The rapid shift to remote work over the past few years has presented both opportunities and challenges for companies and employees alike. While remote work offers benefits like flexibility and work-life balance, it also comes with potential pitfalls like decreased collaboration, engagement, and oversight. As more companies embrace partial or fully remote models, HR plays a crucial role in nurturing success by supporting productivity and connectivity.
Set Clear Expectations
With employees working from disparate locations, consistent communication about goals, timelines, and availability is essential. HR should partner with management to outline clear objectives, workflows, schedules, and communication norms. This clarity of expectations alleviates ambiguity about responsibilities and allows workers to stay focused. Regular check-ins also help spot roadblocks early.
Promote Time Management
Working from home presents distractions and makes time management difficult. HR can provide resources, training, and tools to help employees hone productivity. It includes coaching on techniques like time blocking, which chunks time for focused work. Time-tracking software is another option to provide visibility into how time is spent. Establishing core hours for availability helps keep collaboration on track across distributed teams.
Enable the Right Technology
Functioning technology enables productivity, while tech problems derail it. HR should ensure access to reliable equipment, software, video conferencing, virtual whiteboards, cloud collaboration platforms, and other tools needed to work efficiently. Proper cybersecurity measures should also be in place. For a smooth onboarding, new hires need the necessary hardware and software right away.
Foster Connections and Community
Loneliness is a common challenge with remote work. Along with managers, HR can nurture engagement and relationships through team-building activities, social channels, meetups, and more. Virtual coffee breaks, trivia, meditation sessions, or volunteering can all connect remote workers. Recognition programs also boost morale and job satisfaction. Surveys provide insight into sentiments and areas needing improvement.
Offer Remote Training and Growth
Out of sight shouldn't mean out of mind for career development. Training, mentoring, and upskilling opportunities should still be available remotely. It shows employees they are still valued and can grow within the company. HR can arrange online courses, workshops, e-learning modules, virtual instructor-led training, and more. Coaching via video chat also provides support.
Promote Work-Life Balance
Flexible scheduling is a perk of remote work but can lead to burnout without boundaries. HR should encourage practices like taking breaks, shutting off after hours, taking time off, and separating workspaces from living spaces. Policies around flexible hours, vacation, and sick time should account for the remote environment. Company culture should promote balance, not constant connectivity.
Keeping a pulse on remote employees' sentiments is key. An annual survey for employee engagement provides feedback on what's working and what's not. Participation should be encouraged but anonymous. HR can also check in one-on-one with employees to address any issues early on. For managers, HR may provide training on keeping remote teams engaged.
Recognize and Reward Contributions
With no office “face time,” remote employees’ efforts often go unnoticed. HR needs to develop programs for recognizing and rewarding high performers through initiatives like employee of the month awards, shout-outs at company meetings, gift cards, and performance bonuses. Praise should be given frequently, publicly, and tied to specific outcomes. Recognition boosts morale and motivates productivity.
Train Managers to Lead Remote Teams
Managing remote employees requires a different skill set than leading in-person teams. HR should implement manager training programs focused on developing core competencies for guiding dispersed teams. Key areas to cover include communication approaches for remote work, tools for monitoring productivity, conflict resolution across distances, and techniques for building trust and camaraderie virtually.
Training should also teach managers how to provide ongoing coaching and feedback, clearly delegate tasks, foster collaboration, and proactively identify problems before they escalate. Equipping managers with strategies for maintaining visibility and connecting one-on-one with remote staff is crucial. They need to learn to lead with empathy and sensitivity to the unique challenges faced by remote workers. With the proper training, managers can be enabled to keep their teams engaged, aligned, and performing at the highest levels—regardless of physical location.
Develop Remote Onboarding Programs
Onboarding new hires is difficult without the benefit of in-person interactions and support. HR needs to create tailored onboarding programs to help new remote employees feel connected, oriented, and productive in their roles. It involves setting up one-on-one video conferences with the hiring manager and team members right from day one. Virtual introductions establish important relationships and allow the sharing of institutional knowledge.
Provide new hires with a comprehensive online orientation guide covering company policies, resources, and where to go for help. Appoint designated onboarding buddies they can turn to for guidance. Schedule online social events for meeting coworkers. Share tips for effectively managing a remote workday. Strong remote onboarding sets employees up for long-term success.
Send Care Packages to Connect with Remote Staff
Feeling valued and appreciated is key to engagement among remote workers who do not experience the social connections of an office. HR can help foster community and morale from afar by sending periodic care packages to employees’ homes. Packages can include company swag, gift cards, snacks, handwritten notes of gratitude, or other creative gifts. Remote workers will feel remembered, motivated, and more connected to the organization.
Care packages tangibly boost morale, providing a sense of appreciation and inclusion. They show that time was taken to acknowledge someone’s efforts. Opening a surprise package delivered to their door can brighten an employee’s day and remind them that their contributions are valued.
The remote environment is here to stay but comes with unique challenges. By providing training, technology, feedback channels, and ongoing support, HR enables organizations to thrive with distributed teams. The payoff is more productive, connected, and satisfied employees.