HR News/North America

Remote Layoffs: Best Practices for Employees and Employers

Layoffs have been making waves, so those on both sides of the equation should prepare for cutbacks. 

By Zee Johnson 

Remote work has become normalized over the past several years, so much so, that some workers vowed they’d never return to the office. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021 and another report found that 97.6% of remote workers would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.  

Now, recent headlines have shown that offsite workers aren’t exempt from traditional workplace concerns—layoffs being the biggest.   

A recent report found that layoffs are one of the most challenging life experiences, and Shane Spraggs, CEO of Virtira, says that whether done remotely or in person, it’s never easy, but has some differences. “If there is any benefit of being at home, it spares you the “walk of shame” through the office,” he says. “In all cases, the result is the same for the leaver. They read their email, or they turn off Zoom, and they’re unfortunately sitting alone in their home office by themselves. It can be incredibly isolating.” 

He also notes that in today’s climate, companies must be aware that their layoff methods could be widely scrutinized across various mediums. “Regardless of the approach they take, they need to be conscious that in today’s world any email can be forwarded, and any video call can be recorded,” he says. “Companies have to keep in mind that how they lay people off may end up online, or worse, in the news – which can do serious harm to reputation and credibility.” 

For leaders who are tasked with issuing cutbacks, Spraggs gives some best practices to soften the blow. 

  • Keep it humane. Leaders have little control over how someone might react to the news and what damage they might do to company files and property. But what can be controlled is how generous offboarding packages are, and if end-of-day follow-ups and placement services are offered thereafter. 
  • Don’t do it over email. Leaders should take a more empathetic approach, like organizing a one-on-one call with a manager and an HR professional to allow the leaver some personal connection during the process.  

Toni Frana, lead career expert at FlexJobs, says that layoffs are a heavy burden for workers especially, so they should take time to collect themselves before jumping back into the job market. “Immediately after a layoff, it’s important to allow yourself adequate time and space to reflect on your job loss and acknowledge any feelings of frustration, disorientation, or worry,” she says. “Only after managing the emotional impact, can you properly evaluate and plan the next steps to finding a future role, including assessing and revising your budget, updating your resume, pursuing new learning opportunities, tapping into your professional network, launching your career search––and ultimately––a new job,” she says. 

Once assessment is done, Frana says now’s the time to negotiate severance packages which are essential in avoiding financial difficulty and ensuring workers can successfully step into the next chapter of their career. 

She urges workers to enlist three steps. 

  1. Be organized and prepared. Calculate the money offered compared to your needs and the industry standard. Then, try to negotiate in good faith. If both parties come together willing to negotiate, workers will have a better chance of reaching an agreement
  2. Ask for what’s needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for more pay or additional benefits, like extended health coverage. For instance, workers may discover that a company cannot provide more compensation but will cover health insurance premiums. It’s worth asking.
  3. Take time to review. Don’t feel pressured to sign something that’s ambiguous or that you’re uncomfortable with; take the time to review the severance offer carefully. If necessary, seek outside advice.
Tags: layoffs, remote work

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