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HR: Will remote working become the norm?


Over the last few weeks HR and Management teams across the country have been operating in Crisis Management mode. Employers and HR have prioritised actions into four main categories:

  • physical health and wellbeing, ensuring a safe working environment
  • assessing and implementing remote working capabilities
  • issues related to jobs and business continuity
  • dealing with uncertainty within the workforce

Some of the adjustments organisations are making as a direct result of Covid-19, have the potential to impact how we work in the future. It is expected that post Covid–19 remote work and more flexible ways of working will become the norm.

Implementing flexible and remote working policies and procedures can also benefit the employer if they are used correctly. Having remote working in place can ensure that the business is more resilient to future shocks, and can be used to motivate employees and encourage higher productivity levels.

According to Forbes latest study, flexible working arrangements have been shown to improve productivity, performance, engagement, retention and profitability across the board. Remote workers are an average of 35-40% more productive. With stronger autonomy, remote workers produce results with 40% fewer quality defects. Higher productivity and performance combine to create stronger engagement and lower absenteeism. Remote working also allows organisations to widen their talent pools, allowing recruitment of candidates who may not be in a position to travel to an office location.

Organisations in a position to do so, can capitalise on the current forced remote working situation, by taking the opportunity to review or develop robust and workable remote and flexible working procedures. They should ensure they have a strong data protection policy that covers remote work.

Communication policies should be reviewed and tailored with a view to remote work. For those working offsite, opportunities to pick up information in passing are limited.  Employees should be informed as to the procedure for sharing appropriate updates or learnings from other meetings and projects. Communicate regularly, not just when things go wrong, whether it is information, praise or criticism. Communicate clearly, and ensure that expectations are clearly laid out and understood.

Meeting schedules should be adjusted to ensure remote workers are kept in the loop. Have a daily virtual check in. This is essential for keeping connected as a team. It needn’t be long, but regularity is key. Implement regular one-to-ones and team meetings. This maintains a sense of structure and continuity for all, and allows managers to keep their finger on the pulse of the team without seeing them in the office on a daily basis. IT systems and virtual meeting tools should be reviewed and usage policies for these should be introduced.

Performance management and appraisal procedures should be adapted for remote work. Make sure every team member is clear about how they are expected to work and communicate. Ensure each team member is aware of what outputs they are expected to produce.  Also confirm that they are aware of long-term strategy, and how their work fits into this. If a team member is struggling with achieving goals, be prepared to reassess what is achievable.

Recruitment procedures should be reviewed with a view to remote recruitment.

Training and development policies and procedures should be amended to include remote training and development programmes. Ensure employees are trained on remote working tools and systems.

If an organisation takes this opportunity to review and improve their remote and flexible working options, they may find themselves in a position to bounce back from Covid-19 with a more engaged workforce, as well as improved productivity, performance, recruitment, retention and profitability.

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