Just as even the most beautiful plant will wither without proper care and watering, your company's remote employees can't flourish without special HR considerations.
Before discussing the specific ways HR can support remote workers, it's important to understand terms that surround the idea of working away from the office. Telecommuting and remote work are two terms that are used nearly synonymously, but there is a subtle difference. Both telecommuters and remote workers work from home. However, the term remote work implies geographical distance. Telecommuting generally means working from home but within range of the workplace.
"Fifty percent of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 40% of the workforce works remotely at some frequency," according to a "Telecommuting Trend Data" report updated in August 2019.
A distributed workforce includes both gig workers and full-time employees working either internationally or domestically.
Potential benefits of remote work include flexible work-life balance and an easy commute. However, employees who work remotely on a full-time basis can experience loneliness and social isolation, which can lead to decreased productivity and high turnover.
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Here are four ways HR's support for remote employees can increase productivity.
1. Implement real-time communication tools
Communication tools can help remote workers stay updated on what's happening in the office and help them connect with their respective teams. Companies can purchase tools, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, to encourage conversations in real time. Video conference tools, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts, virtually bring remote employees into the conference rooms so they can participate in trainings and company updates.
Project management tools, such as Workfront and Clarizen, can help managers keep track of projects and enable them to follow their remote workers' goals without constant check-ins.
2. Create an inclusive culture
Working remotely can lead to feeling isolated from colleagues and the company culture and building in budget for in-person connections can help combat that.
Some companies allocate budgets so remote employees can visit the main office periodically, especially for important meetings. When travel is not possible, video conferencing tools and other collaboration tools can help remote employees feel included. Business leaders and managers can use both types of tools for large meetings and for more informal gatherings on an ongoing basis.
3. Offer self-service HR
When employees work away from the office, they typically may not have as much access to HR, including casual ways of reaching out such as walking to the HR department and asking a quick question. To rectify this, HR can offer self-service portals so employees can do more on their own, such as find answers to frequently asked questions.
Self-service HR tools can also cut down the time it takes for an employee to access their payroll and benefit information. There are also systems that offer easy ways to request time off and submit expenses.
4. Follow payroll regulations
Payroll regulations are potentially different for remote employees, depending on where they live. Following payroll regulations is critical to avoiding penalties and fines. Regulations can include watching differences in minimum wage, tax withholding and workers' comp.