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7 HR Considerations for Companies with Remote Workers

April 13th, 2021

We are now officially one year into the remote work experiment that was forced upon many companies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While businesses experienced a variety of successes and challenges associated with adapting to a remote work environment, most companies and employees have found the virtual office model to be positive.

Most Americans will be fully vaccinated by the middle of summer, if not earlier. As a result, companies must begin evaluating whether to maintain a remote working policy after the pandemic. Due to the initial success experienced by businesses over the past year, it seems likely that remote work is here to stay. According to a survey conducted last April:

  • 76% of companies had less than 10% of their full-time employees working remotely at least three days a week prior to the pandemic
  • 83% of companies expect that full-time employees will remain remote at least three days a week after the pandemic

If you decide to implement a virtual office at your company on a permanent basis, it’s crucial that you establish a formal remote working policy for all employees to follow. This new policy doesn’t necessarily have to replace your existing office policy. Instead, consider this as a tool that will complement your existing policy and help you maintain your company culture in a virtual office environment.

Make sure you consider the following items when creating your new remote working policy.

Evaluating Performance in a Remote Environment

One of the initial concerns voiced by many employers at the beginning of the pandemic involved how to avoid performance issues in a remote environment. The reasoning behind this concern was that if management couldn’t interact with their team in person, it would be more difficult to make sure employees are doing their work. By and large, this concern turned out to be unfounded, as many companies experienced an increase in productivity when employees began working from home.

In reality, performance issues can arise in any work setting, regardless of whether it’s in-office or remote. To minimize the likelihood of these problems, it’s crucial that you take the following steps when creating your remote working policy:

  • Clearly outline all employee responsibilities
  • Explain the process for measuring employee performance when working remotely
  • List the actions that will be taken when performance issues develop

In addition, make it clear to your managers that they are expected to follow through with the actions outlined in your policy when performance issues first arise. This will help you avoid these issues from growing into larger problems over time.

Define Rules for Employee Behavior When They Are “On the Clock”

It’s crucial to communicate to your employees that all company policies are in effect regardless of where they are working. In other words, the rules that apply to employee behavior in the office still apply when they work remotely. Your employees are representing your company whenever they’re working, and they should always take this responsibility seriously.

Some important employee behaviors to cover in your remote working policy include:

  • remote worker wearing a shirt, tie and pajama bottomsAlcoholic beverages – If employees aren’t allowed to consume alcohol in the office, they shouldn’t be able to drink at home while they’re working.
  • Dress code – It’s common for dress codes to be a little more relaxed in a remote work environment, but your employees shouldn’t be showing up to Zoom meetings in their pajamas. Make sure you explain any remote working dress code expectations to your employees.
  • Client communication protocol – You wouldn’t be able to speak rudely to a client or use profanity in an in-person client meeting. You shouldn’t speak in this manner on virtual meetings either.

Establish Clear Rules Regarding Scheduling Flexibility

One of the reasons remote work is popular among employees is the potential for a more flexible schedule. For many people, especially those with young children, the ability to set your own work hours is a valuable perk. However, it’s important to define what schedule flexibility is allowed as part of your remote working policy.

Some items to address include:

  • Are employees expected to be at their computer and available from 8-5?
  • Are mid-day extended breaks encouraged (as long as all meetings are attended) with the expectation that employees will work later to ensure they put in a full day?
  • If extended breaks are allowed, how will other team members be made aware that you are away from your desk?
  • If you only work six hours one day, do the remaining hours need to be made up the next day or can they be distributed among the rest of your work days that week?
  • What is your policy regarding synchronous vs. asynchronous communication?

Policy Considerations When You Have Employees Living in Different Regions

Remote work has also increased the number of companies with employees in different time zones. This can be a win-win for your business and your employees. It allows you to hire the best talent regardless of where they live. It also allows your employees to choose a home base that better fits their lifestyle.

We’ve already seen many employees choose to relocate as their jobs have gone remote. A recent survey found that 58% of companies have seen employees request to relocate abroad, while 64% of businesses have employees who requested to relocate to another state. It’s likely that this trend will continue as remote working environments get implemented on a more permanent basis. This phenomenon will impact your remote working policy in several ways.

