In a world that is currently carrying an enormous weight of uncertainty, one workplace trend couldn’t be ever more present. Due to the response to COVID-19, a large majority of organisations have asked their employees to work remotely with 67% of companies offering some form of work-from-home options.
This abrupt change has had many HR professionals working frantically against the clock to introduce a whole heap of new policies and procedures. Coupled with the fact, many HR experts predicting that home working will become even more common in a post-coronavirus economy, it’s vital HR continues to evolve their remote working vision.
However, in times of crisis, rapidly changing circumstances and consistent day-to-day responsibilities, this level of preparation may not be attainable without the right guidance or support. So, if you’re trying to build and manage a remote workforce that thrives off productivity and engagement, we may just have the right advice for you.
What are the main challenges of managing your remote workforce?
Before we dive into the depths of what to do before hiring remote workers, it’s important to understand the factors that can make managing a remote workforce especially demanding. This is often down to high-performing employees experiencing declines in job performance and lack of engagement, as a result of limited interaction with their colleagues.
- Lack of face-to-face supervision
- Restricted access to the right information and support
- Social isolation
- Decrease in productivity and morale
- Distractions at home
- Lack of correct equipment
- Unsuitable working environment
While remote working can be filled with challenges that have not arisen in certain business environments, there are also quick and inexpensive solutions that HR can advise their managers to undertake as an action point to ease the transition.
- Structure daily/weekly check-ins
- Offer multiple communication methods, as opposed to email
- Set realistic and consistent goals
- Create company-wide online social events
- Be human – offer emotional support.
- Provide the right applications, software and equipment
- Create a list of local hotspots for a change of scenery
What to do before hiring remote workers
Building an attractive employer brand
Recruitment and marketing have always been two completely separate fields, but with increasingly competitive talent markets and companies continuing to embrace new technologies, you must find ways to differentiate yourself. In fact, this is why 86% of HR professionals agree that recruitment is becoming more like marketing.
Unlike previous decades, today’s candidates have access to a wide range of information regarding vacancies and hiring companies. This prompts the modern candidate to spend time researching to uncover which roles and companies are most appealing. In turn, this means businesses must develop a solid employer brand to attract the right talent.
With 94% of candidates likely to apply for a job if the company actively manages its employer brand, it’s about time your brand messaging allows candidates to see themselves working with their prospective teams. To do this, begin analysing your company culture, develop a content strategy to promote your employer brand, create an employee advocacy program, encourage employees to leverage social media and begin testing your new-found results.
Sourcing the right technology
For remote employees to prosper throughout this period, technology plays a massive part in ensuring communication and connectivity are coherent. After all, from a manager’s perspective, they will want to have the right technology in place to ensure their workforce can perform to their best ability while receiving the right support.
This is backed up by a McKinsey Global Institute study which highlighted that employee productivity could increase by 20 to 25% when they feel connected with the rest of the team. So, how about incorporating the below factors into the day-to-day life of your remote workforce?
- Flexible storage and access via cloud-based networks
- Audio and video conferencing for group meetings – Zoom or GoToMeeting
- Instant messaging platforms – WhatsApp or Slack
- Time tracking to support accountability
- Project management tools – Asana and Trello
- The right working equipment – laptop, phone and tablet
- LMS Online learning platform – LinkedIn Learning or Udemy
- Suitable contact information
Ensuring your remote workforce have the right technical support will not only increase the organisation’s bottom line, but show to each member that they are appreciated and valued. On the other hand, providing suitable tools to execute their role will allow employees to foster new connections and make sure they remain engaged.
Decide which roles can work from home
Since the start of the pandemic, many UK employees have been unable to work because of multiple restrictions imposed by COVID-19. However, during the middle of lockdown, in the month of April, nearly half (47%) of people in employment did at least some of their work from home.
While lockdown restrictions continue to lift and some form of normality returns, it begs the question: which of my new employees should continue to work from home? According to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) analysis of how adaptable jobs are to remote working, employees in higher-paying roles are more likely to be able to work from home.
Although this information doesn’t provide heaps of insight, a United States (US) survey of characteristics of different jobs found five factors that are associated with being less able to work from home (please note, this data was taken before the pandemic started).
