A Remote Workforce | 5 HR Considerations

a-remote-workforce-5-hr-considerations

At the outset of the Covid-19 crisis, U.S. companies — startups to large corporations across all industries — faced the challenge of remote work.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, employers should recognize that a remote workforce may be a strategic advantage. Employees who can adapt well to work at home are an asset in stressful times.

Now companies are assessing when, why, and how frequently employees should return to the office or if at all.

A remote workforce presents its own unique challenges, but it offers opportunities to reach top talent and grow past previous limitations created by physical locations.

If your company is thinking about a mostly or only virtual workforce model, here are 5 HR considerations to manage remote employees.

Priorities

  • ​Gaining and keeping business is hard under the best of circumstances and especially difficult when the market for your services is disrupted by a global pandemic. Now is the time to be focused on your company's objectives for future success, including improving products and services, accelerating innovation, making operations more efficient, developing talent, and executing the use of new technology. These objectives should be clearly set out for your remote employees to execute. 
  • Consider a recruitment strategy for top talent available in a virtual workplace. 
  • Rethink performance evaluations to ensure that they are focused on company objectives to measure actual productivity or output and not subjective impressions of virtual office face time.
  • Review and plan to comply with government regulations such as mandatory discrimination and harassment notices and training of remote employees.

Communication

  • ​Over communicate with remote employees. Depending on how quickly changes are occurring in your industry and client work, daily or weekly updates from management and particularly the executive team is important. Video and phone calls are more effective than e-mail. 
  • Consider using daily and weekly meetings to highlight exceptional employee and team-based work, areas where your team can work better. Provide specific examples. 
  • Prompt your remote team to discuss the remote workplace, client work or any concerns and ask questions.
  • Respond to employee questions and manage your company messaging in a consistent way across your business functions, including front line employees, managers, team leaders, HR, legal, operations, sales, executive team and independent contractors.

Engagement

  • Explore the value of informal check-ins with your remote employees. It's important for employees to know you're available to hear new ideas, answer questions, and discuss their concerns.
  • A manager and especially executive team members personally touching base with employees goes far with remote employees to boost their morale, productivity and retention.
  • Remote employees present challenges and collaborating with other employees is tricky. Increase collaboration by holding video and phone meetings that have a clear agenda, short meeting length, and end with clear direction on next steps, including communication frequency by email or text. 
  • Keep an updated employee handbook to include current remote work HR policies and provide clear guidance on the policies particularly mental wellness, sick days, paid time off and work hours. The employee handbook, remote work policies, compliance training, remote best practices and tips training, and relevant updated COVID-19 information relevant to your remote team's work and travel should be available on your company's intranet and/or a learning management system.

Equipment

  • ​Despite budget constraints, remote employees should have everything they need to work. Technology hardware, software, high-bandwidth WiFi as well as basic supplies like desk chairs, tables, and paper goods should be in place, so employees can be productive. Consider providing reimbursement to buy new home-office equipment.
  • Ask your team what they need, personally, to do their best work. Consider a digital form to submit their wish lists and delivery addresses, so their needs are quickly addressed.

Security 

  • ​With a remote workforce, your company no matter the size needs to develop a technology and information security plan due to increase risks of cyberattacks. A technology and information security plan should include prevention of unauthorized remote access to your company data; encryption on company mobile, tablet and desktops; multi-factor authentication; company policies for employees to use only encrypted WiFi connections and company networks, smart home devices such as Alexa disabled so company conversations are secure; and calendar for regular software security updates.
  • Update your employee handbook regarding company data confidentiality. Employees use of personal devices for company work risks access to your company's compliance records, trade secrets, employee records, legal and other information.
  • If you permit your remote employees to use their personal mobile devices known as bring your own device (BYOD), establish an HR employee policy for BYOD. The policy should set forth acceptable use, reimbursement (if any), and security standards.

As COVID-19 continues, many companies will continue to work at home, and some will move to permanent remote models. If your company plans for a remote workplace and manages employees well, there are opportunities for a productive workforce that will lead to a competitive advantage in these unprecedented times. 

Excelerator® provides guidance on managing remote employees, performance management, and remote workplace policies. Excelerator® Learning offers mobile, tablet and desktop remote workplace management skill training as well as HR compliance and COVID-19 workplace related training.
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