man working from home office while on conference call

How is remote work changing the world of human resources?

Many workplaces have gone fully remote, changing the way human resources operate within the workforce. Learn how remote work is influencing HR.

According to recent data, remote work has increased 44% in the last five years. And since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have adopted some form of a remote workplace. With this enormous growth, human resource (HR) departments are challenged to manage a spread-out workforce of remote employees, some of whom may span the country.

Increasing trends in remote work have changed the game for HR departments around the globe. Despite these roadblocks, companies must still provide their staff with the same resources, whether working in-office or at home.

What is human resources (HR)?

A human resources department is responsible for managing the employee life cycle within a given company. This includes recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, and firing employees, as well as administering employee benefits.

Conventional roles of an HR departments include:

  • Recruiting candidates: arranging interviews, coordinating hiring efforts, and onboarding new employees.
  • Maintaining employee records: maintaining personal details and emergency contacts for each employee. Company-specific data is also managed by HR, such as employee evaluations.
  • Processing payroll: calculating each employee’s pay and taxes and managing bonuses and other benefits for employees
  • Conducting disciplinary actions: evaluating employee performance and providing guidance on how to improve, carrying out disciplinary action when needed
  • Updating policies: suggesting changes or making official updates to company policies. Policies are usually updated as a reaction to an occurrence (e.g., in-office social distancing guidelines in response to COVID-19).

How remote work has Influenced the role of HR

Remote work has greatly impacted the role human resources plays in the workplace. Today, a number of different things are expected of HR managers in order to support a virtual workplace.

  • Employee Engagement

With the advent of remote work, employee engagement has been a challenge for HR professionals. According to Gallup, high levels of workplace engagement often lead to higher performance—ultimately driving an aligned, thriving, and purpose-driven culture among employees of a company.

In the departure from office-centered work, many employees may feel disconnected from their jobs or company culture as a whole. HR has had to step up to provide virtual engagement tactics and support for remote employees.

This includes the use of co-working platforms and collaboration tools, as well as special employee events and meetings. Unique engagement tactics and perks spearheaded by HR ensures workers feel involved and are on the same page with any company goals.

  • Communication

HR must continuously maintain clear communication with workers as many have still not fully adapted to working from home. When in-person, many offices likely had open-door policies and free-flowing communication.

To maintain this culture in a remote workplace, HR managers have had to get creative. This might mean facilitating conversations or giving employees the tools to transfer this culture and style into the virtual setting.

In a fully online workplace, HR must communicate more than just company updates. They also need to monitor how employees are dealing with their new remote work situation. This ensures HR is doing everything it can to keep the remote workforce satisfied and productive.

  • Digital technologies

In response to COVID-19, human resource departments have had to lead with compassion and focus on employees’ emotional and physical needs. This might mean ensuring employees have all the necessary equipment and tools to work from home effectively.

HR managers might need to aid in creating a seamless digital employee experience that workers can access from anywhere. This new system must also take into account new employee onboarding, training, and general team management. This could mean purchasing new equipment for individual employees (like monitors or laptops). It could also look like investing in new software or management systems to improve remote workflows.

Also, HR departments have had to implement policies to deal with employees who incur additional expenses relating to home working, such as telephone and internet costs.

  • Job performance

HR departments for remote workplaces also need to create suitable benchmarks to measure employee job performance virtually. With remote work, employees’ activities are less directly noticeable by the managers and HR. Hence, successes or failures from employees could be easily overlooked on a day-to-day basis.

Remote workplaces have pushed HR managers to develop new systems of employee performance reviews and recognition.

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