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7 Things You Need To Know Before Creating An Employee Handbook

7 Things You Need To Know Before Creating An Employee Handbook
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Starting your own business is a difficult venture. You have to take care of a plethora of things and even then success is never guaranteed. Only after you go through several trials and tribulations, and learn from your experiences will you finally be able to carve your name in the world of entrepreneurship. In this world, the one who perseveres is the one who survives.

Employees are the part and parcel of any company. Having employees on board is one thing; making them follow your lead is entirely another. The success of a company is engrained in the ability of the employers to manage their employees. Discipline, work ethic, professionalism and dedication are vital components of a well-run organization. All these requirements are encapsulated in an employee handbook that is generally unique to a company. An employee handbook guides all employees on how to behave and conduct themselves in the realm of an office space. Basically, it is a summary of the organization’s policies and regulations.

The following are some of the things you should know before you write an employee handbook. Mind you, these are just guidelines to help you with the writing process. Writing the perfect employee handbook is an art in itself. You cannot simply conjure an all-encompassing, well-written handbook out of thin air. In fact, it takes years of experience, effort and constantly updating yourself with the times to write the perfect one. As always, practice makes perfect.

1. Why do you need an employee handbook?

All companies have policies––formal or informal––that dictate the terms of employment and expectations from its employees. Having clearly defined policies in one document creates an easily accessible record for the company hierarchy.

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For new employees, you may use this handbook to easily introduce them to the company’s rules and regulations. With an employee handbook, you don’t need to run around telling everyone how to behave in the office.

2. A handbook can protect you in court.

Running a company is not easy work. There are a thousand things that can go wrong, and sooner or later, you might even have to be in a court battling a disgruntled ex-employee. Say, he files a case believing he didn’t deserve to get sacked –– you might have to take the blame for someone else’s wrongdoing.

The same laws may not be universally applicable, or there may be distinct laws based on the nature of your business. Having a hard copy of your company’s rules and regulations is. therefore, vital as everything you want to address will be established in writing. Further, if you do not have the policies deemed necessary by legislation, you could be prosecuted and fined.

3. “Must have” handbook provisions

There are many indispensable provisions that must be included in your handbook. Some of these are related to the well-being of the employees. Violence and harassment in the workplace are inexcusable and must be forbidden.

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A company must include an occupational health and safety policy. Human rights is another issue that has been in the spotlight for several years now. The latter two policies are absolutely necessary, especially in the construction industry.

4. “Good to have” and other handbook provisions

Your employee handbook can cover an extensive scope of policies that sometimes may include some unorthodox policies as well. They may be out-of-the-box, but addressing these policies may sometimes be crucial for the functioning of your company.

Say that two employees fall in love at work and start exhibiting public displays of affection much to the chagrin or amusement of other employees. This may affect the overall performance of the company and having a policy on such issues can firmly draw the line between work and personal life.

Privacy, computer and internet policy, work attendance, overtime, pregnancy, etc. are some other policies which may be instrumental to the company’s operation.

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5. Remember, it’s only a guide

Sometimes, an employee handbook may be misinterpreted as a contract statement. But unless you want it to be treated so, it is better to explicitly state at the outset that the handbook is not intended to be used as a contract document.

This is critical, like in the case of employment-at-will, which means that the boss can fire an employee at his will for any reason (except discrimination or other exceptions). Every now and then, you might want to exercise that power to let people off whenever you want.

But, if your handbook specifically lists reasons for termination, without proper disclaimers, these may be considered as the ONLY legal base for termination, if the handbook is considered a contract.

6. Communicating your employee handbook

As mentioned above, a handbook can help defend your company in a court case. But if an employee can somehow prove that they never saw or read a copy, the court can’t help you at all.

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So, make sure that all your employees have read and agreed to the terms written down in the handbook. Ask them to sign a statement saying that they have done so and also notify them in case of any updates or new additions. A meeting to review policy changes will also serve well.

Make your handbook pleasing to the eye and easy to understand, avoiding jargon wherever possible. Title it unconventionally if you want; this is your company’s handbook, not a lesson in literature. Use one that will engage your employees and articulate your company’s culture right away.

7. Consult an employment attorney

As your company grows, and your handbook incorporates a wide range of policies, it may become tedious to update these policies regularly. Not to mention, when your company opens a branch in a new part of the country, it may require new policies in accordance with the jurisdiction there.

These laws may sometimes be overlooked, which can have serious implications for the company. Having an attorney comes in handy in these situations. And these employee handbooks should be reviewed at least once every two years.

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The times change fast, and updating these policies regularly may be the key to your company becoming the next big thing or languishing in bankruptcy.

Featured photo credit: Wikipedia via upload.wikimedia.org

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Nabin Paudyal

Co-Founder, Siplikan Media Group

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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