How to manage day-to-day HR operations during extended remote working

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Australia has managed to challenge every aspect of business operations in an extremely short period of time. Many business owners and managers are scrambling to comprehend what the next few months will hold and how they will get their business through the other side. 

Each business unit will have its own set of unique challenges and internal HR/recruitment is no different.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Alerts from the Australian Government – Department of Health

For the past 12 months, Employment Innovations have been operating with regular remote working practices, so we anticipate that adopting this way of working long term may bring up new challenges, but certainly nothing we aren’t equipped to handle. We are probably the exception to the rule though, to which we are very thankful.

But what do you do if your business needs to have staff working on-site? 

Technology can help transform some on-site activities so that employees can work from home and continue business as usual (BAU). Even recruitment and onboarding can be successfully managed outside the office and/or remotely. 

Unfortunately, though, many small businesses, particularly in the hospitality and retail sector aren’t online and deliver services to the public in person.

Below are some useful tips to help your business manage day-to-day activities during these uncertain times and deliver essential HR activities successfully, including remote working for extended periods.


Technology can help

If your business has a reception or call centre environment, you can still manage calls remotely with the help of technology.

We use Bria Mobile/Softphone App to redirect calls across mobile devices and teams so that anyone can accept and transfer to anyone in the business via their own mobile phone. It’s cheap at $12.99/year, which is always attractive for small businesses.

Whether we are working in and out of the office, we use video conferencing technology to keep everyone engaged and connected. Every meeting and training session we schedule has a video call link so no one misses out. Our go-to apps are Google Hangouts, Zoom and Slack video.


If no-one could work onsite for 2-4 weeks, how would your business operate?

2 months ago, many of us would have brushed the thought off, but with confirmed COVID-19 cases increasing daily, what was once inconceivable, is now becoming a reality.

How could this work for your business? Here are some basic questions to consider:

  1. Can your staff access company systems and software outside your office?
  2. Do they have company supplied equipment to use at home or can they use their own personal laptop/computers? Do you need to purchase laptops?
  3. Are you using Cloud software?
  4. If everyone had to start working remotely tomorrow, are you already set up for this?
  5. Do your staff take their laptops, charger, keyboard and mouse home every day just in case they cannot come back to the office for a while?
  6. Do your staff have access to high-speed internet and safe and appropriate workspace?
  7. Can your staff stay connected and engaged with each other throughout the day if they were working from home?
  8. Can you facilitate all training to staff via video and screen sharing technologies?
  9. Do all staff have access to the systems they need outside the office?
  10. Do you have an equipment register so you know who has what equipment?
  11. If certain staff members need to answer incoming calls, can they do this via their mobiles or redirect calls?
  12. Do you have any staff who cannot perform their job remotely? Consider if their activities can be adapted or could they be trained to perform other activities in the interim?
  13. Have you communicated to your staff what will happen if they cannot work onsite?


If you have answered ‘no’ to most of the above questions, you need to seriously consider making arrangements for remote working, if you can. It’s becoming an unexpected reality for businesses today. 

Imagine how it could be in 4 weeks’ time. No one knows of course, but it’s best you’re prepared for ‘just in case’.


Create a plan

Once you have considered all of the above questions, get what you need in place and develop your remote working action plan. Test it out, see where the gaps are so that if (and when) you need to put it in place, you know it works operationally. 

It’s vitally important that you clearly communicate the plan to all staff members (in-person, via email and other internal channels) and let them how they will stay up-to-date with important changes to business operations that will affect them and their colleagues.


Download COVID-19 Action Plan template  


Keep the team healthy

Putting coronavirus aside for a moment, you should encourage anyone working onsite who is generally unwell, to work from home. Ensure that good hygiene practices at work are implemented; such as regular (and thorough) hand washing, the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser, and wiping down of work surfaces, common areas and office equipment with disinfectant.

Personal Hygiene Poster - Employment Innovations

Staff who have travelled must follow Government directives and isolate themselves for 14 days. If they experience fever and flu-like symptoms, they seek should seek medical advice and be tested for COVID-19. As should anyone who has had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice for the public – World Health Organisation


Onboarding new staff remotely

This can be a challenge if remote working begins unexpectedly, but it can work successfully. Make sure you can order new equipment or get access to spare equipment so that the new starter can work remotely. Ask if they have access to reliable and fast internet too.

With video and screen sharing technology and onboarding platforms like Enboarder & Employment Hero, being in front of a new starter face-2-face isn’t necessary to get them up to speed quickly. 

New employees just want to feel welcomed, that you are taking their onboarding seriously and the training will be thorough and useful. If you can deliver this in person – great. If not, you can do it just as effectively using technology.

One thing we found challenging the first time we onboarded new staff out of the office was ensuring all logins and systems were set up correctly. When you’re in the office, you may have the luxury of an IT team or Office Manager with a storeroom full of office equipment as back up and troubleshooting capabilities when an issue arises. 

When you manage this remotely, you may be the one to sort all the teething problems out. My advice is to test all the logins and equipment before the onboarding day to ensure you avoid any last-minute hiccups.


What happens if an employee needs to self-isolate?

If an employee feels unwell, whether they’re showing symptoms or not, they should take relevant actions of social distancing, consider self-isolation & seek medical advice. Should an employee tests positive or been in close contact with a person(s) who has tested positive, they should follow the advice given by medical professionals and directions from health authorities.

If during a period of self-isolation, an employee is unable to work remotely, you may wish to review the following reference guide regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) – An employees’ right to leave and pay in general terms. However, each individual case may vary based on the conditions of their employment contract, along with the enterprise agreement or the modern award which covers their role.

If you require specific advice, contact one of our experts today.


About Employment Innovations

Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium-sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management & HR software

Have a question? Contact one of our HR, Payroll, Migration or Employment Law experts today.


Other articles that might interest you

Flexible Working – How to strike the right balance for small business

Employment Hero | COVID-19 employer response pack

HubSpot | 5 Remote Work Myths to Leave Behind in 2020


The Coronavirus Pandemic will continue to change over the coming weeks and we recommend following the advice of State & Federal health authorities. This article was originally published on 11 March 2020 and last updated on 17 March 2020.