Previously, getting fired was a tricky but straightforward affair: the worker is called into a room, given the reasons for the dismissal, explained the terms of their dismissal, and has their credentials summarily revoked.
Yes, but: The work-from-home revolution — with its heavy reliance on messaging, virtual meetings and other impersonal methods of communication — could be a game-changer for layoffs.
why is it important: Some employers are using the phenomenon of remote work to find the easy way out when it comes to layoffs. In a world where knowledge workers don’t come into the office as often as they used to, workplaces may need new etiquette rules to handle layoffs.
- “With distributed teams and hybrid workplaces, virtual layoffs are likely to become more common,” Jill Hauwiller, founder and principal consultant at Leadership Refinery, told UKTN.
- “Using emotional intelligence is key to helping employees navigate change, especially unexpected or unwelcome transitions,” she added.
Drive the news: Recent virtual shootings at places like Carvana and Coinbase have been characterized by their abruptness and insensitivity. It has raised questions about the proper way to give workers their marching papers, especially as the economy slows and layoffs increase in key sectors.
Zoom out: Telecommuting has the upper hand, but HR practitioners tell UKTN that hiding behind a screen — or for that matter, the ability to remotely block a worker’s computing privileges at will — is no reason to abandon professionalism and fairness.
- Virtual layoffs should be conducted like their personal counterparts, these experts say. Employers must have sufficient documentation, follow legal and industry guidelines, and arrange for the return of any company-owned property.
What they sayAccording to Pavel Podkorytov, founder of San Francisco-based HR platform TalentService, the telecommuting boom is forcing management to review and rethink dismissal policies.
- “No fire announcements should be made by email or messaging, and certainly not in group calls,” he says, adding that the reasoning should be factual and not emotional.
- “HR also needs to find the most appropriate time slot and make sure the employee and their manager turn on the cameras during the conversation,” Podkorytov added.
Our thought bubble: Sudden virtual layoffs amplify one of the biggest complaints about remote work: how isolating and impersonal it can be. Some discussions, while uncomfortable, are best conducted in person.
- As the economy becomes increasingly uncertain, employers have a responsibility to show empathy and compassion, especially when making a difficult decision like terminating someone’s employment.