How Can HR Departments Support Remote Employees During COVID-19

HR Voice
HR Voice
6 Min Read
Ezra Bailey

Given the current circumstances and uncertainties triggered by COVID-19, organisations have asked their employees to work from home. While social distancing is the need of the hour, we cannot forget that employees are not attuned to working remotely for such a long period. They have probably never been away from their colleagues and managers for such a long time. Additionally, some employees have never worked from home earlier.

As easy as it may seem, working remotely comes with its own set of challenges in talent management. They may expect more support from their organisations. Here is how the HR teams can support their workforce in managing this situation more effectively.

Counsel the managers 

It may help to take a top-down approach and start with the managers to succeed in the current COVID-19 crisis. With the right support of line managers, employees will find it easier to manage the challenges of remote working.

To begin with, explain to the managers to expect a drop in productivity and engagement. It may hold true even for the star performers and may arise due to a combination of factors. Firstly, employees will have reduced access to organisational resources and tools. In the absence of face-to-face conversations, even the smallest decisions can take time. Moreover, employees may feel that as the managers are not available, they are not supportive of getting the job done. 

Secondly, they may need more time to locate and access information from other departments. Thirdly, everyone may not respond positively to social isolation. Some employees may begin feeling distant when they do not get to interact with their regular colleagues. Lastly, we need to remember that people were not prepared for this situation. They have house chores to do and kids to look after. They need time and support from their managers to deal with unexpected parenting responsibilities and interruptions during office calls.

New rules of engagement

This unusual working situation demands the HR functions to be more active in engaging the employees. Managers should be encouraged to establish communication cadence with their teams. If the team members are largely independent in their streams of work, the managers can hold one-on-one calls. On the other hand, if they are working together on a project, a collective call can help in engaging the team. 

The HR teams can offer forums for interaction in these times of social distancing. These social networking platforms can bring the employees together in resolving common problems. Apart from this, the line managers should be encouraged to send feelers that they are available to resolve the problems of their team members. Similarly, leaders can communicate that they are aware of the ground problems and are keeping their ears open for any concerns.

Lastly, recognition at this time can make a huge difference. The HR teams can share even the smallest wins. It will keep the employees informed about the progress of the organisation.

Prioritise wellbeing

The anticipation of the future, fear of losing one’s job, and health of family members can cause anxiety and stress among people. Moreover, social isolation may not fare well with those who are staying alone and have no one to accompany them. 

In this scenario, the HR teams can reach out to the employees and offer support by connecting them to counsellors. The line managers can also check-in on their team members to understand if anything is bothering them. The idea is to be inclusive and be sensitive to the different needs of the employees. For instance, some people may feel overwhelmed with having to prove their productivity when they have limited access to resources. 

Formulate succession plans

Now is a good time for HR teams to revisit their succession plans. As the future is uncertain, it may be useful to have a pipeline ready for the executive positions as well as for mission-critical roles. The HR teams can initiate conversations regarding the inter-departmental movements and evaluate the talent that is ready to take substantial roles.

Establish multiple channels of communication 

In the absence of organisational accesses and resources, employees may face the challenge of delivering work at their usual pace. Moreover, the physical distance may also make them feel distant. To speed up the communication, the HR teams can research and suggest the right tools. It is equally essential to be inclusive and consider everyone’s needs. For instance, while video conferencing may seem to be the simplest approach, introverts may not be comfortable with it. 

The HR teams can turn around this situation by being proactive and keeping their ears to the ground.

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