While remote work has been on the rise for several years now, COVID-19 accelerated the number of employees working from home. More than ever, companies are leaving some traditional methods behind, stepping up to meet the needs of workers who perform their jobs outside the office.
Many human resources departments are now supporting staff spread out across increasingly larger areas. Aside from the fact that workers are displaced from a central location, the changing needs of remote workers can make it difficult to support a regional or even global workforce. Below are a few ways HR departments can assist staff while they work away from the office.
To work effectively, departments and teams will need to take a new approach to work. For example, a daily video conference can foster face-to-face communication and help colleagues pick up on nonverbal cues. Employees may need new productivity tools, such as project management or delivery routing software, to keep in touch with employees away from a central location. While some managers may be hesitant to change routines or use methods that weren’t needed in the past, tools that will help colleagues impart information remotely will improve communication and support understanding.
It will be necessary for many employees to adjust working hours. Consider allowing a time shift or splitting days into segments so workers can balance child care with office responsibilities. As long as the work is getting done, current circumstances may call for flexibility outside of the traditional business day.
While keeping in touch with the workforce is always important, it becomes critical as workers move to remote locations. Companies should double down efforts to keep employees up to date on any policy or procedure changes. In the current environment, such changes may occur often or without much warning, and workers must be informed as soon as possible.
HR departments need to focus on more than company procedure, however. Remote employees adjusting to life outside the office face challenges that can affect their ability to function well. They will need emotional support as they manage home responsibilities alongside job duties. Human resources employees should check in often with workers to get an idea of what they need from the company to do their best work. Create a relaxed environment where workers feel free to share their needs and speak up about their concerns. Let employees know they are being heard and the company values their opinion.
Create Reasonable Benchmarks
When employees are working outside the scope of the office, it’s often hard for managers to know what employees are working on and what they need help with. Likewise, employees do not see their managers in person, and may be unwilling to call or message them at home at odd hours when a question arises. Remote workers might be concerned that management doesn’t see their efforts, especially if some employees are still working from the office.
Such gaps in communication can make it difficult for employers to set benchmarks for their workers. Human resources departments can help managers come up with clear and reasonable criteria to measure employee goals, and offer to be a liaison if necessary. Once employees and managers are on the same page about goals, they can move forward with confidence.
Approach Sensitive Conversations With Discretion
Customarily, HR employees conduct sensitive conversations behind the closed door of an office. This private atmosphere is not possible with an employee working remotely. Human resources departments should bear in mind that someone working from home might not have a quiet, undisturbed place without family members present. Meetings of a sensitive nature should be timed for when the remote worker can step away from any distractions and have time and space to give the conversation the attention it requires.
While traditional methods are now taking a back seat to ever-changing ways of conducting business, HR departments are an important link in the chain of productivity. A few new tools and a fresh approach to problems will help everyone, and may even lead to positive changes in the way companies and employees work together.
Lindsey Patterson is a freelance writer and entrepreneur based in the US who specialises in business technology, customer relationship management and lead management. She also writes about the latest social trends, specifically involving social media.