Why HR must be central to remote management
Sue Weekes

By: Sue Weekes on September 2nd, 2020

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Why HR must be central to remote management

remote workforce

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

The era of data analytics has led many to believe that if it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed. This is a notion that needs to be challenged though in the new normal of virtual and homeworking due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Although remote and homeworking (once called telecommuting) has existed for decades, the abruptness of lockdown measures meant that some managers had something of a baptism of fire when it came to managing virtual teams.


Aside from individual connectivity issues, there should be few technical barriers to creating a home working set-up. But significant cultural and social issues still need to be addressed and HR needs to be central to ensuring that virtual working strategies are implemented properly.


HR has to remain accessible & provide proper guidance

Many HR departments have had homeworking guidelines in place for some time. Now, more than ever, they must ensure they are accessible to everyone with an online portal and knowledge base being the most effective way to achieve this. While guidelines in areas like health and safety, using equipment and insurance are black and white, other aspects are more nuanced. And it is in the area of managing people where grey areas still prevail and messaging can become inconsistent from one manager to another.


Ensuring that all managers are up to the task of remote leadership and management will be key to every organisation’s productivity and business continuity going forward as it must be accepted that hybrid home/office workforces will be instituted permanently by many organisations.


HR must, therefore, ensure proper guidance and training is available to support managers and their teams effectively in the post-Covid-19 era.


Individual performance should be measured on outputs, not time spent on the job

First off, homeworking relies on managers acknowledging they have to judge individual performance on outputs rather than time spent on the job. While not everyone is suited to homeworking, many have the potential to be more productive at home than they are at work, especially if they are free to design their own working day.


Because of caring, home tutoring or other responsibilities, this may not be within the confines of a traditional 9-5 and nor should it need to be so long as the individual can deliver on their goals. Also, employees can design their day around their own productivity peaks and troughs. For instance, it may suit some individuals to start work at 5am and finish at midday. Clearly, there needs to be flexibility on the part of the individual to fit in with the majority when it comes to attending virtual meetings.


Assessing performance based on output requires several things to be in place. Trust must exist on both sides and everyone in the team must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. This requires managers to set extremely clear – and achievable – goals in realistic timeframes. And while they must monitor performance, they must avoid trying to micro-manage teams remotely as this erodes trust.


HR must prioritise mental health & avoid employee presenteeism

HR must ensure there is clear guidance for managers and employees when it comes to homeworkers falling ill. Although we live in a time when bosses need to be more aware than ever of potential absenteeism, HR must ensure that a culture of at-home presenteeism does not emerge.


Indeed, HR must ensure that if an individual does fall ill to coronavirus, or any other ailment, they must not feel any pressure to effectively “turn up” for work in their own home. Similarly, managers must be mindful of their team’s mental health, especially given the impact of social distancing and social isolation.


Ensure there are both physical and mental health resources in the company knowledgebase and that employees know where to find them. This could be a mix of internal and external resources as well as useful links.


Managers need to check in on their employees without micromanaging

Clearly managers will be arranging their own team and individual meetings in relation to objectives and strategies but also brief them to check in with people on a more personal level to find out how they are feeling. This will also help keep morale high and promote engagement which are all-important. Underline the importance of not cancelling meetings unless it is unavoidable as these can become important mainstays of a homeworker’s weekly routine.


Try to instate regular social get-togethers online. Indeed, recent times has seen the introduction of the virtual drinks after work as a regular event in some organisations that gives the team an opportunity to wind down together.


When it comes to managing virtual teams, out of sight must never become out of mind but any form of micro-management from a distance must be avoided. Helping managers achieve the right balance is likely to be one of the modern HR and workplace challenges going forward.


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About Sue Weekes

I have been a journalist for almost 30 years and the past 14 of these have been spent working as a freelance. I specialise in the areas of recruitment, careers, leadership and management, learning and development and HR. As well as writing about the major issues impacting these areas, I’ve earned a reputation for being able to explain how technology impacts the workplace and world of business in a jargon-free way. I started out on a magazine dedicated to microwave cooking (my first news story was a scoop on the four-minute meringue!) and over the years have written for a number of sectors from caravanning and graphic arts to television and the internet. I’m co-founder of the Dorset-based editorial and copywriting company, Curly Pow Media Limited, which provides a range of services including ghost writing and marketing material. My current portfolio of work includes Edge, Inspire, the Institute of Leadership & Management, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Recruiter, Image Reports and Think Bigger. Aside from business-to-business publications and websites, I also write for Dorset Life and am always looking for stories of local interest.