The remote work trend has been making headlines for a while now — and for good reason. Research by Flexjobs found that remote work grew by 44% in the last five years and 91% over the last 10 years.
Despite this enormous and obvious growth, many HR departments remain unsure about how they can manage a rapidly developing workforce of remote workers who span the region, and potentially, the globe. We’ve asked experienced remote work leaders how HR managers can best support remote workers.
1. Remain Adaptable
“HR leaders and managers have to be willing to listen and be open to change in order for teams to remain productive while working from home,” said Dania Shaheen, VP of strategy & people operations at Kazoo. This may mean implementing new digital solutions or simply communicating with employees often to understand any important events that happen in their lives or to recognize and celebrate their successes. “For engagement of all employees,” Shaheen explained, “keeping a pulse on the workforce and understanding the changes that occur in employees over time is crucial.” That way, HR can adapt its policies to closely reflect the wants and needs of its remote workforce.
2. Foster Employee Engagement
“HR leaders should be focusing on employee engagement,” Shaheen said, “because high levels of engagement lead to higher performance and ultimately drive an aligned, thriving and purpose-driven culture.” Engagement starts with prioritizing employees on an individual level.
“By putting people first, especially during challenging times, and giving them the space to virtually grow and connect with others in their workplace, businesses will see positive impacts,” Shaheen said. More specifically, an engaging remote work environment can greatly improve employee performance and an organization’s productivity.
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3. Fairly Reimburse Employees
“Over the past few years,” according to Craig Powell, president and CEO of Motus, “trends in employment law have been emerging that require employers to recognize even small tasks performed by employees on their personal devices for the benefit of their work.” That means it’s becoming more challenging for businesses to reimburse their employees for using personal devices, internet, or home office when working remotely. Powell said, “Calculating individualized reimbursement amounts allows business leaders to take into account cost of living and itemized bill components that are fair, accurate and support an organization’s compliance with labor laws.”
4. Schedule Virtual Events
“Many professional development events such as conferences and meetups have recently taken to virtual options,” said Aman Brar, CEO Jobvite. He believes this concept can easily be used internally by a remote workforce to provide a wider sense of community and information sharing. “Some options include organizations starting more frequent all-hands meetings, or special editions of virtual social hours that would have normally been fulfilled in the office,” Brar suggested. Business leaders can regularly schedule optional virtual events that get employees interacting outside their normal work roles, and create a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, that positively impacts the business.
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5. Create Suitable Benchmarks
“Evaluating performance can be subjective,” Brar said, “so it’s important to work with your hiring managers to determine the rubric of success.” It’s hard to know what employees are working on throughout the day, and sometimes positive results can go unnoticed. With a mixed in-office and remote team, it’s even harder for those working from home to get recognition for good work. That’s why HR needs to come up with clear and suitable benchmarks that best capture the performance of all employees throughout the organization.
“HR Managers should be prepared to over-communicate with their teams and business partners as priorities are ever-evolving amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19,” said Brar. The pandemic may have created a new norm of remote working, but the transition hasn’t been easy for many employees. “Employees working from home are experiencing stress where they are having to adapt to a new physical work environment with different distractions than they are used to in the office,” Brar added. HR needs to communicate more than just updates, they need to check in with how employees are dealing with their new remote work situation. Erring on the side of over-communicating can ensure HR is doing everything they can to keep the remote workforce satisfied and productive.
7. Let Employees Speak Up
“Lastly,” Shaheen said, “this situation gives employees the opportunity to speak up.” The coronavirus situation is pushing employees to share their thoughts on work-from-home-policies and other HR initiatives, but it shouldn’t take a global pandemic for them to feel comfortable doing so. “When employees know they have a voice and are valued by their employers,” Shaheen said, “they feel better connected with each other, with leadership, and with company values.”