Remote Workforce Best Practices
There has been a lot of debate in the last few years around the remote workforce issue. Organizations have remained divided over whether it is a good idea to continue implementing remote employees as part of their structure.
Employees are also divided about the issue of remote work. Many employees want the option to continue working from home, while others are only too ready to return to the office.
How you handle this issue within your own organization depends on many factors. To determine the best option for your team, it is important to understand what is involved in remote workforce management.
Changing Work Environments
When it comes to your workforce, there are really three choices. You can have employees in-office, working remotely, or a hybrid solution that allows for both options depending on the employee’s needs.
Remote work was not popular until the national health emergency forced many organizations to adopt this method to maintain business functions. As companies attempted to bring employees back into the office, it became clear a majority wanted to remain at home, leading to many debates and concerns.
According to a recent survey, two-thirds of employees claim they would quit if required to return full-time to the office, and 40% would consider quitting if they are required to return at all.
Many employers on the other hand are concerned that remote teams are less productive than in-office teams. This concern continues despite multiple studies showing increased productivity with remote workforces.
So, how do you reconcile the wants and needs of employers and employees?
Pros and Cons of the Remote Work Environment
Determining which work environment will work best for your organization requires understanding your employees’ needs and reviewing the pros and cons involved with each option. There is plenty of research to show how remote offices affect productivity and interaction for a remote workforce.
Pros of Remote Employees
One of the biggest pros of remote employees is the reduced cost associated with managing remote teams. Studies show remote workplaces can save employers around $10,000 per employee. Even if you opt for a hybrid environment, you can see savings in overhead costs.
Another benefit seen by remote employees is increased psychological safety, including reduced stress and anxiety. Employees report reduced feelings of rejection, bullying, and discrimination in a remote environment. This is most true for neurodivergent employees, who feel more included in remote work environments.
Employees are also better able to juggle work and home needs with remote and hybrid options, leading to better work-life harmony. This is most important to employees who act as caregivers in their homes.
In fact, remote and hybrid options have led to more women entering and returning to work. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77.5% of women aged 25-54 are entering the workforce. This is the largest number of women to date.
A remote workforce also provides opportunities to increase recruitment options across state lines. This increases the pool of possible candidates and the possibility of finding the skills desired to meet your organization’s needs.
Cons of Remote Employees
As mentioned, one of the biggest concerns for employers is productivity among remote employees. While research shows a better picture, this fear continues. This means employers must find ways to monitor productivity without falling into the “productivity paranoia” trap that can lead to monitoring overkill.
Employers managing remote teams should keep in mind that some positions are easier to monitor than others. This means instituting broad monitoring systems can lead to miscommunication and a skewed understanding of actual productivity levels.
Communication is another concern with a remote workforce. Collaboration requires putting the right tools in place to meet the needs of teams. It’s also necessary to make sure managers are communicating regularly with their remote teams.
Poor leadership communication in a remote workforce environment can increase feelings of isolation. This in turn can lead to increased turnover.
Social interactions are also reduced with remote employees. This can lead to disconnect among teams if not addressed. In office situations, there are more opportunities for “water cooler” conversations. It’s important to make sure similar opportunities are available for remote employees.
Another issue is the idea that in-office employees are recognized more than remote employees. Managers need to make sure remote teams are recognized as much as in-office teams to reduce proximity bias.
Onboarding and HR compliance can also cause issues when managing remote employees. It’s important to have good processes in place to make sure remote teams get the same training and inclusion as in-office teams. You also need to make sure you understand how to adapt new hire paperwork to meet compliance needs.
Creating a Successful Remote Work Culture
To meet the needs of employees, it’s important to provide options allowing them to pick what will work best for them and your organization. Whether you want to transition to a fully remote workforce, or you want to adopt a hybrid environment, it’s important to put the right systems and tools in place.
This starts with employment law compliance and onboarding. Employment law can change from state to state, so make sure you understand the requirements of each state of your employees. Also, make sure employees understand how these state laws affect them.
During the onboarding process, make sure remote employees have everything they need to be successful with your organization. Explain all tools available and all systems you have in place.
Make sure you are clear about the monitoring systems you have in place. While monitoring work is helpful, too much can lead to resentment and less job satisfaction. This can lead to reduced trust in leadership, lower engagement, higher turnover, and in the end, reduced productivity.
Another thing to keep in mind is the increased use of AI and other technologies as remote work becomes more popular. This has caused a shift in the skills needed to maintain success in different positions. Hiring based on these changed needs will help both you and your employees see more success.
It is important to make sure managers have a good grasp and willingness to adopt new technologies and leadership practices to help increase listening and collaboration among remote teams. Managers should implement the appropriate technology to facilitate communication and collaboration.
Managers may also need to challenge pre-existing leadership beliefs to engage remote employees. This includes finding ways to show recognition to these remote teams.
Successful remote work culture also requires strong processes and systems to maintain success. Make sure all processes are laid out and transparent. Providing an easy way to give access to handbooks and other processing documentation will ensure employees have all the information they need.
Transparency around hiring is also essential. Clearly outline expectations of the role in the job posting. Remote work scams are abundant on commonly used job boards, so make sure you provide as much information as possible about your organization when posting job openings to reduce the likelihood of it being mistaken for one of these scams.
Managing a Remote Workforce
When managing remote employees, a strong HR management system is necessary for success. You need processes in place that allow remote teams to easily access necessary training and documentation.
You also need to understand employment laws and HR best practices that affect your organization.
HR Service, Inc. provides an all-in-one HR management resource that gives you access to the tools you need for success whether managing in-office, remote, or hybrid teams.
Written by: Penny Clark, Content Specialist