The REAL Remote Work Blog

What the Rise of Remote Work Means for HR Teams

The Value of HR For Remote Teams

The coronavirus pandemic has been called “the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment.” But remote work is far from new, and companies have been exploring its benefits since at least the 1970s. That’s when Jack Nilles, who was working remotely on a NASA communication system, entered the word “telecommuting” into the world’s lexicon. Soon after, amid the nation’s gasoline crisis, the Committee for Economic Development’s Chief Economist wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post titled “Working From Home Can Save Gasoline.” 

Over the last few decades, remote work has only picked up steam. Fortune 100s like IBM have invested big in telecommuting—and saved $100 million annually in doing so. Meanwhile, remote work technologies have advanced rapidly, enabling higher levels of connectivity, security and collaboration for teams not working out of the same office. Today, as the world continues to work from home due to COVID-19, telecommuting adoption has been accelerated across nearly all industries.

Remote work impacts every core business function. But arguably no role is more critical to making remote “work” than human resources. The rise of remote teams has ushered in a new era for HR, both in terms of how the job gets done and what that job requires to meet engagement and retention goals. As organizations adapt to remote work, HR is taking the spotlight—and leading the charge.

HR priorities in the remote work era

There’s no “one size fits all” approach to remote teams. Some businesses, most notably tech giants Facebook and Twitter, have made a permanent shift to work-from-home models. Others expect to take a hybrid approach. In one PriceWaterHouseCooper survey, 55% of executives expect to offer employees at least one day per week of remote work moving forward. Meanwhile, many businesses are embracing remote resources to lower costs, enhance efficiency and continue meeting skills requirements. This comes at a time when 49% of HR teams have implemented organization-wide hiring freezes.

What does this dynamic environment mean for HR teams? A chance to showcase their ability to optimize costs, enhance efficiency and guide workforces through uncertainty.

Cost optimization

With most companies already in hiring freezes, HR teams must identify new ways to optimize costs. A key target for many? Enhancing efficiency and productivity. In a 500-person company, a 5% increase in employee productivity through remote work would save $3,000 per employee. A 15% productivity bump would save as much as $8,000 per employee, or $4 million annually. Whether your company is large or small, enhanced productivity quickly adds up to overall cost savings. 

How should HR teams go about boosting efficiency? Many teams are focused on reprioritizing services and expanding the availability of in-house staff for multiple functions. But technology is another key area that can unlock hidden savings. In one study, 41% of HR professionals say utilizing technology more effectively in the workplace is a top priority, and for good reason. The right technology is critical to helping employees and outside resources work effectively offsite. But technology is also important for HR teams themselves. While many companies use HRIS primarily for data storage, the right system can do so much more: automate daily tasks, establish effective HR workflows and shave off countless hours of administrative time.

(Need help using HRIS to its full potential? Want guidance on the best systems for enhancing your company’s remote work capabilities? Let our HR and IT experts show you the way.)

As companies take a conservative approach to workforce expansion, HR teams are also getting creative about utilizing remote resources. We’ve had many conversations lately with leaders who are eager to close critical skills gaps without adding to their company’s headcount. Our flexible remote work solutions help teams enhance their efficiency and productivity without the financial overhead of a full-time in-house employee. 

Enhanced experience

In a recent survey, 66% of employers said maintaining employee morale is a challenge. Employee communications has always been essential to morale, but in the current dynamic, this seemingly simple HR function has taken center stage. In one study, 80% of newly remote workers said company communications help them feel more confident in their actions. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, employer communications were cited as the most credible source of information. Amid the rise of remote work, Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) and other HR leaders are finding new ways to connect with their in-house employees, contractors, vendors and remote workers. They’re holding virtual calls with their full workforces, connecting with individual team members and implementing other strategies to ensure the entire workforce feels supported.

A motivated, engaged workforce is critical to any organization’s success. Engaged, happy employees are more productive. Total rewards programs have long been a key tool for both recruiting top talent and motivating current employees. With the rise of remote teams, “location” is transforming the rewards matrix. The remote worker experience is also a top priority for most HR teams—an undertaking that requires a combination of the right technology, communications, collaboration and clarity.  Less than 50% of executives plan to set clear rules on remote workforce availability; HR teams that do so not only boost workforce morale but set the foundation for future success.

HR teams go virtual

Across industries, key business functions are shifting to remote models. HR is no exception. Companies with existing HR teams are increasingly making the roles “work from home.” Meanwhile, companies that lack in-house expertise but recognize the importance of HR in adapting to offsite work are embracing remote HR resources. From Virtual CHROs to specialists in HRIS and total rewards, remote HR experts are helping companies of all sizes strengthen their workforces—and their bottom lines.

The Virtual CHRO

In the business landscape of yesterday, HR was considered an administrative function. Today, it’s a critical component of business success. More companies than ever are adding Chief Human Resources Officers (CHRO) to their C-suites, a reflection of HR’s value in not only building a strong corporate culture, but managing the entire employee lifecycle. By enlisting the help of a Virtual CHRO, organizations can gain this invaluable expertise while maintaining flexibility and a focus on their core competencies. With the rise of remote work, a Virtual CHRO is critical to far more than just recruiting and retention. Virtual CHROs are spearheading cost-cutting measures, advising CEOs on remote work adaptation strategies and preserving a sense of connection that fosters productivity.

Along with Virtual CHROs, organizations are also seeking remote partners who can provide expertise in individual aspects of HR. Employee relations and communications, total rewards structure and optimization, and HRIS are a few areas in which companies are using remote resources to enhance value.

Whether you’re downsizing, rightsizing or need an HR strategy that meets the moment, our REAL Partners are here to help. Our HR resources are based in the U.S., bring unmatched experience and are ready to guide organizations to enhanced productivity and a stronger corporate culture. Contact us today to explore what our Virtual CHROs, HRIS experts, employee relations specialists and other remote resources can do for your workforce.