acclimate to a new employer.

Even after you’ve sealed the deal, there is still a small gap of critical time between job acceptance and an employee’s first day. Usually a few weeks are given for employees to transition out of their current job and take a breath before their new one begins. But a lot can happen during that gap. Job offers are often used to bargain in other interviews or leverage a promotion with a current employer.

Some employers combat this risk by starting the onboarding process earlier. “If we can get them in the door faster and have them start completing insurance forms, they’ll be less likely to quit!” But research shows retention comes less from eager paperwork meetings and more from relationship and exceptional hospitality.

 

Guarding the Gap

 

Creative initiatives to welcome and engage new hires, from the time of offer acceptance to day one, are called preboarding. While ultimately beneficial for employers and a company’s bottom line, preboarding is most effective when genuinely focused on the employee.

Whether it’s that first meeting or the first few weeks of work, employees begin learning everything about their new employer during onboarding.

Preboarding offers an extra-mile opportunity for the employer to learn about the employee.

Taking time and honest interest in a new hire demonstrates the value a company places on its people. This helps new hires make the jump to a new workplace and feel at home faster (while inadvertently encouraging their best work).

 

Thinking Ahead

 

Attention to hospitality details may seem like a waste of time, but ignoring preboarding can prove costly. Consistent communication with new hires before their first day prevents ambivalence and makes employees less likely to continue communication with other potential employers. Lack of engagement before starting work allows new hires to feel that nothing is yet final and continue pursuing other offers.

Employers may use up some time on the front end, but preboarding also saves time on day one. Since a new employee has already become familiar with the team, culture and business operations in the weeks after acceptance, day one can be a work day rather than a day of introductions and tours.

So how is it done? Is it really just muffin baskets and welcome emails? Sometimes!

To put it a simpler way, preboarding has been called, “onboarding that’s more fun.”

Different ideas work better for different companies, but these small things can help new hires feel welcomed, valued and excited to stick around:

 

  • Before an employee’s first day, schedule a tour followed by a lunch with immediate team members or their managers. This helps the employee to feel more confident on their first day instead of walking in blind.

 

  • Send the employee a questionnaire after acceptance to outline things they like and dislike. When figuring out where to go/what to cater during a welcome lunch, the employee’s favorite place can be chosen without putting them on the spot. This questionnaire can be used throughout an employee’s time, as a way to intentionally thank them for good work. (Employers can also post employee questionnaires for everyone to see, fostering intentional relationships between coworkers.)

 

  • Pay attention in interviews and follow up with specifics. If a new hire mentions their family in the interview, send a gift basket including treats for their kids. If they just moved to the area, gift them with favorite local goods and a list of restaurant recommendations from their coworkers.

 

  • Keep checking in. Consistent emailing shows an employer is available. Sending a schedule of the first week, creating their email account and telling them when their desk is set up lets a new hire know you’re anticipating their arrival and keeps them in the loop.

 

  • Some companies offer “show up bonuses” on an employee’s first day or at the end of their first month. Of course this isn’t feasible for every company, but this bold gesture is an unexpected way to show appreciation.

 

  • Follow through. Hospitality attempts can seem insincere if new employees are left to fend for themselves after day one. In the initial learning stage at a new job, consistent check-ins are necessary to ensure confident acclimation specific to each new hire. This care and attention will not go unnoticed and can help ensure best fit for both employees and employer.

 

You may not be able to give your employees a million bucks, but you can make them feel like it! These small gestures help to guard that gap of critical time, and keep your employees excited about their new position with you.

Want to spend less time with the HR hassle and more time with your people? We want that for you too. Contact us today and see how Servant HR can give you the freedom to focus on what’s most important.

Top 3 things you need to know during medical insurance renewal season

Top 3 things you need to know during medical insurance renewal season

Medical insurance renewal season is usually considered a “necessary evil” in the grand scheme of medical insurance. We want the coverage, but we hate anxiously waiting for the renewal rates. I had the opportunity to sit down with Founder and President of Servant HR, Jeff Leffew, and talk about this topic. During our discussion, Jeff shared his perspective on three key areas’ the Servant HR team gets asked this time of year.

1.) What’s different this year?

Healthcare and medical insurance is ever evolving, which makes renewal seasons unique every year. And this year is no exception. According to Leffew, the biggest distinction is the length of time this renewal season covers. In fact, the renewal season for small groups that are not currently on an Affordable Care Act (ACA) qualified plan will extend until the end of 2017.

What does that mean?

As an example, a company has an Oct. 1st, 2016 renewal date. Instead of renewing Oct. 1st, 2017 (or 12 months from the last renewal) their plan would actually go to the end of 2017 (or a 15 month period). If their renewal date was Dec. 1st, 2016, it would go to the end of December 2017 (or 13 months).

Why is the renewal season length different this year?

When the ACA was established, there were serval provisions given that delayed the ACA from being fully implemented. Because these provisions will be gone by January 1st, 2018, it doesn’t make sense for companies who renew on October 1 to turn around and renew again for only three months.

Why is this important to you?

When you get your renewal percentages, they might be a tad higher than normal because they could be covering 13 or 15 months. It all depends on your renewal date.

2.) Options are dwindling

For small groups in Indiana, the options for medical insurance coverage are beginning to dwindle. According to Leffew, groups with fewer than 50 employees realistically have only three or four providers that will offer quotes.

The reason?

The environment for an insurance company is so complex that it’s difficult and costly for new companies to break into the market. As a result, they barely get off the starting line because looming regulations and complexities make profitability quite stingy for these companies.

3.) Judgement calls are gone

There was a time when the requirements to obtain medical insurance were less formal—less controlled. Those days are over. Now that companies are being held accountable by the federal government, the standards are black and white.

While the intentions may be good, Leffew believes it has taken away the ability for medical insurance companies to make judgement calls. He says, “Not all businesses look alike. There are unique situations, but the human element has been taken out.” With the reality that everyone has to look the “same”, judgement calls become less of a viable option for companies to make.

If you have questions about our top 3 list or need help this renewal season, we’d love to talk with you.

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