People Operations for the Remote Workforce

In 2022, 16% of companies worldwide are entirely remote, and 74% of U.S. companies are using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model (Zippia). Our team knows that this new work-life demands different approaches to motivating, engaging, and satisfying team members. Casual Fridays in the office and unscheduled catch-ups in the break room are no longer options. Nowadays, intentionality is critical.


Business leaders and HR executives must get serious about catering their people operations strategy to the remote workforce, especially if they plan to stay competitive amid the great resignation. We suggest kicking off this necessary realignment by revisiting three foundational tools: your employee handbook, benefits package, and performance management plan. 


Policy Updates for Remote Workers


As we’ve mentioned in a previous article, the best employee handbooks are those you can rely on to do some heavy lifting in terms of risk management, communication with employees, expectation setting, and the day-to-day functioning of your business. When your team goes from working in an office to working from home, the risks, communication, expectations, and day-to-day you carefully crafted in your handbook may be totally defunct. It’s time to revisit this crucial document and its policies with fresh eyes. 


Here are a few policies that likely need tweaking or adding to your existing employee handbook:

  • Remote Work Eligibility: Which job types are permitted to work remotely? When working remotely, what are the expectations for availability? Is there an expectation of being in-person for some meetings? Who do employees advise when they need a remote day? 
  • Technology: More than likely, your handbook already covers the topic of company-owned technology, but your policy may not take into account team members bringing that technology home with them. Do you have a policy and process in place advising employees on what to do if company equipment is misplaced, damaged, or stolen?
  • Hour Tracking: When employees no longer spend time in an office during work hours, managers become less aware of their people on the clock. Trust is a significant factor, particularly for the salaried employee. Still, there needs to be a clearly written policy regarding the hours and days employees work and communicating any schedule deviations.
  • Internet Reimbursement: If you require employees to work from home, you must consider a reimbursement policy for home internet usage. This can cover just a portion or up to a certain amount of the internet usage an employee carries. In California and Illinois (or if you have someone working remotely in those states), it is a requirement; it is a best practice in other states. A remote workforce significantly decreases overhead costs for companies. Shifting these savings to a reimbursement program creates goodwill and ensures your employees incur no additional connection costs. Make sure to include how employees go about obtaining this reimbursement and if reimbursements will be prorated in the event of an employee leaving the company. 


Benefits and Perks for Remote Workers


The purpose of offering an attractive, robust benefits package is not only to attract top talent, but to genuinely make their lives (at work and beyond) better. When working with clients on benefits creation, we always think through the demographic(s) for which we’re building these packages. What does their life outside of work look like? What are common challenges they face? What types of perks would really excite them? Remote team members are faced with new challenges and a new daily routine, which means the benefits which once served them need to be reevaluated. 


Here are a few benefits to consider for remote employees:

  • Physical Wellness Programs: Working remotely means employees could spend every waking hour sitting in a chair, staring at a screen. Not the epitome of physical health by any means. Consider adding a benefit that encourages physical activity from employees – be it hosting internal Zoom workout sessions, offering a stipend to cover monthly gym fees, or holding monthly physical wellness challenges that reward participating team members.
  • Mental Wellness Programs: Working from home while worrying about the spread of COVID-19 while possibly taking care of kids in-house is hard, y’all. We can all use some mental and emotional support. While there are so many affordable options for employer-sponsored mental health programs, there’s no better time to implement them. And if you don’t want to spend the extra money on a program, why not add a few more PTO days to the mix, specifically meant for mental health days? 
  • Home Office Stipend: A pricier option, but a truly stand-out benefit! If you want your employees to enjoy working remotely, help them out by offering to contribute to the home office of their dreams. Maybe they want a stand-up desk or an ergonomic desk chair. Perhaps they need company-branded posters or other artwork to deck out their walls. A little bit goes a long way to show your investment in their work-life satisfaction. Some companies offer a small stipend; saying (for example) spend $100 on whatever helps you work from home is a great way to show employees you care that they’re comfortable in their new office space.


Performance Management for Remote Workers 


Working remotely has added a fresh challenge for leaders to keep a finger on the pulse of employee productivity and satisfaction. The advice we offer to clients is: Communicate, communicate, communicate! We are all about managers giving and receiving feedback – and not waiting around for a monthly one-on-one with a team member to do it (these should be weekly, anyway!). When you no longer get face time with an employee, the need for intentional meeting time increases. 


Managers should aim to meet with every direct report weekly, even if there’s nothing on the agenda. These 30 minutes can engage the team member and ask how they’re doing. What is their workload? “How are they balancing work and life? What can I (as the manager) do to make your remote-work life better?”  


On top of more frequent meetings and feedback opportunities, managers should make a more significant effort to recognize team members going above and beyond in their work. Leaders should make a point to compliment their people on a job well done – whether one-on-one or in a group setting, depending on the employee’s preference. It’s so easy for remote employees to feel isolated and feel no one appreciates their contributions.


Make Space

While some employees may choose not to participate, it’s essential to find ways to connect your team socially as a leader. People want to feel connected to their work and their teams. If meeting in person is an option, make participation optional but schedule that time – with no pressure. 


Do a few people feel comfortable grabbing coffee together on a Friday? Meet at the park with their kids on a Sunday morning? The CDC currently recommends that rapid tests be taken by the participants a few hours before if people are gathering. If meeting in person is not an option, schedule a social happy hour call and plan some games to keep the conversation going. While in-person may not be an option, creating a social space for people during the COVID-19 pandemic can truly be the lifeline people need.

If you feel your company is behind the 8-ball in creating a people operations strategy that works for remote employees, fear not! Montani is here to guide you. We love helping businesses do right by their team members AND by their bottom line. Schedule a free 30-minute strategy call today.

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