How Can HR Help To Overcome The Setbacks Of Remote Work

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How Can HR Help To Overcome The Setbacks Of Remote Work

According to ONS, 44% of UK workers currently work in some form of remote capacity, with 16% of workers operating remotely full-time. There are also approximately 18000 searches for remote jobs each month on Google, meaning that there’s a definite appetite for remote opportunities of all kinds right now.

But this way of working is still relatively new. In fact, before the pandemic, remote work simply wasn’t something that the majority of employees even considered an option. Now, they’re having to adjust with this working norm in mind. And, they aren’t always getting it right.

For HR teams, in particular, certain challenges of remote working have proven difficult to overcome, resulting in everything from unhappy teams to unproductive processes. Despite this, 57% of British workers still want the option to work from home. And, it’s down to HR teams to adjust accordingly.

The question is, how exactly can HR help to overcome the setbacks of remote work?

Remote Work: The Risks

Before we can understand HR’s role in remote working setups, we need to understand the most notable remote risks observed over the last four years. The best example of this is a survey conducted back in 2021, which still holds a great deal of relevance to modern remote workers. In this survey, findings that are particularly concerning from a HR perspective included –

  • Excessive work hours and an inability to unplug amongst more than one in four employees
  • Collaboration and communication difficulties
  • Loneliness
  • Problems with time zone differences
  • And more

Further studies have also revealed worrying statistics about the physical and psychological health impacts of remote work. In particular, 46% of remote workers have reported musculoskeletal health issues due to longer periods at their desks, and lower-quality office furniture. Equally, 67% of people felt isolated from their colleagues, leaving them at a far higher risk of mental health setbacks.

How can HR Help to Overcome Remote Setbacks?

Looking at these problems, it’s plain to see that remote work is an HR focus. But, with teams quite literally out of sight, it’s never been more difficult for HR to ensure employee happiness.

Luckily, as we all adjust to remote work as standard, HR teams are starting to identify the right steps to take to offer the support, and the conditions necessary for positive remote setups.

These include –

# 1 – Simplifying Remote Recruitment

Remote recruitment processes pose a variety of issues, including tech problems and limited engagement. Even obvious benefits of remote recruitment, such as access to broader talent pools, pose issues in terms of things like time zone differences and the practicality of handling increased applications.

To get remote recruitment right, HR teams need to simplify their processes. The right recruitment software is the best way to do that. As well as screening through applicants based on things like job experience, key skills, and more, high-quality remote recruiting software can help with everything from multilingual communications to video interview scheduling.

Done right, this can make distanced recruiting feel as straightforward, and person-centric, as any in-office drive would. This can also help to accommodate even long-distance talent acquisitions, as well as remote drives that make distanced employees feel like part of the team straight away.

# 2 – Creating Clear Guidelines

Remote workers are just as deserving of clear working guidelines as any other member of a team. In fact, with so many remote workers facing burnout due to overwork and stress, it’s especially important to outline things like expected working hours, check-in requirements, and performance benchmarks upfront.

In particular, HR teams need to realise that it’s not enough to simply repurpose in-office guidelines for remote teams. Instead, this newer way of working requires communicated and upheld guidelines. Sharing these with late-stage recruitment candidates is key to ensuring remote workers understand their commitments and are willing to adhere to things like set working hours. All of which will prevent risks like working too late into the night. Communication guidelines are also key, as they ensure that remote teams continue to check in regularly and that they feel far less alone throughout each working day.

# 3 – Getting to Grips With Remote Payrolls

You might assume that payroll will stay the same even with remote workers, but you’d be wrong. In reality, HR teams face slightly blurred payroll rules when remote colleagues work from different countries.

To overcome this issue, HR teams need to familiarise themselves with specific payroll rules for each applicable location, such as –

  • Minimum wage requirements
  • Tax regulations
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Etc.

Luckily, payroll rules in the UK are applicable countrywide, meaning that keeping remote recruitment onshore can help to negate many of these concerns. In cases of overseas remote recruitment, however, it’s worth either outsourcing payroll with an informed accountant in that location or seeking software that can effectively manage remote payrolls for you.

# 4 – Ensuring Rapid Responses

The role of HR gets undeniably harder when employees can’t walk straight into the office when they encounter a problem. Still, the happiness of remote workers is dependent on the immediate accessibility of HR teams.

Communication tools are a key way to achieve this, as they provide the opportunity to ensure live messaging that helps to support remote teams.  As well as hopping on live chat rapidly where required, HR teams should use communication tools to provide a wide range of remote communications, including phone calls and video calls on request. Within remote guidelines, it may also be worth stipulating expected response times in each instance (which should be no longer than an hour), so that remote team members aren’t waiting around.

Of course, even these basics become a lot harder to manage where overseas remote recruitment is concerned. In this instance, issues such as language barriers and time zone differences can make always-on communications almost impossible. But HR teams still need to provide them. The best way to do this is to outsource at least out-of-hours HR teams with multilingual and 24-hour capabilities. Equally, recruiting multilingual HR professionals can ensure that even diverse members of your team feel supported.

# 5 – Incorporating Self-Service HR

Sometimes, remote workers won’t require a full-blown conversation to overcome whatever they’re dealing with. Like popping into the office to drop off a form, they may just want a quick, easy contact with your team.

Self-service HR software provides precisely that and can be of as much use to in-office workers as it is to your remote teams. Self-service offerings are especially useful for handling minor issues despite time-zone differences or out-of-hours and should include –

  • Expense forms
  • Self-approval holiday booking
  • Common FAQs and HR chatbots
  • Payroll information
  • Etc.

Admittedly, it’s vital not to use self-service tools like these as a replacement for all-important in-person HR. Still, if you continue to make your team available regardless, this can be a fantastic way to provide even easier remote HR, with the benefit of freeing your team to respond to in-person queries more quickly.

# 6 – Continuing to Prioritise Worker Health and Safety

The role of HR in workplace safety is crucial and never is that more the case than with remote workers. It’s all too easy for out-of-sight remote colleagues to suffer with mental health issues in silence. The use of improper equipment and lacking exercise have also led to the development of musculoskeletal problems in as many as 46% of remote workers.

From a mental health perspective, things like regular check-ins and even remote counselling can all play their part. Equally, while it’s not practical for HR teams to redesign every remote home office, they do still have a responsibility to provide the equipment needed for safe working conditions. This could include providing ergonomic office furniture such as Humanscale chairs with headrests and even standing desks to encourage movement. Equally, ergonomic keyboards can prove invaluable from a health standpoint.

On an even more basic level, HR teams can also implement simple remote schemes, such as a once-hourly five-minute group video workout. As well as being a great way to bring isolated remote teams together for mental health, this can ensure everyone’s moving regularly and is thus less at risk of escalating health issues.

# 7 – Soliciting Feedback

Any HR team that’s new to remote arrangements will face certain setbacks along the way. Worse, from the office, it’s all too easy to miss these problems until remote team members start leaving. Get ahead before that happens by simply soliciting feedback.

It may be, for example, that daily check-ins just don’t work with your team, or that you’ve tried implementing group exercise but it’s proving too disruptive to workflows. A quarterly feedback form can help you to identify these niggles, and to work more closely with remote teams to overcome them. This collaborative effort could, in turn, be the solution to better remote working arrangements at last.

Remote work isn’t going anywhere, and HR teams need to find ways to adjust quickly. Is your team up for the task?

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