In 2020 we saw the face of the working world undergo more than a few changes, and perhaps the most notable was the sharp uptake of working from home and remote teams.
Even now, with 2020 fast becoming a speck in the rear-view mirror, the impact it made on our world persists. Many Australian workers haven’t returned to their offices. Instead, more Australians than ever before are working from home, and in the coming years about 50% of us will continue to do so on a regular basis.
Not only do workers consider flexible and remote work to be a top perk, it’s a system businesses can take advantage of too. Improved employee performance, access to a larger pool of talent and reduced overheads are all key to the popularity of remote working arrangements, and many businesses are supporting the shift.
Despite the benefits, working from home presents a few unique challenges, so we have come up with some tips to help HR teams get the most from their WFH employees.
What can HR do to keep employees engaged?
Around the office, engaged workers are happier and more productive, and the same goes for working remotely. While most of that engagement will need to come from the employee, their team and their manager, there are a few things HR can do to keep the ball rolling:
- Give employees the tools to succeed. It falls to HR to make sure employees have the tools they need. Don’t just assume they have the computers or other equipment on hand. Check on how they’re doing and ask whether the company needs to provide anything to make their job easier.
- Encourage socialisation and communication. Provide chat and video calling platforms, and then make sure teams know they can use them at their leisure throughout the day. Placing strict limits on how much time teams can spend communicating or monitoring their chats to see whether they are being productive is likely to isolate them and damage morale.
- Support new hires closely. It can be daunting to start any new job, let alone one that’s being done remotely. A lack of direction not only hurts productivity for new employees, it can leave them feeling isolated and unsure of how well they’re doing. Check in frequently and make sure they understand what they need to be doing next.
- Encourage feedback. Speak to teams and their managers and encourage them to offer feedback on how their remote arrangements are being handled. They will have the best idea of what is and isn’t working and you can take their suggestions back to management for implementation.
How can HR assist managers to maintain their teams?
Creating an environment that helps remote employees work together is only one piece of the puzzle. HR also needs to dedicate time to helping managers run their teams:
- Share the burden of communication. In the office it’s easy for a manager to spend a few minutes chatting to their team and checking in on everyone. That’s much harder online, and they may need help keeping up. Provide as much support as you can, like communicating productivity goals and company or team expectations, and share the burden of performing those small tasks.
- Look after employee mental health. Managers oversee team performance, but HR is still in the best position to assist employees with their mental health. Remote work poses its own mental health challenges, so make sure workers are handling the situation and provide platforms for seeking help should they need it.
- Give managers a support platform of their own. Managing remote or hybrid teams is tough, so don’t forget to check in with managers to see how they’re handling the challenge. Find out whether there is anything your managers need from the business to function better and take those suggestions back to organisational leaders for implementation.
Update hiring to reflect remote work
For organisations expecting to continue offering work from home or other remote arrangements, HR teams need to begin adapting their recruitment processes to accommodate the change.
Search for motivated people who are good at directing their own time and work. People who understand how to measure and deliver results are going to be the strongest additions to remote teams. Of course, hiring based on experience is still the best bet, and anyone with prior experience working from home will have an easier time adapting to the situation.
Lastly, don’t forget to broaden your horizons. Remote work opens a world of possibilities when it comes to hiring, and you don’t need to limit yourself to talent in the immediate area. Inviting applications from further afield means you have access to more high-quality professionals than ever before, and it’s something HR should take advantage of.