- If the job has to be carried out in a specific location
- The amount of face-to-face interaction with others
- Does the employee have exposure to burns, infections and other hazards?
- Is it a must for the job to require physical activity?
- Does the employee have to use any tools, heavy machinery or protective equipment?
Despite being a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision, as shown, there are multiple factors which go into putting a remote working policy into place. Use the above points and ask yourself the following questions to ensure you’re creating a safe, clear and consistent experience for your workforce.
- Which roles will be eligible for remote work?
- Does the hierarchical structure limit remote working?
- Does your organisation have multiple offices? If so, will this only affect certain locations?
- How will you continue to maintain your organisation’s culture with new and current remote workers?
How to onboard remote workers
Without factoring in the pandemic, remote employees are becoming a major part of the workforce, especially with a new generation of millennials marching through the door. In fact, the number of people working remotely has increased by 159% since 2005.
As stated previously, HR experts expect remote working to become increasingly more common in a post-coronavirus economy, so it’s time companies start engaging employees at the earliest stage possible to show they’re invested in their success.
Be sure to follow this remote employee onboarding checklist to create a personalised experience that energies your culture and eases your new hire from day one:
- Equip new hires sufficient hardware – mouse, keyboard, laptop
- Provide a welcome package for your new hire(s)
- Assist employees to complete any HR paperwork
- Provide an overview of the company’s culture
- Ensure employees fully understand each communication tool used
- Allow managers to set goals and objectives upon their arrival
- Set up video meetings with their new team members.
- Arrange skill and IT-related training
- Schedule weekly or monthly calls to check in on their progress
- Arrange to meet in person (one safe to do so by government guidelines)
- Most importantly, ensure the onboarding experience is fun
Built within the cloud, Natural HR enables you to manage every aspect of the onboarding process to make it a smooth, personal and engaging experience. HR and managers are empowered to track all assets, assign company documents, set goals and targets, set training objectives, update progress reviews and engage new hires with every team member via the social stream.
How to manage and keep remote workers engaged
According to OWL Labs, remote workers have reported a better work-life balance (91%), stronger focus/productivity (79%), less stress (78%) and while these figures are all fantastic to see, let’s not forget about keeping our workforce engaged through these struggling times.
Arguably, one of the most crucial factors to keeping an engaged workforce is to recognise employees for going the extra mile. Employee recognition and rewards take on a vital sense of importance when your workers are geographically distant, since it shows their efforts are being accounted for.
According to a 2020 report by Achievers, the lack of recognition is the third biggest reason people say they are or would consider leaving their jobs and a startling 82% of employees wish they received more recognition for their work.
In providing recognition, you’re not only encouraging a culture of appreciation, but you’ll significantly increase the company’s bottom line. With Natural HR’s integrated social stream, employees can share, collaborate and celebrate each other’s success, helping to build strong relationships within physically distant teams.
Build an active employee community
A challenge which will affect any leader managing a remote team is addressing the sense of isolation an employee may feel compared to their counterparts in the office. Ensure your management efforts are directed towards bringing people together and nurturing the happiness of your workforce.
One of the most efficient ways to do this is to ensure each member of your team has an application or channel they can use to talk with colleagues whether through email, direct messaging, video conferencing, group meetings or a peer-to-peer recognition platform.
By creating an opportunity for employees to share their feedback or have a general discussion throughout any point of the day, you’ll find that employee motivation is increased while relationships will be built around trust and empowerment.
As we’ve seen already, constructing a company culture is key to developing an attractive employer brand, so it’s important not to tarnish the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build. While regular online company meetings have proven to increase employee retention and overall productivity, in this case, you’ll need to go the extra mile.
While many businesses are opting to work-from-home during the pandemic, ensure you continue using time which would have been occupied by travel to organise fun virtual hangouts, company Q&A sessions, team quizzes, new team member meet and greets and one-to-one informal chats.
Although employees may frequently be having group video calls with their own team members, during this time, it’s unlikely they’ll have any physical interaction with people in other departments. So, by setting up culture initiatives, you’ll be providing employees with the opportunity to strengthen relationships with employees across different sectors despite their current geographical location.