The Importance of Human Resources in a Virtual Office
There’s no question that the world of work has changed. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the trend toward remote work was growing apace. With the advent of the pandemic, though, that already entrenched movement exploded in popularity, as offices and workers turned to the digital office to keep their companies and careers afloat.
But even as physical offices begin to reopen, a large proportion of the workforce has expressed reluctance or a downright refusal to return to the physical office. And what that means is that now, more than ever, the future of work appears to be virtual.
Nevertheless, even as the office space and the workday changes in this new era of telecommuting, one thing hasn’t changed: The need for human resources (HR_ professionals to help keep the company humming. But what, exactly, is the role of HR in today’s virtual office?
Fundamentally, HR is a people-focused endeavor. And unless and until all work is done by machines, that means that there will always be a need for HR professionals, even in remote work environments.
Cultivating strong, productive relationships between employees and their company, colleagues, and leadership encapsulates the primary mission of HR. And what that boils down to, essentially, is the issue of employee engagement.
Unfortunately, though, engagement can be a particularly thorny issue in the virtual office. After all, when employees work from home, it’s very easy for them to feel disconnected and isolated.
This is where the human resources professional can shine, A principal function of HR is to support enterprise success by leveraging the power of its people. And that means supporting employee engagement as a means to foster collaboration and team cohesiveness, even when staff are working from home.
Fortunately, there are several ways that HR pros can do this, one of the most beneficial of which, perhaps, is the use of virtual office meeting spaces. These platforms enable employees to come together in real-time. Similarly, for employees who want or need in-person interactions with their colleagues, coworking locations may be rented at affordable rates in cities worldwide.
HR specialists can schedule daily or weekly meetings in the virtual office space, establish secure meeting rooms, send invitations and links to remote workers, and ensure that employees have the training and the technology they need to access and participate in these virtual meetings.
Indeed, though the job functions of the HR specialist are wide and varied, it’s perhaps in the arena of facilitating employee engagement that they contribute most directly to the success of organizations and employees alike in the virtual office space. And this means that, as telecommuting increasingly becomes the norm, the need for human resources professionals, particularly those specializing in digital environments, will only grow.
Supporting Organizational Goals
As important as H is in driving employee engagement in the virtual office, another critical function is in supporting key organizational goals as they are shared by and implemented through the distributed workforce.
One of the most significant challenges that remote workers face is the capacity to align their work processes with the processes and, ultimately, the goals of the team and the company. After all, when you don’t have constant face-to-face interactions with your colleagues and superiors in the course of a workday, your processes and goals may take priority.
Even more concerning, employees may assume that they are, indeed, operating in alignment with the standards, strategies, and performance metrics of the organization, only to discover that they have missed the mark. HR leaders can help ensure that remote workers are operating in concert at all times by being proactive and strategic in their personnel management tactics.
A particularly promising framework for doing this is the objectives and key results (OKR) approach. In this approach, leadership ensures that business goals are always defined and discussed in reference to specific outcomes that will demonstrate the achievement of those goals. This method is particularly important for the virtual office space because each remote worker will not only have a definitive target in mind, but they will also have clear, specific metrics that all employees share, metrics that will enable team members to objectively assess success (or failure).
When HR leaders provide this kind of clarity of vision and results for their remote teams, they’re not only cultivating a strong, data-driven business process, but they’re also helping to overcome some of the most debilitating challenges that remote workers can face: anxiety.
Studies show, for example, that employees who work from home experience significant worry over performance issues. Many suffer from imposter syndrome and the fear of missing out. But when remote workers have clear metrics, unambiguous goals, a well-defined work process, and the support of HR leaders, then they are less likely to suffer from such anxiety. And this, in turn, leads to greater productivity, improved mental health, and a decreased risk of burnout.
Human resources may seem to be superfluous in the virtual office environment, but the reality is that their role is as important as in the physical office, if not more so. HR in the virtual office contributes to the success of the remote workforce by cultivating employee engagement, supporting goal-setting, and facilitating individual and team performance.