Managing Remote EmployeesBefore the pandemic, less than 4% of US workers worked remotely most of the time. In March 2020, the country (and the world!)  embarked on a vast experiment that most didn’t think would be possible. The threat of the pandemic sent most non-essential workers home and forced us to adapt to working from home (WFH) without much thought or structure in place. So now is a good time to talk about managing remote employees.

It turned out that WFH didn’t create the disaster many predicted would happen when employees do not work under the direct gaze of their boss.  In fact, many reported being more productive working from home than working in the physical office. No commute time, less water cooler conversations, more focus on tasks contributed to the productivity gains. 

However, there is no denying that many workers have struggled to balance their personal life and their work responsibilities. Those with family responsibilities, mostly women caring for school-age children or aging relatives, have struggled the most. 

Although the COVID 19 isn’t behind us yet, many managers and HR professionals envision that WFH is here to stay for the long term. What best HR practices are emerging 10 months into the WFH experiment?


Managing Remote Employees: Best Practice For Performance Management

Before any discipline issue arises, having thoughtful and regular check-ins with remote employees is important. Supervisors should assess whether employees are working sufficiently, just right, or are overwhelmed. Many remote employees are working longer hours now than when they were in the office. Burn-out is a real threat because the line between work time and home time has been blurred.

Beware of possible favoritism especially with a hybrid workforce. It might be tempting to provide challenging assignments to employees who work in the office while those choosing to work remotely end up with more mundane tasks. In the long run, this will have an impact on remote employee’s promotion.


Best Practice For Wage and Hour

This is basic but super important. If you haven’t yet, review and clarify your timekeeping practices for non-exempt employees. Communicate with employees and supervisors your time and hour policies and practices regularly. Work time includes all hours engaged in work-related activities including checking emails after hours or “talking” via text messages. Employees This time must be paid for that time.

If workers work overtime without proper approval when it is required, the work time must be paid and the worker can be disciplined for breaking an important work rule.


Best Practice For Managing Disciplinary issues of Remote Employees 

Speaking of discipline, managers need to continue coaching and having performance conversations with their remote workers just like they did when we were in the office together. The key difference is how those conversations are conducted. Conversations are now held via video conferencing. Ten months into the pandemic most employees consider video calls as equivalent to in-person meetings. In some cases, not having the immediacy of the in-person contact can make the conversations a little easier.


Recruitment Is Evolving for Remote Employees

It’s no longer unusual to have new associates join an organization without ever interacting in person with HR, the managers or co-workers. So employers are reconsidering the qualifications required to be a successful remote worker. Having experience working remotely is no longer just a curiosity, but a definite plus when hiring. 


Best Practice For On-Boarding New Remote Employees

Working fully remotely brings on unique on-boarding considerations. Integration into a new organization requires a thoughtful approach. It doesn’t happen organically. To be successful, focus on explaining the culture, how colleagues interact, and setting work expectations. Work closely with your HR team to create a deliberate on-boarding for the first week to the first 3 months, depending on the nature of the work.

Having a mentor or a co-worker designated as the integration guide is really important. Provide them with checklists and standard timelines to guide their work with new hires. 

Consider starting happy hours and virtual social events in small groups so they can network with their new colleagues and get a feel for the culture of the organization.


Don’t Overlook Training

Mandatory training such as sexual harassment prevention (check your state training obligations) cannot be by-passed because workers are WFH. Same approach with technical training. When training is done through a self-paced platform, make sure a Q&A session is integrated so the new hire has a chance to ask questions, get specific answers and feedback on their mastery of the topic.

Just like so many aspects of our lives in 2020, the pandemic has required that we evolve how we hire, manage, and train our workers. Many agree that remote work is here to stay. Developing those best HR practices for managing remote employees is critical to the success of your organization in 2021 and beyond.