Five ways to manage employee complaints in remote work

Why HR leaders need to review their policies in our new digitized world of working

Five ways to manage employee complaints in remote work

As employees return to the workplace and frantically rack their brains for new and unique ways to negotiate flexi-working arrangements with their HR departments, one HR consultant is warning of the internal trust HR teams are losing from remote work. Is the lack of face-to-face contact dissuading your employees from raising concerns in the workplace?

Maureen Kyne is an HR consultant who works with C-suite and senior leadership teams across manufacturing, healthcare and local government.

“If HR departments have lost the trust and accessibility they had pre-pandemic, HR must now re-think how it deals with complaints when the entire workforce is remote,” Kyne told HRD.

Whether or not current policies translated to the new hybrid environment wasn’t top of mind for every policy when COVID forced business to go remote virtually overnight. As we transition out of the pandemic, leaders need to review their policies to see which ones need tweaking to support the new way of working.

“Companies and HR departments haven’t changed to reflect the new normal,” said Kyne. “Making a complaint is a huge step for any employee, and it becomes harder without the safe space of a physical office. Without face-to-face connection, there’s an extra layer of complexity when employees want to make a complaint, share a grievance or discuss a difficult work situation”. 

While Zoom can feel impersonal, Kyne said employees are also very aware that they’re voicing their concerns in a medium that can be recorded or captured. 

“In a remote world HR leaders must work harder to be visible and accessible to employees, so they feel heard and have a comparable experience to what they would in the office.”

Below are Kynes top steps HR leaders can implement to manage the remote complaints process

1. Ensure employment agreements are updated to reflect work-from-home arrangements

Work from home employment agreements will reduce employee grievances. The best way to manage employee complaints is to minimise them.  Employees need formalised remote or work-from-home employment agreements that clearly outlines behaviour, performance and productivity expectations in the remote environment.

2. Ensure remote complaints are responded to immediately

Regardless of how minor the issue may appear; HR should show remote complaints the same respect they would when in their office. By delaying a response or starting an investigation, companies leave themselves open to workplace claims and the risk of litigation.

3. Strengthen your remote complaint process

Make sure staff are familiar with the internal complaint process and are encouraged to seek counsel regardless of how minor they may perceive their concern.  Remote misconduct is no less serious than inappropriate office behaviour so set up a specific procedure relevant for employees working remotely to reach out to HR in the confidence the matter will be dealt with fairly, confidentially and quickly.

4. Virtual Team Building Days

In an office setting, you can look around and see what co-workers are doing but when colleagues are working remotely, productivity and engagement can be questioned. Team building days can build rapport and rapport with your team will build a better connection and cohesiveness.

5. ‘Open door’ policy remains relevant in a remote workplace

An open-door policy in the era of remote work doesn't change the benefits that were present in the physical workplace. Remote work can lead to problems with cyberbullying and misconduct brought on by the less formal work environment. HR can request to be present during team meetings to gauge online behaviour and ensure interactions, language and tone is respectful and meets the standards expected of the company.

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