The number of remote employees is on the rise. CNN reported in 2017 that “the number of telecommuting employees has increased 115 percent in a decade.” It’s easy to understand the attractiveness of employees working from home with the flexibility for the employee and the cost effectiveness for the employer. But employers should be aware of the HR concerns that come along with a remote staff.
Managing Remote Employee Performance
Many studies show that remote employees have higher productivity. With average office commutes being an hour or more, remote employees tend to use the time they gain back from not commuting to work on more productive activities. The challenge for managers is to monitor this productivity when a worker is not in the office on a daily basis.
Technology makes this task much easier. Team members can use online software for communication, collaboration, project tracking, and much more. Tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom provide a platform for members to chat in real time. Project tracking software such as Asana, ProWorkflow, and Mavenlink allow managers to better monitor the performance of remote employees.
While schedules for remote workers are flexible, it is good to set some boundaries for employees to have availability for managers and other team members. Regular video chats help manage a remote employee’s performance and productivity.
Managing Payroll for Remote Employees
Payroll regulations differ from state to state and remote employees who live in a different state than the business are subject to that state’s standards. It is the payroll manager or payroll company’s job to understand how the employee’s location affects the following:
Common ownership concerns
Leaves of absence
Non-compliance of the state and federal regulations governing these items can be costly. It is critical for your organization to have the right expertise in handling payroll for remote employees.
Hiring and Firing Remote Employees
The processes for hiring and firing remote employees are really very similar to the processes for hiring and firing in-office employees. The same care needs to be taken, but with the remote nature of employees who work from home it can create difficulties with the personal nature of these actions.
When interviewing potential candidates use a video conference platform whenever possible. Video conferencing allows you to get the nonverbal cues that a chat or email don’t afford. Does the candidate look like they have a messy or distraction filled environment that might make it difficult for them to be an effective remote employee?
Check out our comprehensive resource pages on both Employee Onboarding and Employee Termination.
When firing a remote employee it is critical to know the regulations of the state where the worker is located. States differ on matters such as what is included in a final paycheck and the time frame for when it needs to be provided. Make a checklist for termination that includes final pay requirements, IT cancellation of security access and other logins, and retrieving of any company property a remote employee may have.
Delivering the news of a termination is never easy and not being able to do it in person makes this task even more difficult. Whenever possible a video conference is recommended. No one wants to be fired over email.
The extent to which an employer is liable for the workplace safety of a remote employee is a vague area. According to SHRM, OSHA has stated that it “will not conduct at-home workplace inspections and that it will generally not hold employers liable for at-home safety issues.” The same article, however, cites attorney Alec Beck stating that “OSHA continues to maintain that employers are responsible for safe working conditions regardless of location.”
It is best to develop some policies that state the extent to which your organization is responsible for the safe working conditions of remote employees. The policy may require that the remote employee provide proof of homeowner’s insurance. It is also good to address the extent to which an employee is responsible for certain IT concerns, such as antiviral software or other safety protocols.
There's no denying the growing trend of remote employment in the United States. So check out our comprehensive overview of everything employers should know about a remote workforce, including upsides, downsides and overall impact to payroll and HR systems.