When I started working at Sendwithus, we had a lot of company policies. By a lot I mean they weren’t consistent, they weren’t all in the same place, and employees often needed additional clarification.
Our team was also changing dramatically as we doubled our headcount, which meant that some policies needed to change. Over the last eight months, I’ve been reviewing our existing policies to clarify procedure and make sure they’re accessible to everyone on the team.
All of our policies were complicated by the fact that we have an office in the US and another in Canada. We considered engaging a vendor that helps to create workplace policies but they only covered Canadian legislation, so they weren’t a good fit.
Before starting the process, I did some general research about what policies we should have in place and was very surprised at how few blogs and articles I could find on the subject. In the end, these are the policies we decided were essential to our growing team.
Benefits Policy: Outlines our policies for both Canadian and American employees. Links to other documents where employees can find more detailed information about their coverage.
Vacation Policy: Clearly states how many vacation days employees accrue and when. We have the same policy company wide.
Company Travel Policy: Lists what expenses are available for reimbursement when traveling for work.
Discipline & Termination Policy: Outlines progressive discipline and the rights of an employee in the case of termination of employment.
Discrimination & Harassment Policy: Clearly outlines unacceptable behaviour and how to confidentially report an issue.
Equipment Policy: Lists the equipment all employees are provided and how it should be used.
Leave Policy: Includes sick days, compassionate care leave, bereavement leave, short and long term illness, and unpaid leave.
Office Pet Policy: We love pets at Sendwithus and this policy outlines the parameters for bringing a pet into the office.
Occupational Health and Safety Policy/ Occupational Safety and Health: This one was definitely more complicated than I thought it would be because the requirements in British Columbia and California are very different. We ended up creating two separate policies. As part of this process, we trained more first aid attendants and established a Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
Parental Leave Policy: Outlines the leave policy for either parent in the case of the birth or adoption of a child.
Professional Development Policy: Outlines the budget available to all employees to attend professional development opportunities each year.
Recruitment and Hiring Policy: Outlines the process for managers to fill an open role and how interviewers are trained. Check out this blog post by our Director of Operations, Noah Warder, for more on that process.
Reimbursement Policy: Looks at the employee expenses that Sendwithus reimburses and how to submit them. This includes commuter and wellness reimbursements.
Code of Conduct: Last but not least, the Code of Conduct was an important one because it formalized values that were previously outlined in our guidebook, bringing them front and centre for employees.
Once I decided on the list of policies I wanted to tackle, I chose one per sprint to research, write, and have approved by my manager before making them available to the whole team. Some policies I thought would be simple turned out to be surprisingly complicated. The Office Pet Policy took a lot more iterations than I anticipated to make sure that the expectations of both Sendwithus and our landlords (for both of our offices) would be represented.
When I started working on a policy, I first looked at all of our legal responsibilities. This really should be easier than it is, but navigating Federal, Provincial, and State legislation can be a nightmare. I often found myself knee deep in legal jargon that, for some policies, took days to untangle.
Second, I evaluated our existing policies and incorporated them into what I had established as our legal responsibilities. I didn’t need to entirely change every policy, but eliminating any inconsistencies and moving them all to a central, accessible location was a huge improvement.
I only wrapped up this project a few months ago, but I have definitely seen a decline in the number of questions I’m asked about our policies. I’m always happy to clarify, but if my coworkers are able to find the answer in themselves, that’s even better.
Here are a few tips on what I learned during the process:
- Be concise. No one wants to read a ten page policy on how to submit a receipt for reimbursement. Believe me.
- Be clear. Policies should clearly communicate both your expectations as the employer and the rights of the employee. If you’re referencing legislation or outside policy, give a summary and link to the full document, so employees can find more information easily.
- Use consistent terms. When two policies discuss the same issues, use the same terms to avoid confusion.
- Use the resources available. A lot of companies maintain most or all of their policies publicly. Don’t be afraid to have a look at what companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple communicate to their employees. I also utilized the PeopleOps and People Geeks Slack workplaces to crowdsource ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask what others are doing.
Policies are living documents. If someone comes to you because the policy is unclear and they can’t understand how to proceed, the policy isn’t doing its job. Updating policies should be an ongoing process. Make sure to include a field on each policy for the date it was last updated and when the next full review will be.