HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

The Remote HR Department in 2021: Best Practices to Manage Employees from a Distance

Even before the recent pandemic upended everything about the way we work, HR departments already had a difficult job.

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Not only are HR departments charged with developing and implementing pandemic safety protocols, onerous budget and personnel reductions, and the rapid transition to remote work, but they must also support a workforce that’s stressed out, less productive, and off-site.

This problem predates the pandemic, but it’s taking on renewed importance as companies fight to thrive in an increasingly digital environment. According to a 2019 survey, more than half of HR personnel reported challenges with identifying, acquiring, and retaining talent ready with the skills and temperament to succeed in an increasingly digital work space.

Moving forward, it’s clear that HR personnel will exert considerable effort to equip, oversee, and empower a hybrid workforce composed of on-site and remote workers. HR technology, including employee monitoring software, helps facilitate these efforts, and leveraging these investments is a critical component of highly effective HR departments.

Here are three ways HR technology can support these efforts in the months and years ahead. 

1. Employee Well-Being

The past year was a harrowing experience for many people. Employees managed new childcare and family responsibilities, navigated pandemic restrictions, and weathered an uncertain economic outlook, all while performing high-output jobs with excellence.

For many, this meant working more hours than ever before. In the United States, the average employee expanded his or her workday by 3 hours, obliterating any remaining distinction between personal and professional life. Taken together, it’s unsurprising that employees consistently convey high levels of exhaustion and burnout—something that is bad for people and awful for organizations.

To support employee well-being, HR personnel can lean into their monitoring initiatives to glean new insights into the frequency and scope of employee work habits. Because many are working too much too often, these data can help HR departments assess the efficacy of assigned tasks while prioritizing employee well-being as a foundational element of a successful company.

This doesn’t mean lowering standards or reducing output. Instead, making data-driven decisions maximizes the opportunity to support healthy teams and thriving companies.

2. Meaningful Productivity

HR managers rightfully want to know that their employees are productive during the workday. However, while general work-related activity has increased since the start of the pandemic, actual outcomes are declining.

Consequently, HR personnel should reconsider their productivity metrics to accommodate new organizational priorities and shifting employee norms. More specifically, implementing an outcomes-based approach to productivity keeps companies competitive at every level. What’s more, assigning, monitoring, and assessing specific objectives helps employees prioritize tasks that matter most while deprioritizing less urgent responsibilities.

HR departments are responsible for fostering and evaluating employee productivity, but they also choose the metrics that measure those values.

3. Compliance and Security

Keeping up with continually evolving compliance standards continues to challenge HR departments, especially at small and midsize companies, where just a few employees are tasked with this enormous obligation.

However, a 2019 study of HR technology adoption found that compliance initiatives were one of the most stressful but least automated responsibilities for most HR departments. This represents an opportunity for many companies to update their approaches, harnessing the technological developments made necessary by the recent pandemic to address long-term workflow inefficiencies.

For instance, HR departments can leverage existing technologies to comply with data privacy standards, cybersecurity imperatives, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines, and more. Automating compliance requirements saves time, energy, and money, allowing departments to focus on other priorities.


Before the recent pandemic, a digital-first ethos defined the future of work. Now, it’s the new normal, and HR departments carry a significant burden during the rapid and near-total transition. In a real way, companies that adapt to meet this moment will be prepared to thrive for years to come, while those that remain stagnant will inevitably fall behind.

The right technology won’t make these challenges any easier, but it can make HR departments more effective, and that’s one standard that won’t be changing anytime soon.

Isaac Kohen is VP of research and development at Teramind, a global provider of employee monitoring, data loss prevention, and workplace productivity solutions. Follow the company on Twitter: @teramindco.