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Telecommuting Advice from HR Pros in the Home Office Trenches

For most businesses, the Human Resources department holds the keys to the telecommuting car. As more and more people work from home at least part time (approximately 30 million Americans, according to Global Workplace Analytics), HR teams are working constantly to manage telecommuting policies and pair remote workers with the tools they need to succeed. And as many HR teams are located in various locations or work from home themselves, we asked PGi HR professionals Kim Pettibone and Julie Johnson how they manage their own remote team and policies for the company as a whole.

Blakely: How do you work as a team from different locations?

Kim: One of the best tips I got from a book, “Knights of the Tele-Round Table,” is not to assume that if you are not hearing anything that everything is okay. I try to make sure I communicate in some form throughout the day, week, etc. My general rule of thumb is if it is taking more than two emails to gain clarity, understand or resolve something, I either schedule a virtual meeting or call the person. Our fantastic web conferencing service iMeet® has really changed things for us all, as well. The old adage that pictures say a thousand words is so true. We keep updated on what is going on in each other’s lives through our iMeet bio pictures. We share a lot of laughs and memories through our pics.

Julie: Our team stays connected by having weekly iMeet and GlobalMeet® online meetings. We also work on projects together (onboarding, interviewing, policy management, etc.) using iMeet and GlobalMeet. They really do make the world smaller, so it seems as though we are just down the hall instead of thousands of miles away.

Blakely: What technology makes telecommuting possible?

Julie: Laptop, tablets, smartphones and, of course, iMeet and GlobalMeet, which allow us to interview candidates face to face virtually. Not only do we use iMeet to meet with candidates one on one, but we also use the technology to conduct group interviews and virtual open houses where candidates can stop by to visit with HR, hiring managers and trainers. We also use VirtualEdge®, our applicant tracking system and PGiLife (internal community) to stay connected.

Kim: I tell people inside and outside the company ALL the time that I don’t know how anyone does business without our tools. Mobility and availability are the key operatives. The funny story about this is that you can count on the following sequence to occur: You are showing as busy/in a meeting, the IM pops up, then an email, then a call to your office phone, which goes to voicemail, then your cell phone rings and NOW the new add is that you get an iMeet or GlobalMeet invite. I have to laugh sometimes, but honestly, someone (from HR) is typically online and can help.

Blakely: How do you keep the human element within HR when you can’t meet face to face?

Julie: We do try to meet in person at least once or twice a year, but when we can’t meet face to face, we use online video conferencing to keep the face to face connection.

Kim: Well, this may be a trick question, but there are no barriers to face-to-face connections now. The principles of being human, regardless of the medium, are the same.

Blakely: Advice for fellow telecommuting HR specialists?

Julie: Create a home office that is away from your home living space, schedule your day, limit distractions where possible, try to maintain a work/life balance and enjoy the flexibility that telecommuting brings.

Kim: Don’t let yourself become too much of a hermit. If you find that you are not talking and meeting with people as much, make sure you build in time to stay connected. I spent a lot of years commuting 50-plus miles every single work day. I find that I now I sometimes don’t want to drive two miles to the grocery store. Strive to keep your personal and professional space separate. It is very convenient to keep working and sometimes you just have to shut the door and walk away. I’m very fortunate that I work in a telecommuting arrangement, as well as being onsite part-time. There are times when I may be in a bit of a funk, and I find connecting with people live reenergizes me, so it is all about the balance.

Blakely: Advice for HR teams who are implementing a telecommuting policy?

Julie: Make sure you have the tools and technology in place to make telecommuting possible, schedule regular meetings to stay connected and make it a priority to keep the human connection with both internal and external customers.

Kim: Like most policies, just think through the things you might take for granted. Most of the time HR pros have a lot of papers around that may be private or confidential. At the office, you have locked filing cabinets, so make sure you duplicate it at your telecommuting office, as well. I keep historical files in my file cabinet at the office. It has always just made sense to me, but building this into the policy may be a good idea. Although we hope we don’t need to withdraw a telecommuting arrangement, like most things, you will want to build in the flexibility to change the arrangement based on business needs.

To learn more about how Kim and Julie utilize video conferencing, web conferencing and audio conferencing technologies to manage talent and build great remote teams, download the free white paper: Online Video Recruiting Helps HR Streamline the Hiring Process.

About Kim Pettibone, PHR: Kim is the Human Resources and Talent Management Director at PGi, where she’s worked for nearly 17 years. With over four years telecommuting for the company, Kim is a leader in utilizing virtual meetings technology, like iMeet and GlobalMeet, to acquire, retain and train new employees right from her home office.

About Julie Johnson: Julie is a sales recruiter at PGi, responsible for bringing in the best talent in audio conferencing and online meetings sales in the world for nearly 16 years. As a telecommuter herself for over 7 years, Julie is pivotal in helping PGi sales teams in over 20 countries connect, perform and exceed sales expectations through virtual sales methodologies and technologies.

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