The call to enable remote work has been in the works for a while now. The current pandemic has created a massive shift to large scale remote work whether businesses have been prepared for it or not.
This transition to work from home is a major transformation for businesses and their employees. And human resources can rise to the occasion and bolster the overall health of the business by supporting employees' wellbeing.
According to a Buffer study, 99% of people would like to work remotely at least some of the time. However, there are problems that come with working from home for long periods. The same study found that:
22% of people struggle with unplugging from work
19% deal with loneliness
17% struggle to communicate and collaborate
People can also struggle with day to day processes and need HR support to get information and successfully carry out their tasks.
HR leaders can play a vital role in helping run the business more smoothly. Here are some helpful steps that you can take from an HR perspective to support your remote workers.
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A new way of working means that there will be changes. Discomfort arises from not knowing what the new workflows are, how to communicate, or what deliverables are expected of employees.
As an HR representative, you can help define these expectations by working with managers and department heads. Create documentation and share information that includes how to communicate about regular meetings, work output, deadlines, etc.
It's by setting expectations and communicating them that you'll support productive work. We'll explore more ways to support expectations by establishing communication protocols and systems access in the following sections.
Create communication protocols
With face-to-face communication no longer safe, it's essential to set up communication means that are effective and to build a high degree of responsiveness. Adding a multichannel communication protocol will allow you and the employees more ways to communicate and to get information.
Here are some ideas:
Use an instant messaging platform like Slack for day-to-day communication including general discussions, personal conversations, or for bringing up minor issues with work
Create an email response turnaround time and commit to answering emails fast
Keep official and company-level communication for emails only. These are cases where it's not necessary for people to respond
Invest in a conferencing tool like Zoom or a more comprehensive tool like Microsoft Teams for live video conferencing. Subscribing to them in advance and having your team access them is essential so that when online meetings take place, they are seamless
Clearly establish lines of communication. There need to be online pathways for your employees to get a fast response to urgent queries. And it's also helpful to set up other platforms for low-priority questions.
Use a dedicated online HR platform like BambooHR to streamline different kinds of HR-related activities. You can automate requests for PTO, manage company calendars, and track things like birthdays and work anniversaries.
Create an online hub for information that's evergreen. In our business, we provide onboarding information, our values, mission statement, company retreat photographs, and more on a membership website just for employees
It's important to rethink and change how quickly you communicate during this period of challenges. Offering live and fast communication can go a long way toward reducing stress and anxiety. During this trying time, it's important to stay connected and to show employees that they are a priority.
While the focus in this section has been on online channels for remote workers, it’s helpful to remember that less direct communication in the form of a contact form submission or an anonymous chat line can benefit workers in other ways too.
It can create a comfortable way for employees to ask questions they don't want to face-to-face. By offering different platforms and different means of communication, as well as by improving response rates, you'll help the transition to remote work more effectively.
Access to tools
One of the biggest shifts in remote working will be using new tools and technologies. We've already mentioned how you can use an online HR tool to streamline various activities like PTO requests and benefits.
Employees also need to have access to programs and tools that help them do their job. This can include tools for documentation, coding, content creation and management, and more.
Along with the right tools, it is also vital to add security and data privacy measures. This protects the company's assets and also ensures that your employees' information is safe as they work online more.
Tools for legal documentation and e-signatures can also serve the business and employees who deal with contracts with clients and vendors.
Using the right remote working tools is essential for added features that support task completion in different locations.
Keep employees engaged
Creating engagement on a regular basis is a key activity where you can make a significant difference. Making events and activities that get your team together and interact is a pleasurable and wellness-boosting experience.
Here are some fun and easy ways we keep employees engaged on platforms like Slack or in live conferences in our own business.
Themed discussions on Slack and asking questions to learn more about each other is a fun way to engage online. You can ask a question related to food preferences or just about anything and you're sure to get interesting responses.
Hold virtual events to connect with each other. In the place of an annual retreat, this year we hosted a day-long virtual retreat with games, quizzes, and other online activities.
Celebrate work anniversaries and birthdays in a low-key way. Wishing people a happy birthday or acknowledging the time they spent in your company is a great way to create engagement. It also shows that you're paying attention to people's lives and care.
Showing employees that they are important can boost morale and greater loyalty. Statistics on employee engagement show that only 21% of employees feel valued and 79% cite lack of appreciation as reasons for leaving.
Ask for feedback
In these times of change, there will be disruptions and challenges. People may struggle to communicate or may find certain tools difficult to use.
Some employees can feel disconnected and lose interest, leading to lowered productivity or other issues. It won't be plain sailing but you can ease things by listening. This means taking feedback on a regular basis, creating a space for people to share ideas, and above all, to actually listen to what they’re saying.
Use a survey or create a submission form on an internal page and encourage your employees to keep sending in feedback. You can also gather feedback during virtual meetings and in everyday conversations.
The point is to be aware that a seamless workflow will take time and that there will be issues. But taking feedback and implementing changes will lead to improved work.
Although the current pandemic has prevented us from working together, business and HR leaders still need to manage their staff as usual. And it's worthwhile supporting remote work over the long term because it has clear benefits for businesses. Remote working statistics show that 85% of businesses experience higher productivity after going remote. Additionally, 50% of employees reduced their sick days and 56% found that it brought down their absences.
You have many reasons to support remote working and employees' welfare is not the least of these reasons. Use the suggestions given here and you're certain to see a boost in employee happiness and business stability in these times of change.