10 Challenges Faced by HR as a Result of Increasingly Remote Work Cultures
Nearly 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023, according to recent research from Ladders, a career site for jobs that pay $100,000 or more.
Though remote and hybrid work has presented both undeniable benefits and unique challenges for workers across many industries, the shift can be especially difficult for HR management to navigate.
To better prepare for the continued increase in remote work and managing remote employees, HR management professionals can implement several strategies, from encouraging employee socialization and communication to investing in their own education to improve upon management skills.
An MBA in Human Resources Management from the Feliciano School of Business at Montclair State University can be a powerful tool for HR leaders seeking the most effective ways to motivate and train remote and hybrid workforces and to hire, retain and promote the best employees.
Below are ways HR leaders can assess and tackle some of the most common challenges they face as a result of increasingly remote work cultures.
1. Supporting Equity
Remote work can present a variety of challenges that vary from employee to employee. For example, some workers need to oversee their children during working hours, and many companies have been flexible and accommodating to their needs. However, this has caused tension with employees who feel they receive less flexibility for not having children. Another challenge that some employees face is having to work in home environments that are not conducive to productivity, from lagging internet connection to environmental distractions.
It’s important for HR management to be thoughtful and consider how remote work can worsen these existing challenges around workplace equity. For example, they can remind everyone in the remote workforce about flexible schedules and provide the tools and resources needed for all employees to be successful in their own remote working situations. HR must also adhere to legal and ethical obligations to ensure that remote workers have equitable assets and opportunities in a work environment, such as ensuring that hourly employees are compensated properly for working overtime and implementing remote work policies that discuss remote workers’ right to training, promotions and visibility.
It’s also vital that companies continue to improve upon diversity and inclusion efforts in remote work models. Working from home creates opportunities to hire and work with a more diverse and talented group of people from any part of the world who might not have been located approximately to a company’s office headquarters. Ethnically diverse companies are likely to perform 35% better than their counterparts and gender-diverse companies are likely to perform 15% better, according to research from McKinsey.
2. Encouraging Socialization
Remote work models can cause obstacles in terms of socializing and feeling connected compared to in-house employees. In fact, one in three remote employees have reported feeling disconnected from their leadership teams since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the 2022 Global Culture Report from O.C. Tanner. What’s more, 45% of workers said the number of people they interact with at work plunged over the past year, while 57% reported engaging in fewer activities. Not only is socialization critical in helping workers feel connected, satisfied and valued, it is essential in fostering employee engagement that can add significant value to businesses. According to Gallup’s 10th employee engagement meta-analysis, companies with engaged employees are 20% more productive, 21% more profitable and have 10% higher customer loyalty than companies with low engagement.
Some ways that HR management can promote socialization in a work-from-home environment include:
- Holding video meetings that include more casual conversation instead of strictly business talk
- Virtual trivia happy hours
- Virtual concerts that showcase the talents of musically-gifted employees or local musicians
- Virtual exercise, cooking or crafting classes
- Creating a “virtual water cooler” for causal conversation in office IM chat channels where coworkers can share personal news, discuss hobbies and vent as needed
3. Maintaining Effective Communication
Though they’ve become an integral part of remote workers’ lives, video calls and office IM chat channels are not always an ideal replacement for in-person, face-to-face interactions. Though the technology is now essential in staying in contact while working remotely, it is often leading to feelings of burnout. In fact, nearly half of professionals working remotely reported a high degree of exhaustion as a direct result of numerous daily video calls, according to a study from Virtira Consulting. This exhaustion stems from a combination of increased meetings and the pressure to have webcams on for all of them.
To combat these feelings while still ensuring workers stay connected, HR management should consider altering video conferencing methods to better suit the workers’ needs. This can include encouraging employees to turn off their video periodically during meetings to take a break from self-view mode and mitigate excessive close-up eye contact. Management leaders can also encourage the use of screen-sharing capabilities of office IM chat channels so workers can easily “see” one another’s projects and ideas without needing to physically hover over a desk like they would in an in-person office environment. It’s also important for HR leaders to be sure they are being responsive to emails and calls from employees since employees don’t have the leisure of being able to walk into a physical HR office to get immediate attention and answers.
Failing to adjust these communication methods and channels for remote workers can not only lead to increased feelings of burnout but can also lead to large losses in company revenue, since nearly $37 billion is lost each year due to communication problems, according to a Holmes report.
4. Managing Expectations
In a remote setting, it is critical to keep workers up-to-date on changes in work processes, work culture and expectations as they arise so they feel connected and informed in handling their job responsibilities to the best of their abilities. Keeping workers in the loop can also improve their engagement significantly. BetterWorks’ Employee Sentiment survey found that 92% of workers said they would work harder if they knew what their company’s goals were.
Since company culture often can’t be instilled and felt through a remote work model as much as it is in person, HR management should consider reinforcing a company’s culture by spreading knowledge of norms and values through virtual company-wide meetings and sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter to staff detailing programs or projects that are important to the company.
