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Remote Work and the Evolution of the Workplace

Strategies for implementing the advantages of telework

​Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP

​We have witnessed tremendous change in the workplace since the lockdowns imposed in early 2020 due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us were new to the world of remote work and the drastic changes we were forced to make to effectively run our organizations. Telework is a great option for recruiting and retaining talent from all over the world—but it works well for some and not so well for others. As HR professionals, we need to find strategies that work for everyone.

  • Know the culture, business and organization. Act as a strategic consultant inside your organization. Understand what works well for your organization and workplace, as well as the expectations of leadership and the workforce. Develop a model for telework that accounts for those expectations. 
  • Train for virtual performance reviews, communication and conflict management. It can be a challenge for HR staff to do certain tasks not in person, e.g., conduct performance reviews, communicate about workplace matters or resolve conflicts. But it can be done. I have undertaken investigations using only Zoom and phone conversations. Offer training for managers and supervisors on how to provide feedback to employees effectively and handle disputes remotely.
  • Incorporate flexibility and use that in your recruiting. Remote work can provide flexibility when employees need it. Providing flexibility as an option will assist HR in recruiting and retaining top talent globally. Build in flexibility as part of a great workplace culture. Be open to employee suggestions as you review telework policies.
  • Write down your policies and procedures. We do need policies on telework and flexible workplaces. Add a policy or procedure to your employee handbook to cover any changes to remote work processes and communicate it to the workforce. Train everyone on the employer's expectations and provide feedback as needed. Not every job can be done remotely, and those expectations need to be communicated, as well. 

HR professionals who know the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK) have the knowledge, skills and abilities to create options for a remote workplace and workforce in many organizations. Find a solution and model that works for your organization and measure the results of any changes or implementations—return on investment is critically important.

Matthew W. Burr, M.A., SHRM-SCP, owner of Burr Consulting LLC in Elmira, N.Y., and co-owner of Labor Love LLC, is an HR consultant, an assistant professor at Elmira College, and an on-call mediator and fact-finder for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board.


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