With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, more people than ever are now working remotely — and that includes HR professionals.
If you’ve recently started a remote HR job, or your previously in-person role has transitioned to all or partial remote work, you want to do everything you can to not only succeed, but thrive in a remote environment.
But how exactly do you accomplish this? Below we explore the benefits of remote HR jobs, along with what you need to do to succeed in them.
There are plenty of benefits to pursuing a career in HR. But there can be even more benefits to working in a remote HR position — starting with more time and space to focus and get your work done, instead of spending the majority of your workday responding to the needs of others.
“HR professionals are often interrupted during the day with people stopping by their office for questions,” said Erica Keswin, workplace strategist and author of Rituals Roadmaps: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines into Workplace Magic. “Working from home can provide an opportunity to have specific office hours for those kinds of questions and also have dedicated time to focus on more strategic projects.”
If recruitment falls under your purview, working remotely can also make it easier to get candidate interviews on the calendar, particularly if your candidates are already working.
“A standard eight-to-five workday makes it difficult to recruit candidates who already have jobs,” said Laura Handrick, HR and business consultant and contributing HR professional for mental and behavioral health startup Choosing Therapy. “[When working remotely], everyone is more flexible in their scheduling and interviews can be booked earlier in the morning (during the time the recruiter used to commute) as well as after hours when…[candidates] may be more available.”
And flexible scheduling isn’t the only way remote work can help HR professionals build the best teams. Remote work in and of itself can be a major selling point, and can make it easier for recruiters to both hire and retain top talent. According to the 2019 State of Remote Work Report from Owl Labs, 71% of US survey respondents said that the option to work remotely would make them more likely to choose one company over another, and US companies that offer remote work have a 25% lower turnover rate than companies that don’t.
“Offering the option to work remotely has a positive impact on talent acquisition and retention,” said Tammy Bjelland, founder and CEO of remote work training and education platform Workplaceless. “Now more than ever, employees are looking for flexibility as a job benefit that informs their decision to take or leave a role.”
Clearly, working remotely can be hugely beneficial. Taking it a step further, here are the factors that play into succeeding in a remote HR job.
If you want to succeed in a remote HR job, first you need to lay the foundation to support that success.
Everyone’s foundation for success is going to look different; the key is to invest in the tools, training, and resources you need to empower your highest level of productivity, engagement, and performance when working from home.
So, for example, your personal foundation for success might include a project management tool like Asana to keep your tasks organized, a website blocker like Freedom to keep distractions to a minimum during the workday, and video conferencing software such as Zoom to make sure you’re getting plenty of face-time with your team.
Your foundation for success might also include rituals that keep you grounded throughout the day, like a 20-minute yoga flow on your lunch break or your daily cup of tea as you power through your morning emails. Rituals not only add structure to your day, but can also act as triggers for your brain that let you know when it’s time to get things done, when it’s time to transition to a new task, and when it’s time to wind down and disconnect from work.
“Rituals provide order out of chaos, and it’s a strategy that HR professionals can use to keep productivity high,” said Keswin.
Setting yourself up for success when working remotely is important — but as an HR professional, it’s just as important to set your team up for success.
“Your success in a remote HR job is not just about your own ability to work remotely; it’s about enabling success for your remote workforce,” said Bjelland. “That means providing resources to your employees and leaders to learn how to be successful at working and managing remotely.”
Determine what your team needs to thrive in a remote work environment — and then figure out how HR can provide that. For example, you might run an employee survey and find out your team is struggling to stay organized without the structure of an in-person office. In that situation, you might invest in productivity and project management tools to help them keep their work organized and stay on task. Or maybe you find out that your team is getting frustrated because your video conference software is buggy and hard to navigate. In that case, you might invest in a video conference software that allows for better collaboration (and fewer tech issues).
Whatever it is, in order to succeed in a remote HR job you need to ensure that your team has what they need to succeed, too. So if you want to excel, make your team’s success a priority.
If your entire team is working remotely — and scattered across the country (or the world) — a crucial part of your role is making sure that you understand and are compliant with any and all location-specific HR laws that apply to your employees.
“When the talent pool expands to multiple states — or even countries — HR professionals who focus on compliance have to become familiar with the applicable laws and regulations of each of those locations,” said Bjelland. “Remote HR professionals must be able to enable the development of organizational policies to mitigate risk by accessing relevant resources regarding all aspects of local, state/provincial, national, and international laws and policies regarding the hiring, management, and development of people working remotely.”
If you’re new to remote HR, or if you have any questions about compliance issues, it’s best to escalate the issue and get the guidance you need to ensure your HR policies, processes, and procedures are fully compliant with any applicable laws.
“Leverage access to internal and external expertise; check with your legal team if you have one, and consider looking to external consultants who have experience in remote HR issues,” advised Bjelland.
Fostering a connected company culture is always important — but it’s especially important in remote work cultures, where feeling connected with your team can be a challenge.
“Left to our own devices we aren’t connecting,” said Keswin. “Develop protocols to help.”
How you foster a sense of connection with your team is up to you: You might institute a weekly “virtual happy hour,” schedule more all-hands meetings to get your entire company together, or encourage leadership to schedule daily one-on-one meetings with their employees. But when you’re working remotely, you have the opportunity to find fun, new, and innovative ways to create a sense of connection within your organization, and watch your team thrive as a result.
“HR has a real opportunity to design creative ways to curate connection with employees and help managers do the same for their teams,” Keswin said.
Remote work is constantly changing and evolving. So while all of these tips can help you thrive in a remote HR role, arguably the most important strategy for success is staying flexible and adaptable and maintaining a learning mindset.
“Successful remote HR professionals are able to handle the constantly changing demands of a remote workforce by having a learning mindset — approaching new or changing situations with curiosity, creativity, and adaptability,” said Bjelland.
And when you combine that mindset with the rest of these strategies, you're well on your way to excelling in your remote HR role.