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What Is Remote Work?
Remote work (commonly known as “telecommuting”) is the practice of employees working from a location that isn’t a traditional office space. Employees who work remotely often work from home, a co-working space, or anywhere away from company headquarters and fellow employees.
Remote work gained popularity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed company offices around the world in early 2020 to slow the spread of the virus. Even as companies began to open their offices again in late 2021, a majority of employees expressed continued desire to work remotely because of its many benefits.
One variation of remote work is hybrid work, which combines in-person and remote work in different ways to meet the needs of both employees and organizations.
Why Do People Work Remotely?
Working remotely offers a host of benefits for employees, mainly centered on job flexibility, reduced commuting costs, and even reduced living expenses.
- Job flexibility. Working from home gives employees more ownership over their schedule so they can be more attentive to family and personal matters as they arise, like taking kids to school.
- Reduced commuting cost.Working from home saves money on fuel and other transportation costs associated with a commute.
- Reduced living expenses. Remote employees enjoy the option of living in areas away from company headquarters, where the cost of living might be less.
- Safety. For many individuals, working remotely helps maintain their health and avoid illness, especially during pandemics.
Benefits of Remote Work for Employers and Employees
In addition to the reasons why employees choose to work remotely, here are some of the benefits employers and employees share.
In many ways, having a remote workforce reduces costs for both the employer and employee. While employees reduce their transportation costs associated with the commute and even their living expenses, employers may not need to pay for a large office space and in-office amenities, saving a significant amount of money for the company.
As they spend less time commuting, employees can live more productive lives. While they may still work the same schedule, employees now have added time for their personal lives (like taking those kids to school). That added time may decrease stress in general. Additionally, working remotely may provide employees with the alone time they need to complete work projects with fewer interruptions. Naturally, more productive employees mean a more productive company.
Diversity and Inclusion
Because it offers a more flexible work environment than the traditional in-office 9-to-5 workplace, remote work provides employees of different backgrounds with more opportunities to be included in the workforce. Also, job candidates who might have not applied for a position because of company location may be able to land that dream job, even if they live on the other side of the country. Having a larger candidate pool also benefits the company.
Happier, More Autonomous Employees
Many remote employees are happy with the autonomy that remote work offers them. The resulting ownership over their projects motivates many employees to offer more quality care and effort to their work because they feel trusted and respected.
Disadvantages of Remote Work for Employers and Employees
Here are some of the challenges and hurdles associated with remote work for employers and employees.
Compliance with State Laws
For remote companies with employees in multiple states, things can get very complicated for HR very quickly. While this may not impact the employee significantly, HR needs to keep up not only with employment law for each state in which they have employees, but they must also comply with payroll and income-tax-withholding laws and agencies. Companies must be compliant with each state’s laws where they have employees on the ground.
A Costly Transition
For many employers and companies that have already invested significantly into physical facilities, company infrastructure and employee amenities, the idea of transitioning to a remote or hybrid workforce may be expensive. With more employees working remotely, the return on investment for facilities may decrease significantly, thus being a greater cost to the employer.
While many employees enjoy freedom from interruptions as they work on projects, others may suffer the loneliness that comes from working remotely. Without being in the physical presence of their coworkers or managers, remote employees may feel forgotten or left out, especially if they are working on projects alone.
Poor Work/Life Balance
Many employees find it difficult to maintain a work/life balance while working from home. Instead of having a specific place of work, an individual’s work and living spaces become the same, which may lead to working too many hours and/or intrude on family time or social lives.
Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce
Here are some tips for you as you navigate implementing or managing a remote workforce.
Use Resources and Tools
Don’t do this alone. If your company has employees in several states, don’t fret: HRIS software options like Eddy, with their accompanying payroll experts and support centers, are here to help you. They provide assistance related to payroll, employment, and labor laws in different states, as well as counsel about how to write remote work policies for your company.
Ensure Workplace Equity
For many companies that wish to implement a hybrid workplace, HR managers need to ensure that all care, benefits, and activities remain accessible to all employees, regardless of their work location. Ensuring workplace equity helps all employees feel like they are a part of the company and avoid making anyone feel left out. This is particularly difficult when some people are in the office with managers and for meetings while others are at home, feeling less connected and fearing that their value is decreasing along with their physical presence.
Maintain Open Communication
If your company is considering a remote or hybrid workforce, make sure you have a solid culture of communication. This means teaching employees how to use business messaging apps such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, helping people get comfortable with video meetings and software, putting norms in place as to their use, and seeking other ways to keep communication alive and well in your organization.
Always Ask for Feedback
Remote work is a relatively new concept, and there isn’t really a manual for how to implement it. Therefore, feedback is critical to providing an excellent employee experience. This means meeting regularly with all employees and asking for their feedback on HR policies and company practices related to remote or hybrid work. This may help expose discriminatory policies or identify employees who feel forgotten or left out.
How Has Remote Work Influenced the Role of HR
Remote work has had a significant impact on the role of HR, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated its sudden implementation.
HR in More States
Remote work has expanded the role of HR significantly, especially for small business HR managers. Many HR managers not only need to learn the employment laws and regulations for one state, but for many if their remote workforce lives in different states.
HR as the Coworker Who Doesn’t Forget About You
Some remote employees begin to feel lonely and left out. Now more than ever, HR needs to focus on including and connecting all the humans in the company.
As the workplace changes and new issues arise related to remote work, HR managers need to continually keep up with the new laws and cultural factors that impact your company’s productivity.
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Chris is an HR entrepreneur. Having worked with small businesses and start-ups throughout his career, Chris is passionate about pioneering HR departments in companies where they don’t currently exist. He currently works at Skill Struck, a local Utah tech company and is striving to be an expert in all things related to small business HR departments.
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