To support their talent attraction and retention efforts, companies across the globe are increasingly introducing flexible working and remote work policies. Such policies can not only contribute to a company’s talent strategy, but they can also help reduce company costs and increase engagement and productivity levels.
However, transitioning from an in-office to a remote team can be challenging, both for organizations and employees alike. The way HR leaders and executives are involved in the transition can have a significant impact on the overall outcome of the transition towards remote-based work.
Start by reaching out to employees — Before a company begins its transition process, it’s important that HR leaders reach out to employees and ask what their needs and expectations are.
While there are many professionals that thrive working remotely, others may thrive more by simply having access to flexible schedules. Before making the official decision to transition a team or an office to remote work, it’s critical that employees are heard, otherwise the potential benefits of remote work will not be fruitful.
What kind of remote? — After speaking to employees and taking their needs and expectations into consideration, it’s time to clearly define what remote work will mean for your company.
There are varying degrees of remote work. Companies can offer partial remote work every week or month; they can encourage employees to work from home; they can sponsor access to co-working and meeting spaces; or they can support digital nomads.
Before any employee is given the green light to work remotely, it’s important that remote work is clearly defined, and more importantly, effectively communicated with all employees.
Have the right tools and resources in place — The HR department will need to work closely with the IT department to make sure that all employees working remotely have access to the right tools and resources to work effectively (anything from software management to communication and collaboration applications, to access to workspace, meeting space, and other business resources).
It’s imperative that there are clear policies and procedures on how each tool or resource will be used. For example, if the company in question is going 100% remote and it decides it will sponsor the occasional meeting room or co-working space for employees to meet with clients, then there needs to be a clear policy detailing for which occasions the company will pay for meeting space, what is the process to book the meeting space, what types of meeting spaces are acceptable, etc.
If the company will be using communication and collaboration platforms like Slack, Trello, or Asana, then each team member needs to fully understand how each platform will be used and why.
Security — Security is one of the most common challenges companies face when transitioning to a remote team. Employees will be working from different places and logging into different WiFi connections, some of which will not be safe. Companies need to have a clear security information policy in place and if necessary, they should also provide employees with access to VPNs; they should also encourage employees to create strong passwords and update them frequently.
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Productivity — HR departments and managers need to clearly determine how performance will be measured once employees are working remotely; employees need to be fully aware of how the process will change and how it will affect them. There are various strategies that can be implemented here: using time tracking applications, measuring productivity based entirely on results, measuring it based on what an employee turns in, etc.
Feedback — While remote work offers many benefits, it also has a few drawbacks; for example employees can feel isolated and disconnected from the team. It’s important that HR departments take the lead and schedule regular one-on-one meetings with each employee. These meetings should provide each employee with an opportunity to receive feedback as well as to raise any issues they might be struggling with.
Focus on company culture — Your company culture will be affected by the remote work transition, and it is up the HR departments to come up with strategies to maintain a positive company culture without constant in-person interactions. Some ways to maintain company culture while working remotely include hosting yearly meetups, sending out company swag every now and then, encouraging the use of video during meetings, and creating a communication channel where employees can share random or fun thoughts and ideas.
Create a new hiring procedure — Now that you have a remote team, you will need to update your hiring process and procedures. For example, you will likely have to start focusing more on a candidate’s communication skills and their self-discipline. HR leaders will also need to place increased importance on a candidate’s cultural fit with remote work, more even than their prior experience.
Making the transition to a remote team can be challenging, but to make the process easier and seamless for all stakeholders, it requires a company clearly lay out expectations for each employee.
It’s important to note that there will be an adjustment period while employees figure out how they work best in the new environment. Companies need to be open to different workplace settings in order to support individual work needs.
HR departments need to lead the transition efforts as they are the link between employees and the employer. When making this transition, employees need to be actively involved in the process and they need to be sure that they can reach out to their HR department to solve any questions or issues.