How HR Teams Can Adapt to Remote Work

There is one factor that separates good HR teams from great ones: the ability to adapt in the face of a crisis.

Ask yourself: How has your team adapted to the sudden shift to remote work? Are you performing at full capacity, or are there still hurdles to overcome?

If you want your team to flourish, you have to learn to work together not just in the office, but from afar. 

What’s the best way to do that? With these three steps:

  1. Identify Major Obstacles

Going from a face-to-face environment to a virtual one can be a tough transition for your employees. Certain tasks and lines of communication that were once simple in the office have now become complicated. 

That is why it is imperative to identify the major obstacles and pain points that your employees are facing in this transition. Ask them how they are doing: They most likely won’t open up about their stressors without a little prompting. 

What about work could be stressing them out? Uncertainty. Make sure they’re clear about who does what, how, and why while the team is remote. 

Think through these questions:

  • Who is the point of contact for any technical issues?
  • In what contexts should different lines of communication be used?
  • Where will documentation that everyone needs access to be stored?
  • How will I, as a manager, stay connected with my employees?

Don’t be surprised if workers raise additional questions. Keep a list of pain points related to working remotely so that you work on mitigating them. 

  1. Monitor Employee Morale

People are — and always will be — the most important asset to a business. That’s why, as an HR leader, your job is bringing out the best in them. 

If your HR team’s morale is low, they can’t possibly do their best work. The way to raise it is simple: listening.

On a remote team, making your HR team feel heard isn’t as simple as taking your headphones off. To check in on them, and to show that they should feel free to check in with you:

  • Hold regular one-on-one chats.

Block out 30 minutes per week for each employee. Ask how they’re doing not just at work, but on a personal level. A video call works best.

  • Make yourself approachable.

What’s the best way to reach you? When are you typically free to chat? Don’t make employees guess, because they’ll simply stay quiet instead. 

  • Talk as a team.

Hold either weekly or daily full-team meetings. These don’t need to take a long time, but they should give everyone a chance to talk through their wins and challenges. 

  • Make sure they have a solid space.

Your team needs to know you care about their working conditions. Nobody should be forced to sit in a closet for eight hours a day. Encourage everyone to set up a dedicated workstation in a quiet room to maintain a sense of work-life balance. 

  • Make it fun.

Perhaps on Friday afternoons, hold weekly virtual happy-hours. Play trivia games on video conferencing software. Host a bingo game with prizes like coffee delivery. 

  • Revisit your benefits.

Right now, a lot of people are worried about the future. There’s never been a better time to provide fully paid health insurance or beef up your retirement benefits. Do your best to provide a sense of security. 

  • Be transparent about the company’s performance.

Nothing is more stressful than being in the dark on the company’s performance. Remember, employees depend on it for their livelihood. Send regular updates to keep everyone in the loop, and encourage them to email or call you with questions. 

  • Establish new traditions.

Working from home may be a long-term arrangement. Create a shared spreadsheet where everyone can share activities and hobbies they have picked up during quarantine; suggestions for movies, podcasts, and books are also great to include. 

Together, these tactics remind your HR staff that you’re a team. They provide a feeling of closeness, encourage collaboration, and remind everyone what they enjoy about their work. 

  1. Streamline Communication 

Communication is critical. But without a clear communication strategy, things tend to get confusing quickly. 

Emails, phone calls, and Slack messages flying every which way make it tough for people to do their jobs. And when too many of these are directed at any one person, the result is communication overload. No one person can possibly answer every question themselves, whatever their title or typing speed might be. 

That’s why it is important to designate which forms of communication are to be used in which contexts, otherwise known as your “rules of engagement.” For example:

  • Short, urgent messages can be sent as instant messages. 
  • Whole-team announcements can be sent out via email. 
  • Task-specific comments should be made in project management software.
  • Phone calls and texts can be used for after-hours needs.
  • Video calls work well for one-on-one chats with company leaders.

Think through these rules together. Ask everyone to sign off on them, or to bring up concerns until they’re satisfied. Communication is one of those things the whole team must agree on. 
Working together remotely is a lot tougher than it sounds, even for human resource specialists. Miscommunications happen. Deadlines get missed.

Be empathetic and forgiving. There’s no other way to work together, remotely or otherwise.