In a shift to remote work, HR management may need to adjust salaries for employees who choose to move away from office headquarters to areas with lower costs of living. Others may swap on-site benefits and perks for more remote-friendly options, like compensating digital fitness subscriptions instead of gym memberships approximate to office locations.
To make sure that employees feel comfortable with any of the above changes, HR management can send out regular surveys to better understand their excitement or concerns. They can also send out surveys regarding culture to see if company values, initiatives and expectations are being understood among the masses.
5. Facilitating Transitions
Transitioning to a fully-remote or even hybrid working model can be challenging for employees who have never worked professionally in an at-home setting before. It is important for HR management to help facilitate and guide employees through a remote transition so they can complete their work satisfactorily. They need to ensure that employees have all the tools they need to succeed at home, which can include supplying equipment (laptops, chargers, printers, etc.), providing high-speed internet and offering tips that foster a positive work-life balance.
6. Preserving Morale
A shift to remote work, just like any large shift in one’s work life, can negatively affect morale. Days spent at home in isolation instead of hours spent in a socially-vibrant office setting can lead to a sharp drop in employee morale. Nearly two-thirds of people working from home feel isolated or lonely at least sometimes and 17% do all the time, according to a May 2021 survey by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
To lessen the feelings of isolation and loneliness while simultaneously boosting remote employee morale, HR management can instill a variety of strategies that support social wellbeing and mental health including:
- Offer access to mental health services
- Keep the company’s goals clear at all times
- Encourage managers to recognize employees for their achievements and progress
- Keep learning and development as a priority so employees feel they are still growing professionally in a remote environment
- Encourage breaks and time off so employees can reset and recharge
7. Handling Training
Training and onboarding in a remote environment may look a little different than it is in a physical office. If the steps for onboarding in person are not translated into a digital format for remote workers, it can result in insufficient training that can be detrimental to employee satisfaction and performance.
HR management can effectively approach training for a remote workforce by:
- Digitizing all documentation including handbooks, directories, benefits information and more
- Creating checklists thar detail all of the digital software, programs, accounts and other digital tools that employees will need and ensuring all are accounted for
- Holding remote orientations where employees and HR personnel turn on their cameras and interact “face-to-face”
- Training personnel in how to effectively market open positions for a remote workforce. Mastering these skills is easy thanks to Montclair State University’s Digital Marketing MBA
8. Investing in Technology
Depending on the type and amount of software and hardware that a company utilizes, the costs associated with these subscriptions and services can add up to hundreds to thousands of dollars spent per employee per year. These costs typically increase when there is a shift to remote work, since more digital services like VPN and cloud sharing need to be added.
These investments in added services, software and hardware should be approached keeping productivity in mind while also considering the company’s bottom line. HR management should look for areas where costs can be minimized without sacrificing quality. Sufficient education related to finance and technology–such as Montclair State University’s MBA in Finance, MS in Applied IT or the Computing Technology Certificate–can aid HR personnel in navigating what technology is absolutely necessary to help companies perform efficiently in the most cost-effective ways possible.
9. Reimagining Workflow
Workflow processes are often different for a remote workforce compared to an in-house workforce, since in-person meetings and the ability to physically share documents and ideas is not always possible. It is important for HR management to be cognizant of these differences and adjust workflow as needed to better fit remote employees.
Ways that HR can help streamline and improve workflow processes for remote employees include:
- Creating a protocol for or implement a workflow management program like Asana that helps teams keep track of assignments and deadlines
- Using cloud-sharing software to keep all shared documents easily accessible so workers don’t have to consistently ping each other to send documents back and forth via email
- Having regular team check-in meetings either daily or every few days to keep track of how assignments and tasks are progressing throughout the week and adjust as needed
- Helping leaders better manage their teams by encouraging them to develop their skills through higher education, like Montclair State University’s MBA in Project Management or Business Analytics
10. Inspiring Work-Life Balance
A good work-life balance is essential in employee satisfaction, which in turn can increase productivity and increase company revenue. People who feel they have good work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t, according to a survey from the Corporate Executive Board, which represents 80% of Fortune 500 companies.
To ensure remote employees are achieving a healthy work-life balance, HR management can:
- Encourage team leaders and managers to check in with employees on their emotional and mental health and provide them with information for resources that are available to them
- Remind employees to take self-care time–whether it be taking a break to go for a walk or read a chapter of a book–something that will reduce stress and renew energy
- Encourage employees to log off once their hours for the day are finished
- Prioritize employee health by providing stipends for gym memberships or fitness equipment
Through Montclair University’s nationally-ranked program, students will strengthen their skills in collecting and analyzing data to support workforce decisions, fostering positive employee relations and designing and developing strategies to increase organizational effectiveness despite the unique obstacles facing workplaces today. Fill out a form below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have.
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