For better or worse, Covid-19 has changed the way we work. With everyone quarantined, work from home has become more common than before. Even though there are slight delays and disconnections, for most organizations and their employees, the current work from home set-up is smooth-sailing. But, many organizations might wonder— how can HRs work from home?
Why is there a dilemma for HRs to work from home?
Human resources, abbreviated and known as the HR department, is the only department which serves as a link between all the levels of an organization, from the top management to department heads to junior employees. This also includes the layered relationship of the manager and the subordinate. It is the HR manager’s duty to manage relationships among the employees as well as ensure the well-being of the organization. This means effectively balancing and sorting out any situations and conflicts that come up, tending to employee requirements, and ensuring positive employee relationships to increase work productivity.
Amidst all of this, where does the HR dilemma occur? Well, when one has to work across so many layers and emotions of actual human resources, the work from home scenario presents numerous challenges. It takes more than a quick video call to manage employees.
But, since the work from home scenario is currently a permanent requirement, it’s important to problem-solve this HR dilemma. Can HRs work from home and manage employees, supervisors, and managers on such an interpersonal level? More importantly, how can the HR manage it well so that the organization’s productivity isn’t affected?
In this blog, we’ll dive into the different scenarios that HRs face, and the solutions that can be implemented to transform work from home for the organization, solving common HR dilemmas that come up during this time.
HR dilemma: How basic expectations across departments affect the work from home scenario
Firstly, let’s understand the expectations that the organization and its employees have in the HR department.
The expectations from the HR vary across departments and designations. Some of these expectations may even clash with each other, putting the HR in a situation which causes a dilemma. This, in turn, creates an uncomfortable and unfortunate situation where the HR is compelled to take sides, but cannot, owing to their position.
Let’s understand the different expectations that different kinds of people in the organization have from the HR:
Management – The people at the top-level of the organization want to be abreast of all that is happening, especially in their relevant departments. They also demand solutions as soon as the problem occurs. They expect the HR to align with the objectives of the company, and expect them to hire just the right people for the right position. The management expects the HR to prioritize the work over everything else, at any cost.
Employees – Employees have a very basic expectation. They want someone to lend them an ear at work, understand the issues they are facing, and provide a solution, all at a discreet level. Employees look up to the HR as a grievance manager.
Supervisors – The team leads and supervisors have expectations from the HR that are focused on the employees. Basically, the supervisors expect the HRs to convey to their team what they cannot— for instance, fixed routines, timings, and meeting schedules. Besides this, team supervisors also wish to discuss team performances, individually and collectively, and to take further and relevant actions to ensure top performance from their employees.
Let’s look at a scenario where these expectations slash. Say, in an organization, the management expects a specific project to be launched sooner than possible. Supervisors may be compelled to push their employees and the employees would feel pressured and stressed. They would turn to the HR to solve this issue. To add to the mix, if an employee is taking sick leave during this time, the pressures of this dilemma would escalate. The HR would have a hard time balancing these different expectations from the different levels of personnel in the company.
Moreover, one common issue across many organizations is how undervalued the HR is. Oftentimes, management underestimates the value of the HR and the expertise that they bring along. The HR is well-versed in understanding the psyche of the people— from the employee to the supervisor— and knows how to analytically solve and provide for their different needs. The HR’s job requires striking a balance, and they often know enough to do that. The challenge here is solving these issues while working remotely.
Without that sit-down meeting or the face-to-face connection, handling HR dilemmas becomes difficult. Human Resource is a department that requires personal interaction and enabling a remote HR is tricky and it takes time to strategically adapt this human-facing role to a remote capacity.
Another endless HR dilemma: Can the HR work from home?
The answer is, yes. HRs can work from home. However, their efficiency and productivity depend on a number of factors that they need to take into consideration. To ensure minimized issues, dependencies, and HR dilemmas, you can set up different systems to work more efficiently:
1. Make your organization autonomous
HRs need to set up self-management techniques to help employees work more independently. As employees are working from home, there are a lot of limitations for supervisors to manage the employees. With autonomous systems in place, you can ensure your team doesn’t have to reach out to other employees and supervisors for help. Here are some ways to do it:
- Automated employee scheduling software: Set up an employee scheduling software to track attendance, leaves, and shifts without having to message employees and monitor if they have logged onto work or not.
- Office FAQ library: Set up internal help desks for your team with OfficeAmp. They can search for specific questions and raise issues that you can assign to the respective person.
- Automate daily standups: Apps like Standup Bot allow you to collect responses from employees about what they did the day before, what they plan to do that day, and any blockers they have.
