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March 22 2021 - The pandemic forced workplaces to go through one of the biggest changes of all time. Not only were companies grappling with the economic impacts of the pandemic, but they were also left to function smoothly in a structure where employees could no longer be working from the same space.
Moving with the times in 2020 for any organization meant creating a healthy and productive remote work environment. This also meant that all Human Resources departments had their work cut out for them. Every company was making "WFH" or work-from-home announcements and was challenged with providing the support employees needed to work remotely and maintain productivity. While some may have thought remote working was a passing trend, it is clear today that the need for physical distancing remains, and with that, WFH is here to stay. So, how can remote work become a sustainable and effective long-term possibility?
Assess the Feasibility of WFH
Though last year may have forced us into remote work culture, every company must consider its continuity this year. Before sketching out your long-term plan for a remote workforce, you might want to think about the following questions:
- Does your companyís field of work allow for long-term remote work?
- Can you take measures to make working remotely possible and comfortable?
- Will your companyís growth remain constant or benefit from remote work?
These questions will help you assess the feasibility of remote work for your company, giving you a better idea of what you need to prepare for as you shift solely towards remote working. Importantly, these questions are not simply for the strategy department to answer but necessitate a combined effort from different departments including Human Resources. It might sometimes appear that Human Resources is not needed in a companyís long-term planning. But HR has the vision to foresee what other departments cannot and should play a major role in strategic planning for establishing remote work environments.
Remote Talent Acquisition
An important consideration before hiring remote employees is to avoid layoffs where possible. As the pandemic rages on, now more than ever, you need to be cognizant of the assets you have, be kind to them, and treasure them. Ultimately, the cost of replacing an employee is usually more than upskilling a current employee.
Though you might consider all of this, employees quitting is a reality that is not going to change. And if one of your employees decides to leave, these times call for being fully prepared to hire remotely. Finding the right resource for a company is always a difficult task and with the candidates being available only on screen, it might become even more difficult.
In a situation where you canít meet the candidate, your only hope is a fool-proof remote hiring process. Here are some things to consider when hiring candidates remotely:
- Update your list of hiring questions and necessary qualifications. Work-life balance is a different story when youíre working from home, so frame your questions accordingly.
- Be careful before dismissing candidates for gap years. A lot of people were laid off in 2020, not for any fault of their own. Check, ask, and inquire honestly before taking a decision.
- Resumes are great indicators of professional experience but often reveal very little of the personality. Working from home makes it even more difficult for anyone to fit into a companyís culture. Have open conversations with potential hires to ensure they are the right fit for your company.
- Try to make your interviews as real as possible. Keeping the video on can give you access to the personís facial expressions and reactions giving you a better understanding of who they are as people.
- Finally, company culture marketing through the hiring process, as pointed out here, can help make it clear what your company culture is all about. In this way, incoming candidates know what to expect and can judge whether they would like it or not.
Hiring for remote roles can seem a turn away from the regular functioning of your organization, but itís crucial to keep an open mind. An added benefit is that remote hiring can increase the avenues from which you can hire. Expert roles can be filled better with the most appropriate candidates from a wider pool rather than settling for those who live in the same city.
Company Culture in Remote Environments
To maintain the smooth functioning of remote workplaces, your company culture cannot be the same as before. Youíll need to change your company culture to suit the remote work environment youíve created. This could mean anything from regularly checking up on your employees through video calls, to hosting company-sponsored online activities - think, wellness seminars, online yoga, and virtual drinks night. To ensure employees are comfortable with their work and engaged with their colleagues, consider investing in online team-building exercises.
Team leaders are integral to any cultural change and here as well, they must spearhead making online connections. Tips to effectively manage remote teams include:
- Establishing communication procedures: Establish guidelines for communication, including the frequency of check-ins, best times to get in touch (with both other colleagues and the team leader), and preferred modes of communication (email, WhatsApp, phone calls).
- Using the right tools: Today, there are a plethora of technological tools available to help you establish an optimum remote work environment. Choose the right tools for your team depending on the scope of your work. You may find that something as simple as Zoom or Microsoft Teams suffices, or perhaps you may need a more comprehensive online project management tool like Asana.
- Providing resources: Set your team up for success by providing them with the resources they need to effectively work remotely. Depending on what the budget allows for, these could include WiFi, laptops, or even subscriptions to online courses to further their career education. If you are lending equipment like laptops out to your employees, you might also want to consider investing in remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. Good RMM can help prevent system failure, and help IT teams service remote equipment from afar, ensuring that your team has the up-to-date resources it needs to perform effectively.
A remote workplace, like all other things, has both pros and cons. It is up to every organization to judge whether the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa. If you do, however, decide to continue working remotely, it makes sense to revamp several processes in the organization .
If done correctly, working remotely can even establish a better work-life balance for you and your employees. In turn, if your company manages to establish connections to digital platforms, you may even be left with employees who will stick around for much longer. As more and more companies embrace this new mode of working, the opportunities that arise from remote working are only set to increase in 2021.
Jori Hamilton is a freelance writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, recruitment, HR, and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.