2020 has changed the way we work forever, with the global COVID-19 pandemic prompting a sudden, mass switch to remote working. On the whole, businesses adapted quickly to this new structure, and 4 in 10 employees would like to work from home more often after the threat of coronavirus subsides.

But while most workforces have embraced remote working opportunities, there are obstacles and inefficiencies that still need to be ironed out to make it a long-term success. One of the biggest challenges so far has been managing employees’ HR needs without being able to keep a close eye on them day-to-day, or check-in with people face-to-face.

As leaders in shift planning software, WhosOffice is in constant consultation with businesses about the key functions they need to coordinate employee requirements more effectively, and we’ve seen a marked rise in demand for built-in digital HR tools.

We’re responding to this appetite by adding new HR features into our product roadmap – and in the meantime, we’d like to share some guidance on how companies can overcome some common remote working HR challenges, to support employees wherever they are based:

1 – Monitoring staff development and wellbeing

It’s easy for managers and HR personnel to ‘grab a quick five minutes’ with a team member when they’re in the same office, but monitoring staff wellbeing is much harder in a remote situation.

Communicating with team members on alternative shift patterns

There may be personnel who claim to be coping fine, but are actually struggling with their mental health and stress levels while working from home. Equally, there may be employees who say they’re pulling their weight, but are taking advantage of home working to take their foot off the pedal and log fewer hours than their contract requires.

From an HR perspective, it’s important to get regular team feedback, to identify any staff concerns before they snowball into a major problem. Human resources personnel should take time to share company policies and protocol documents with the entire workforce – saving them in a central online location so that staff can refer back to them at any time – and regularly remind employees of the digital channels they can use to get in touch if they have a query or worry.

2 – Finding time to connect with employees on differing shift patterns

Looking after the needs of a remote workforce is challenging in itself; safeguarding the wellbeing of employees in a remote, shift-based business can be even more difficult for HR personnel.

Visibility is critical to effective team communications, and this is most easily delivered through shift planning software. HR should be pushing for senior personnel to invest in a digital platform for planning and managing all of the company’s rostering requirements, so that it’s crystal clear who is on-shift at any point in time. Even personnel operating ‘regular’ hours are still working a shift; it just happens to be that these shifts are Monday to Friday, 9-5!

On a practical level, shift planning technology makes it much easier to set staff workload expectations, reducing the number of queries about when people are next needed to work, or whether there are any opportunities to earn overtime.

However, there is an HR benefit to better shift planning too, as human resources staff can see when people are rostered to work, and set time aside to catch up with them while they are available, to make sure they are able to do their job effectively from home.

3 – Managing holiday, sickness and other absences

It can be difficult enough for companies to keep track of staff movements when everyone is based in the same building; when they’re spread out across the local area, it seems nigh-on impossible!

To stay on top of HR records during remote working situations, it’s important that businesses encourage employees to log all types of staff leave. Leading shift planning platforms, including WhosOffice, have built-in leave management tools, so that all rostering decisions can be made based on an accurate overview of who is available to work.

Part of HR’s role is to create a culture where using these operational systems is second nature, so that staff log not only upcoming holiday, but other types of absence such as time off in lieu (TOIL), illness, personal appointments and client meetings.

Channelling leave management through one system, which employees can update independently, takes some of the admin burden off HR’s shoulders.

4 – Keeping certifications, accreditations and training up-to-date

Many employees will use the relative quiet of remote working as an opportunity for personal development, completing online courses and certifications that equip them to do their job better.

It’s important that HR staff keep track of all new training sessions and professional accreditations, as this will help to identify skillsets for upcoming projects and opportunities, and also support people’s progression when the time comes for career reviews.

Another critical challenge that remote working teams face is tracking the validity of essential qualifications around health & safety and first aid. These may not be needed when teams are working from home, but HR staff cannot risk team members returning to the workplace with lapsed certifications – and a central, online record of when qualifications expire can avoid problems further down the line.

Positive initiatives boost morale

5 – Introducing positive initiatives to boost morale and keep people motivated

HR’s role is far more than ensuring operational efficiency and coordinating personal development; human resources staff play a critical role in building company culture and promoting employee wellbeing.

While staff may find it easy to progress with their own, individual work from home, there is always a danger that colleague relationships suffer from lack of face-to-face contact. Therefore, HR personnel should think about how they can implement regular digital team building initiatives – a weekly all-company video quiz, for example – in order to boost morale and keep people motivated.

A roadmap for HR’s remote future

The rise of remote working will be one of 2020’s biggest business legacies, with major companies like Twitter already declaring that staff can now work from home on a permanent basis. For HR teams, this creates new challenges in managing employee progress and supporting their wellbeing, but many of these new obstacles can be mitigated through the use of appropriate technology.

Rather than forcing firms to adopt a new piece of software for HR management, WhosOffice is looking at how we can integrate HR features into our shift planning software, to manage entire business operations through a single online platform.

Initial HR functions on our product roadmap include document storage and updates, so critical employee information including emergency contacts, dates of birth, addresses, training and certifications are logged in a central, online location.

We are also creating a digital repository for staff and company documents, and we’re working towards offering a case management system to help HR teams launch, track and resolve employee issues through a seamless online process.

Coming Soon - HR Features and more....

We’re always open to new ideas, so if you work in HR and there’s something else you’d like us to include, please get in touch. Otherwise, look out for these new HR features going live on WhosOffice in the near future.

WhosOffice is the only shift planning platform your business needs to manage staff rosters based on accurate, real-time information. Book a free trial to find out more.

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