Prior to COVID-19, many homeworkers found that the downside to being out of the office was being ‘invisible’ to their teams and management. Their hard work wasn’t as easily seen and relationships were harder to build, all leading to less recognition and progression opportunities. With a far greater percentage of the UK workforce having to work from home over the past year, many businesses have had to adjust how they perceive/measure output, and how they keep staff engaged with their work – and each other! The challenge for HR is to ensure that no matter what future working arrangements look like, the lessons learnt regarding how to work with a homeworking team aren’t lost.

diverse workers covid-19 reward

Maintain momentum with technological solutions

Technology has been critical in enabling businesses to keep functioning since the start of the pandemic. From video calling to the online management of HR-related processes like onboarding, where face-to-face work wasn’t an option, tech solutions were invariably found. And a lot of the technology was already in use – it’s the scale that changed. HR needs to make sure the giant leaps forward that have been made since March last year aren’t lost as business leaders set the agenda for the ‘new normal’.

Remember what homeworking meetings are like

There’s been a lot of talk about hybrid ways of working going forward. In the past, when teams met face to face and perhaps had one colleague who dialled in from home, invariably that person couldn’t engage with the meeting to quite the same extent as their physically present colleagues. HR would do well to document some tips for the business now, while homeworking is still fresh in everyone’s minds, about the best ways to keep employees who are working from home included in the meeting.

Reminding people to use video calling where appropriate, to give everyone an opportunity to speak by taking turns, and to keep team catch ups in the calendar (so they don’t revert to ‘water cooler’ chats), are just some of the ways managers can keep their homeworking and office-working staff engaged. Businesses know how to make video/phone meetings work now – make sure that knowledge is retained.

Recognise on- and off-site workers

In terms of recognition, HR can work with line managers on ways to keep up with homeworking employees’ achievements. Continuous performance management, organised through HR systems like Cezanne HR, can ensure all employees have dedicated catch ups with their manager, regardless of where they are working from. Formalising these catch ups, alongside recording agreed goals, makes it much easier for managers to spread their time and attention more evenly across their team.

When it comes time for business-wide awards, part of the reward structure at many organisations, HR can lead the way by setting criteria that is inclusive of all staff, regardless of where they are working from. With goals being documented in an HR system, that’s one place that HR could start when looking at who should be recognised with an award. If HR want to reward staff members for company tenure and loyalty, the data to inform such awards can be pulled from a good HR system, too. Even engagement with colleagues and company initiatives can be visible via an HR system’s workspaces and online discussion threads.

Give everyone a chance to learn and progress

Alongside a thought for fair reward for both on- and off-site workers, HR should consider how they can promote equal progression and learning opportunities for all their workers. Thinking about how promotions have been decided when teams haven’t all been together on site, and how training has been rolled out, HR can incorporate elements of these experiences into normal working practices going forward. If only ‘visible’ employees get promoted or learn new skills, businesses might miss out on nurturing valuable staff, and having the best talent in the best roles. HR can use a good HR system like Cezanne HR to stay informed about their employees’ skills and progression potential.

Many people have learnt a lot over the last year about working away from the office and how to maintain teamwork, engagement, and performance levels. Now, while it’s fresh in people’s minds is the time to document what worked well, and to think about what can be retained in the future. Why not get your wider business involved by asking for feedback on how they made homeworking work over the last year – this will help keep people engaged when you ask them to continue with some of these initiatives for the sake of their long-term homeworking colleagues.

Shandel McAuliffe author image

Shandel McAuliffe

Now based in sunny Australia, Shandel is prolific writer and editor - particularly in the world of HR. She's worked for some big names, including the CIPD and the Adecco Group. And more recently, she's been the Editor for new HR publication HR Leader.