How HR can support remote working now and longer term

Coronavirus has got every business urgently assessing what it could do to help employees work from home if needed. In fact, even before the current crisis, many companies were realising that homeworking can be just as effective as office-based working for both the business and their employees. And HR leaders can do plenty to help facilitate a smooth transition now as well as providing support for home workers in the longer term.

Remote working and flexible working go hand in hand and have been steadily rising in popularity in recent years. This shift has been prompted by multiple factors such as the gig economy having an impact in some sectors, a rise in the use of freelancers, and demand from employees wanting more flexibility to work outside of the traditional workplace. And it’s not just a one-way street either: the company benefits from happier, healthier and more productive staff; and flexible / homeworking employees enjoy health and wellbeing benefits, feel trusted and empowered and appreciate a better work/life balance.

Clearly remote working where possible can make sense for all parties. Now, as global health concerns are impacting everyone’s usual work and personal routines, many companies are actively looking into supporting remote working and thinking about what resources they need to ensure business continues as usual, whether or not people are in the office.

HR has a key role to play in supporting the shift towards flexible and home working. It’s not only vital that staff have access to the technology and tools they need to perform their jobs – HR also need to look at ways to protect employee wellbeing and ensure individuals don’t feel isolated.

In light of the current clamour to get home workers set up, take a look at the key actions for HR leaders below. You can then also consider the longer-term activities required once the immediate needs of the business and the workforce are dealt with.

Create a priority list of people. Analyse the workforce data in your HR system to identify which individuals could quickly be converted to home-workers for a temporary period of weeks. You also need to take into account job functions so that the right cover is in place for all business areas and operations. The people you identify with the core skills needed can then be prioritised by IT support to ensure they have the tools and access they need to continue their jobs from home.

Keep morale up. Whilst businesses are quickly adapting and responding to the changing situation, HR still has to ensure engagement, maintain contact, and keep communication lines open. This is easiest if you can use your HR system to provide regular updates on the company approach and support available during the current uncertainty.

Set out (or update) the company commitment, vision, and practical policies for the ongoing support of homeworkers and flexible working. As well as obviously helping you to continue to trade and to communicate with your staff during a period of business disruption, it makes sense to embrace the other benefits flexible working brings. That includes being a powerful recruitment tool as it’s such an attractive benefit for new talent. It may also mean you see an overall uptick in productivity as your people find working from home means fewer distractions and less time wasted on commuting.

Utilise self-service and mobile tools for ease of interaction with off-site workers. This type of functionality is ideal for a host of HR-oriented activities including managing working hours, absence and holidays, training requests etc.

Think about the long-term and take time to consider your overall company capability to support more flexible working practices in the longer term. There’s a distinct possibility that once they’ve tried out remote working, many employees and businesses will find that it works particularly well and that they might want to continue doing so in the future.

Stuart Parry
HR Solutions Expert
The Access Group, UK