When COVID-19 changed our lives in 2020, it also changed the way we work. Because of social distancing, many companies had to change how they work, with a good number moving to a remote workforce. While vaccines are providing a light at the end of the tunnel, many businesses have seen the benefits of remote work and will be keeping the format even after things return to normal.
However, while it may be good for business, working from home is still a major change for employees, and they need support from management and HR to help them feel comfortable and get them through their days. This includes providing an adequate office setup, promoting a suitable work-life balance, and showing your support whenever possible. Let’s look at some smart tactics.
Engagement and Communication
While the idea of working from home used to be a dream come true, the realities of working solo in a non-office environment can really be obvious when employees are sent home with little notice during an ongoing pandemic. This is why HR needs to be there to support their workers as they get back on their feet and face the realization of a permanent at-home situation.
Because HR cannot predict every issue a remote employee may have, there should be an open-door policy in place where workers can feel comfortable explaining their issues and know that their HR rep will have a solution. No issue is mundane. Employees have the right to clear expectations in their new roles, and they should have multiple ways to reach out, including via phone, email, and anonymous messaging.
Along with being reactive to comments and complaints, HR and management should be proactive with positive reinforcement for employees whenever possible. This can start with a recognition program where monthly statistics are publicly shared at the end of the month for those who went above and beyond. You can also surprise your staff by sending out gift cards or certificates just to thank them for the sacrifices they have made and the hard work they have put in while being remote.
Some employees do poorly in a remote environment because they miss the connection they used to get when they would see their coworkers in the office all day. While not everyone will feel this way, HR can help revive that connection by encouraging virtual meetings every week or month where the team can see each other’s faces and remember that they are not alone but all in this together.
Another negative effect of working from home that many don’t realize is that doing so makes it much easier for employees to be overworked. When people work from home, there is the potential for them to stay at their desks longer than they would at a physical office, and if this goes on for too long, it could lead to physical and mental exhaustion. As a first step, HR needs to ensure that all hourly agents are off the clock at the end of their designated shift, and they should not be told to do any work during their breaks and lunches.
Set schedules are a big part of a work-life balance that is essential when you have a staff that works from home, especially for employees with young children. When the coronavirus forced many establishments to close their doors, it also meant that schools were closed, and online learning has been the norm ever since. That means that working parents are juggling working from home and watching their kids. Even though many schools are starting to allow students back again, parents may still have to spend some time away from work as they get their kids to school in the morning.
For instances like these, a flexible schedule is key. If HR can allow a team member to start their day later so they can get their kids situated and then come in and finish the rest of their day, it will make a major difference. Not only will the work still get done, but the employee will appreciate the assistance, which could improve overall staff retention since the workers know that the company has their best interest at heart.
Since many companies are new to the remote workforce, they may not have had the time to invest in the best equipment and check the computers for issues. There can be nothing as frustrating to a remote employee who is working alone while also dealing with a tech challenge like a non-working computer or an internet connection that drops constantly. To that end, HR needs to ensure that their remote workers are given access to the best equipment that will allow them to do their work with ease.
One option is for the company to supply their teams with the equipment they need, which may be a laptop or a tablet if the employee goes from place to place. If the company cannot provide the physical components, then HR should propose reimbursement for employees who are using their own machines at home. In addition to equipment wear and tear, consider reimbursing your staff for their monthly internet bill as well. Also, consider a monthly stipend for those who are converting a room (kitchen, living room) into a temporary office due to the inconvenience.
The human resources team also needs to consider cybersecurity and ensure that all remote employees are provided with secure equipment, especially if they are using their own internet. Malware and viruses attached to corporate equipment or emails can then move to the personal devices of the employees. To protect them, provide free antivirus software and have the IT team assist with tips for best practices that employees can follow to ensure that they remain secure. Also, provide training on common threats, including phishing emails, so your staff can be aware and stay out of trouble.
There are many considerations to make for your remote workforce, and HR can do its part to make sure that the team is happy and efficient. By being open to feedback and improving when you can, your workforce will recognize the effort and work that much harder.