Never has it been more important to remember that the “H” in “HR” stands for “human.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in early 2020, HR professionals have played a critical role in helping organizations lead their way through change.
They have developed job descriptions for new roles as companies brought on talent for digital transformation projects.
They’ve helped identify resources to assist stressed-out employees maintain their physical and mental well-being.
Perhaps most importantly, HR professionals are now in a position to help organizations empower their employees to be successful from anywhere. The policies and procedures they establish today will become the foundation of a thriving remote workforce tomorrow.
The idea of working remotely is hardly new, of course. With the rise of cloud-computing and the proliferation of mobile devices, many companies have been discovering they can run their businesses straight from their smartphones.
Before the pandemic, however, working outside a traditional office might have been seen as a last resort for some members of the team, or a luxury that was reserved for senior business leaders.
We’ve all learned that, thanks to advancements in digital technologies, employees can be productive and collaborate no matter where they work. This opened up huge possibilities in terms of recruiting talent, boosting retention and driving a more positive overall employee experience.
As HR professionals know better than anyone, however, a remote workforce needs to be managed with the same due diligence and consideration as one where everyone is centralized in the same location. There’s a big difference to allowing occasional remote work and moving to a remote-first business model.
If you’re working in HR or collaborating with your HR team on a work-from-anywhere strategy, make sure the following areas are appropriately covered off:
Many organizations set up their payroll systems with the idea that they would be bringing on talent and managing employees locally. A remote workforce means you could continue to have some members of the team close by, but others could be working in another province or even another country.
This could lead to tax implications depending on whether your business has a presence in all the areas your employees are based. Knowing your obligations and whether your payroll can handle potential tax withholdings is an essential step. CPA Canada, the country’s professional association for accountants, has created a detailed guide on remote work taxation that can help, including questions on whether there are any social security agreements between countries, foreign tax credits and more.
HR is one of the most document-insensitive functions in a business. There are employment offers, performance reviews, employee surveys and regulatory files they need to access on a daily basis. Most of these aren’t static documents either; they often need to be reviewed, filled out or signed by managers and employees.
Businesses that move to a work-from-anywhere approach can’t afford to wait for paper documents to be sent back and forth through physical mail. As more organizations digitize their entire operation, they also want those contracts and other files to connect to business applications that can make use of the data they contain.
This is where HR professionals will benefit from working with their IT department to identify what kind of automation solutions are available today and how they might affect everyday processes. Salesforce has partnered with DocuSign, for instance, to make it easy to capture important signatures and complete the fields in any piece of HR content quickly. This can be done no matter where you are, and even using popular tools like Slack to capture e-signatures.
Step into your employees’ shoes and walk through their entire journey with the company. Whereas they might have started by coming to the office for a job interview, running a digital HQ means everything from onboarding to performance reviews can happen virtually. The mandate for HR professionals is to ensure those processes continue to address human needs with equity and empathy.
Managers that were used to checking in with their direct reports in person may need to have help in understanding how to have important conversations from anywhere. The way employees will manage customer relationships remotely will look different too. There are plenty of good resources on this, from a remote management guide in the Harvard Business Review to a tip sheet on managing employees remotely from Gartner.
Employees working from anywhere don’t just need to be coached and managed, of course. They also need to be cared for, so that they can avoid the risk of undue stress or even burnout. HR professionals may need to revisit long-established polices and practices and update them with a remote workforce in mind.
Wellness Works Canada, a non-profit workplace health and performance association, has developed a comprehensive hybrid work guide in this area. It includes suggestions around scheduling, codes of conducts, safety considerations and recommendations on how to implement changes.
The pandemic might have made it feel like remote workforces emerged overnight, but HR will be on the frontlines of ensuring they function well on a long-term basis.
Be transparent with your employees on where you’re at in this journey, such as blog posts on your company intranet. Make sure there are mechanisms for employees to share their feedback, questions or concerns, like a dedicated Slack channel.
Best of all, recognize that empowering employees to work successfully from anywhere will likely require ongoing effort and attention. The work of HR professionals is far from done, in other words — but the value the work they’re doing has never been greater.