Standardizing Employee Work Hours

If you have team members spread across the country (or the globe), you’ll need to create some norms regarding employee hours:

  • Are there specific hours of the day that everyone must overlap with the home office work hours? If so, which hours need to overlap?
  • Are there specific hours where employees must be available to meet with or assist clients? If so, what are these hours?

Adhering to Local Laws

Another consideration associated with having employees spread across the country involves adherence to local employment and tax laws. It’s crucial that you follow all local laws associated with the region where each employee lives. This may present certain challenges when allowing existing employees to relocate or when hiring new employees who live out of state.

This includes registering your company to do business in these various states. This is critical to keep in mind if you allow single employees to work from different states. You will need to register your business in that state and request tax accounts for the state, city, or school district/county that your employee resides in. This can get expensive if you have multiple employees living in different states. If you’re unsure how to navigate these laws, Premier Employer Services can help you understand how they will impact your business.

Salary Structure

One of the biggest debates arising from the shift to a remote work culture involves how salaries will be determined when employees live in areas with a lower (or higher) cost of living than your company’s home region. In the last year, some high profile companies have asked employees who relocated to areas with a lower cost of living to take pay cuts. Others have established a consistent salary structure regardless of where their employees choose to live.

There is no right or wrong approach to this issue. However, it is important that you commit to a specific method for how you will handle salaries for employees in different parts of the country. Once you commit to a model, you must apply it consistently for all your employees.

Providing Your Team with the Tools They Need

When your team works in the office, you need to provide them with certain tools necessary to do their job. This may include:

  • A computer
  • Additional monitors
  • A comfortable and supportive ergonomic chair
  • Software programs (Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, etc.)

Your employees will need all of the same tools to perform their job remotely. Therefore, it’s important to consider how you’ll provide remote staff with the equipment they need. You don’t necessarily have to outfit their entire home office. You may want to consider offering employees a stipend to purchase specific items they need. Your remote working policy should also set limits on the how much they can spend and how often they’re allowed to request this stipend.

Time Tracking for Payroll Purposes

time tracking illustration - the importance of time tracking for hourly employees in a remote work environmentIt’s common for the lines between personal and professional life to become blurred when working from home. Some employees may feel more compelled to work on tasks at times typically considered outside of the work day. In these situations, are you required to pay them additional compensation?

When your staff is on salary, the answer to this question is usually no since salaried employees typically aren’t eligible for overtime pay. However, hourly employees may be entitled to additional compensation in these situations. Therefore, it’s important to establish clear policies regarding how hourly employees track their time and what is allowed regarding working extra hours.

It is also crucial that your employees are classified correctly. Misclassification can be a costly and painful issue if you have hourly employees classified incorrectly as salaried. Many states are increasing the penalties and audits for misclassification. Contact your account manager at Premier Employer Services if you have concerns about your employee’s status.

Catering Your Benefits Package to a Remote Working Environment

Prior to the pandemic, many companies offered their employees a variety of perks that would improve their quality of life during their hours spent in the office. This may include items such as:

  • Free breakfasts
  • Gourmet coffee service
  • Onsite gym membership
  • Friday afternoon in-office happy hours

If you switch to a remote work environment, many of these perks will no longer make sense. It will be important to rethink the quality of life benefits you offer to ensure they create an attractive workplace culture for a remote workforce.

A good way to identify the best benefits to offer is to ask your employees what they value. By sending out a brief survey, you can gain important insight that will help you determine the right way to rework your benefits package to meet the needs of your remote workers.

Premier Employer Services Can Help You Navigate the Remote Working Environment

Navigating the permanent transition to a remote work culture can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. At Premier Employer Services, we’ll work closely with you to understand your workforce dynamic and make customized recommendations that will help you implement the right remote work policy for your company. This individualized approach to employee engagement will set you up to thrive in your new remote work environment.

You’ll benefit from our Elevated Engagement Plus Approach™ focused on setting your company up for long term success. This approach involves:

  • Collaborating with you to determine your specific goals
  • Understanding the unique challenges impacting your company
  • Creating a custom program that reflects your company culture

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.