When it comes to layoffs, there is never an easy way to go about it. It is a complicated, time-consuming affair and one of the most dreaded tasks any HR manager has to face. Terminating a remote worker becomes even more complicated, as they cannot be pulled into a conference room and sat down. Moreover, with the rising popularity of flexible work, many managers will find themselves firing a virtual worker at some point.
So how does one fire an employee who does not come to office?
Whether in-office or remote, the procedure is the same for all workers, such as a full evaluation of the circumstances leading to the decision, planning, discussing with HR about the legal formalities and being polite while doing the deed.
However, there are some differences.
In case of firing remote employees, we have to address a larger audience at once about the situation to bring clarity about the situation
Any HR professional will agree that in-person terminations are the best option. However, it is not always feasible or even necessary, in case of remote workers. There is a cost to an employee coming in or a representative flying out to meet that person. Due to such challenges, employers look towards alternate means.
Video conferencing is the next best option. It allows either party to see and understand non-verbal cues, which is most important while discussing such sensitive issues and a major reason why in-person terminations are preferred. If that is not possible, then a phone call is the way out. In case the employer is unable to contact the employee, an e-mail will do the job, however that should be the last resort.
Thorough evaluation before termination
Extra caution is required before deciding to terminate a remote employee. The evaluation process before the termination has to look into details, such as the working conditions of the employee and provision of proper resources by the organisation to deliver on output. “People working remotely, do so due to specific reasons. We need to be extra sympathetic towards them because they may have chosen to work remotely simply due to certain difficult circumstances or issues they may be facing,” advises Bikram K Nayak, head-HR, L&T-NxT.
Check the calendar
It is also important to choose the right day for the firing to be done. There is no dearth of articles claiming that firing employees on a weekday is better, as it allows them to begin job hunting immediately. A weekend termination may lead an employee to ruminate and delay taking any constructive action. On the other hand, when it is an issue of ethical violation or code of conduct, then the termination has to be done immediately, irrespective of the day. Friday is preferred for a planned termination. The logic behind a Friday termination is that, in case there is any reaction from the fired employee, the issue can be sorted out over the weekend itself. Also, it gives the management the time required to duly consider and decide which path to take.
Getting IT ready
In case of an employee working remotely, it is best to have the IT team ready to terminate any access the company has provided to the employee. Most companies give work-from-home employees access to their network and databases, while others may even provide hardware equipment. A tech team needs to be available to cut off all access in case a disgruntled employee decides to take some action.
Communicating for clarity
The remaining employees also need to know about the change in situation. If the remaining employees are also remote workers, it is even more urgent to relay the correct details of the matter as soon as possible.
The best route of approach is a verbal chat over the phone or via video to convey the facts of the situation and provide a strategy for moving forward. Such communication ensures that any unnecessary gossip or misinformation is nipped in the bud and does not spread throughout the company.
People working remotely, do so due to specific reasons. We need to be extra sympathetic towards them because they may have chosen to work remotely simply due to certain difficult circumstances or issues they may be facing
Babu Thomas, CHRO, Shalby, says, “In case of firing remote employees, we have to address a larger audience at once about the situation to bring clarity about the situation. The lack of physical presence makes it all the more important to address each person who was in contact with the terminated employee.”
Remote working is increasingly becoming the new normal. A 2016 survey of around 7,500 Indian respondents, by an HR service provider, claimed that almost 53 per cent preferred telecommuting. The numbers were almost equal for both men and women, mostly above the age of 45 years. Another report by the International Workplace Group (IWG) on flexible working attitudes, claims that almost 58 per cent of office goers in India work remotely, at least once a week.
With the scare around coronavirus spreading, many offices have shut down and asked their employees to work remotely. While this is a precautionary measure at the moment, it is also a preference among the workers of today. In such a scenario, managers who know how to deal with remote employees in every aspect, will fare well in terms of sustaining a thriving workforce.