The main work of the HR is to manage people. That can only be done well if the HR indulges in self-management, especially at this time when everyone is working from home, including the HR. Self-management, as you grapple with the work from home scenario, can be done in the following ways:
- Think and jot down a plan, as to what it is that you can possibly do from home. Make a list of the tasks that you do, and then figure out if any or all of them are possible for you as a remote HR. Filter out the non-productive tasks.
- Set goals for yourself. Ensure that these are achievable goals. While working from home we often out measure ourselves and create unrealistic aims for the day, leading to under accomplishment and the subsequent feeling of underachievement. Given an HR is responsible for managing the people, feeling mentally low is really not the way to be.
- Constant communication should be a part of the plan; remote or in office. An HR should find out a way to continuously communicate with the people of the organization, to ensure a smooth and constant relationship.
- Think about the times when the work from home scenario would be lifted; what changes would it entail on the overall work environment, and how you can best bring the people to work and align them to the new, post work from home routine. We have a lockdown now, but that is an exceptional situation. If your organization has a work from home culture anyway, make sure that there are periodic meetings wherein everyone comes to work to interact and connect. Connection in person is extremely important.
- Find out which applications or chatbots would work best for your company as you are working from home. There are numerous technologies which are enabling people to have virtual meetings. As an HR who has to work and manage remotely, your job is to find a technological solution which helps the employees and employers to schedule their days, to connect with each other, to share files and attachments, and other likely features.
3. Striking a balance
An HR’s major chunk of responsibility lies in striking a balance between two parties, who may have different relationships in the organization— manager-employee, supervisor-executive, etc. When you interact in person, there are certainly more plausible and quicker solutions to grievances that crop up.
However, as a work from home HR, there are chances that you’ll face certain miscommunication or communication gaps while interacting with your team virtually. It is up to the HR to manage these communication needs and strike a balance, not only amidst divisions and peoples but also in the midst of all the technological challenges that come along, due to the work from home situation. This can be done in 2 ways:
- Setting up communication rules: Inform employees that communication gaps may be common but to minimize this, they can over-communicate about the work they are doing and inform each other more clearly.
- Having conversations about tech needs: Talk to employees and understand their technological needs when working from home, whether this is better internet access or a laptop.
When it comes to resolving conflicts, HR should typically not take sides. However, when someone is clearly in the wrong, it’s best for HRs to tactfully point out the issue and encourage those involved to come up with a solution while you monitor. If things escalate from this point, the HR will be available to step in and set down rules.
4. Staying available, but smartly
You can’t have employees reaching out to you at all times of the day due to an issue. This is especially difficult if you have shift employees working at your organization. As a remote HR, you can set up office hours when employees can message you about issues they have. You can also set up specific hours each day that are left open so that you can get on a call with your employees and discuss issues. Ensure that your office hours overlap with hours that your shift workers are also available.
Set up a few timings to let the team know when you’re available and when you’re not. After all, there could be things you need to manage on the homefront too. A smart idea here is to set up a smart QnA using tools like OfficeAmp.
The app uses artificial intelligence to answer the frequently asked questions automatically. You can keep building out a knowledge base over time to include more queries that employees come to you with.
You can define the kind of issues that will be addressed— non-trivial, urgent, and important issues. You can also specify that any trivial, non-urgent issues can be messaged and will be addressed through chat or email.
Being an HR does mean staying available. But you can do this smartly too!
5. Encourage self-resolution
To avoid having to step into every issue between different individuals in the organization, the HR can set a very basic rule— resolve the issue by yourself. When setting up such a rule, the HR can encourage the employee or supervisor to keep them informed of the issue. By setting this rule, your employees will be better equipped to communicate with each other clearly and come to a resolution together.
When an HR steps in to solve an issue, it becomes time-consuming, and often, the people involved in the problem come away from it with some hard feelings. However, when they are tasked to solve it on their own, they can discuss the issue more openly and come to the conclusion that they both agree on.
Solve HR daily dilemmas during WFH with open communication
While HRs will be facing dilemmas throughout the workweek, it’s important that you take measures to minimize these issues. Can that be done away entirely? No. But we can surely try to minimize common HR dilemmas by identifying them and solving them with open and honest team communication.
After all, where you are a remote HR or within the office setting, you need to keep your mental bandwidth free enough to tackle the entire human resource of the organization. Identifying common dilemmas and tackling them early on can help you minimize HR daily dilemmas and give you more time for the larger tasks on your plate.