The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the way we work and how HR teams manage workers. Ongoing lockdowns, school closures, and the risk of contracting the disease forced many businesses to close their office doors, requiring employees to handle their work duties from home.
Though the CDC ended the COVID-19 public health emergency in May 2023, some employers continue to allow employees to telework. While certain companies adopted hybrid policies, others provided entirely remote arrangements.
Working remotely has its benefits. Both employers and employees appreciate the cost savings and greater flexibility. However, managing a remote team isn’t always easy. Lacking an office presence can make it harder for colleagues to form strong relationships, and managers may worry about worker productivity.
How Remote Work Changes the Employee Management Process
Before telework, managers could quickly check in on their employees throughout the day, ensuring they were onsite during business hours and completing their responsibilities according to set deadlines. A simple visit to the employee’s desk could answer any questions a manager had.
In turn, employees could pop into their manager’s office whenever they encountered problems. This made it easier to separate the star performers from the lackluster ones. Valuable workers were eager to learn and take on new projects, while less interested employees did only the bare minimum.
Remote work changed the dynamic of managing the workforce. Identifying talented employees isn’t so straightforward anymore, nor is productivity oversight. Working from home makes it impossible to physically step into someone’s office, although they can easily chat via apps and online video calls.
Companies that have a hybrid or fully remote workforce face some challenges. However, they’re not insurmountable. You can increase employee engagement and retain productivity with a few tweaks to your management policies.
Best Practices to Help HR Teams Manage Remote Employees
Here are a few tips to consider as you navigate the waters of remote employee management:
1. Ensure Employees Understand Your Expectations
Some workplaces can’t offer remote roles for every employee. For instance, manufacturing, food service, and hospitality companies typically require at least some presence in the office. If only some of your workforce is eligible for remote work, defining what positions can telework and which can’t is essential.
You should also define the hours you expect your team to be available. While you may allow your employees some flexibility to set their hours, there are likely some critical times you need everyone to have their nose to the grindstone. Ensure that employees are on the same page to minimize disruptions.
Ideally, you’ll set performance goals for all your employees to meet. Managers can establish the objectives according to specific timeframes, such as monthly, quarterly, or annually. When workers have set goals they must achieve, they’re more likely to work diligently toward them.
2. Consider Your Technology Stack
Remote employers will see far more benefits when they have the technology to support their teams. At a minimum, you should have a solid communication platform that allows workers to communicate with ease. You’ll also want to make sure that every remote employee has access to the data and tools they need to be successful.
For example, if your accounting team is onsite, cloud-based accounting software that’s easily accessible to your workers is critical. Similarly, you might find it helpful to keep files accessible through a VPN or cloud-based file management center.
Many remote employers provide employees with electronic equipment like computers, laptops, and tablets. Providing employees with these and other tools can better protect company data and ensure workers have access to the software they need to do their jobs.
3. Implement Collaboration Strategies
Collaboration is vital, particularly in a remote work environment. You’ll want to guarantee that your employees regularly communicate with each other — both within their departments and across divisions.
However, communication doesn’t always require a lengthy video conference. Sometimes a quick email or direct chat can address questions between you and your employees, saving everyone time and energy that they can put toward their work.
Try to find a balance between chats, emails, and video meetings. This allows you to meet your organization’s needs while still ensuring that you get regular face-to-face time with employees.
For instance, you might hold a one-hour weekly department video call and thirty-minute one-on-ones with every team member. You can also schedule ad hoc meetings if needed but try to manage most other communications via email or chat.
4. Manage Your HR Needs with an ERP System
You’ll likely want to track your employees’ time and activities while working remotely. A solid ERP or time-tracking system that allows employees to log their hours and manage their leave can be a tremendous time saver, especially if you have a significant remote workforce.
Your ERP or HR system will offer tools your employees need for training and professional development. It can also help you stay in compliance with labor laws by storing necessary tax forms and other documents.
5. Ensure Employees Understand Your Work Culture
Depending on your organization’s structure, you may have local remote employees, or your team may be in multiple states or countries. It’s essential that all employees fully understand your company’s values and align with them. If workers don’t frequently interact in person, you should encourage engagement in other ways.
Some companies find that hosting occasional meetups can foster stronger relationships between employees, especially when they don’t live within driving distance of the office. While such events can be expensive, they may benefit dispersed teams.
If funding an annual meetup is outside your budget, there are other ways to encourage employee connections. For instance, you might hold a monthly online happy hour and have everyone bring their favorite tipple while playing trivia or another fun game.
6. Work With Your HR Team to Stay Compliant With Labor Laws
Maintaining compliance with labor laws is essential for any organization, and collaborating closely with the Human Resources (HR) team can greatly contribute to achieving this goal.
By fostering open communication and collaboration with the HR team, organizations can proactively address compliance issues, mitigate potential risks, and create a fair and lawful work environment for all employees.
The HR team plays a crucial role in staying up to date with changes in labor laws, interpreting their implications, and implementing necessary adjustments within the organization. They can provide guidance to management and employees, ensuring that all aspects of employment, such as wages, working hours, leave entitlements and workplace safety, are in accordance with legal requirements.
Managing a Remote Team Requires Some Adjustment
Supervisors and employees used to having an on-site team may need time to acclimate to a remote work environment. This is completely normal, so give your team the time they need to familiarize themselves with telework. And if you implement our suggested tips, you’ll see higher productivity levels and greater satisfaction among your team members.