March 02 2021

HR's Role in Remote Working

The remote workforce has been growing for years. And now, it’s the new normal. Today we'll discuss how remote working is here to stay, some of its benefits of and finally some considerations for HR in creating a remote working policy that works in this brave new world.

Remote Work is Here to Stay

A survey of businesses conducted in April 2020 found that before the pandemic, 76% of companies had less than 10% of their full-time employees working from home at least three days per week. However, 83% of companies expect that after the pandemic, full-time employees will continue working from home at least three days per week.

That may be due, in part, to the fact that employee productivity has stayed the same or even increased while employees are working remotely. Without the commute, meetings that run for too long, or quick chats by the water cooler that last longer than they should, employees and employers are finding that remote work can boost productivity.

Nearly 60% of CFOs say they’re ready to make – or already have made – remote work a permanent option for employees, a recent PwC survey found.

Some Benefits of Remote Working

We’ve discussed some of the benefits of homeworking previously. Several organisations have conducted studies finding several benefits from remote work: radical reduction of carbon emissions, cost savings – from company costs to employee commute time & costs, increased productivity from employees, a more equitable workplace for women and people with disabilities or chronic illness, and better mental health.

We don’t have a choice: The cat is going to walk across your keyboard during a meeting, one of your kids is going to walk past the camera. We’ve just relaxed our standards to that. Maybe it will bring us closer. In the end it feels like this has brought some more humanity to the professional world.

Create a Remote Working Policy that Works

A remote work policy does not need to replace your existing HR policy manual. In reality, it should complement your current HR policy and company culture. However, human resources should consider specific aspects when integrating remote work into company policy.

Be Flexible

Whether you need to revisit and update an existing remote working policy or create a new one, be flexible. The policy itself, and the guidelines you provide, will likely need to change as time goes on.

Most policies were written based on there being 100% presence in the office. Now they need to reflect changing factors in relationships based on interacting with people digitally.

Communicate (early and often)

When changes can affect the entire way employees work, people need to know as much as possible as early as possible.

Try to explain how changes will affect the company and employees strategically (longer term), tactically (in the next year) and operationally (day-to-day). And get employee feedback throughout the process.

Most importantly, use many communication channels – calls, email, text message, Teams, Zoom, etc. – to communicate, so every department and person understands how (and if) they need to react to changes.

3 Key Elements of the Remote Working Policy

 

  • Expectations. Employees should meet and maintain minimum performance levels to work remotely. Policies also include an expectation for work space – that it’s adequate for and conducive to working effectively, including a safe and distraction free workplace.
  • Technology including covered expenses. HR leaders should ideally work with IT to establish the minimum technical requirements employees must have to work with the same degree of technological effectiveness and data security as they do when in the office.
  • Flexibility is key. It is helpful to remember that as roles, responsibilities and business in a post-COVID 19 world change, the majority of organisations include flexible guidelines on how remote employees and their managers handle training, transitioning to new roles and the possible need to work from the office at some stage.

Remote work is a big positive of the 21st-century workplace. By establishing a clear policy about remote work, you can help ensure both your employees and your business see the benefits.

 

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