How to Handle HR in a Telecommuting Office

With more and more companies turning to occasional work from home days (or eliminating a traditional office altogether) it’s clear that the role of the human resources department has to change too. The HR function becomes much more difficult when employees aren’t in the office all the time, or at all. If your business operates off of a telecommute model, here are some tips for managing HR:

Realize that there is no “water cooler talk”

In many companies, information about the business is spread through passing chatter as people are getting up to get a drink or to go to the bathroom. Even if a formal memo isn’t distributed into everyone’s mailboxes, word spreads. This is gone when you lack a formal office or allow people to work from home. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, you have to realize that information will no longer just naturally spread. To compensate, you need to make time for your employees and make sure you are communicating thoroughly. Never assume that they’ve heard information or are aware of changes in the company.

You’ll need to work harder to provide benefits

Many companies are able to use their size in order to get a better deal on health insurance policies for their employees, but when these team members are scattered around the country, this can become harder. It may prove challenging to find a company that is equipped to handle this (increasingly common) work setup.

Your application process needs to be different than it would be in a traditional office

When you’re hiring someone who may not be able to come into the office for an interview, your approach will need to change. Additionally, it takes a different kind of worker to fill a telecommute role successfully. Just because the person knows the necessary computer programs or has the required certifications, doesn’t mean they’ll thrive in a remote work environment. In fact, some of the best employees struggle when they aren’t going into an office every day. In addition to making sure that this individual is qualified for the position, you have to make sure that a remote work environment would suit them well.

Put a plan in place for an employee’s departure

Many times, companies that operate remotely have a large shared database, whether it’s on Dropbox or another similar system. While this works well and is an effective way of collaborating when you’re not in the same room as your colleagues, it can become problematic when an employee leaves, especially if it happens suddenly. Regardless of how confident you feel in an employee, you need to have a plan in place in case they depart (or are asked to leave) quickly. How will you prevent them from taking files with them or potentially causing damage due to their access?

Though a remote work environment presents a number of perks (reduced overhead, for example) it’s important to adjust the company’s strategy and protocols accordingly.

How have you tailored your own business to be conducive to a remote working environment?