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How to Fire a Remote Worker

The benefits of a work-from-home program are immense and a major draw when recruiting new employees. As with every great concept in this world, though, having a remote workforce comes with its challenges. Managing employees in a different location is hard enough, but what about if you need to fire them? How do you let somebody go when they don’t work in your office?

Generally, the rules stay the same

It’s common sense for any manager or HR representative that when you fire somebody, you must do it with dignity and respect. That means being polite and sticking to the facts. Plan out the situation properly, discuss it with HR, and follow all company processes.

The medium speaks volumes

Standard communication logic applies; tough discussions go better when you can benefit from unspoken communication such as gestures, expressions and tone of voice. Therefore, face-to-face is always the ideal way to terminate an employee. For some workplaces, it is possible to bring the person into the office; however, in others, it’s simply not feasible. If you find yourself in this predicament, your next priority should be a video conference call and, if this is not available, regular telephone, with email being a last resort.

Pay attention to the legal

Just because you’re letting go an employee who isn’t in your office doesn’t mean you can cut corners. In fact, it is more important to cover your bases. First, before terminating by phone or conference call, write out a script and some speaking points, ensuring there are no misunderstandings. Remember, the lack of face-to-face means the exact words you say will have a stronger impact. Next, ask another manager to be in the room with you and let the employee know that they are joining the call. Finally, ensure all documentation is in place, including records of the conversation, and courier/overnight any necessary documentation to the employee.

Your IT team needs to be in the loop

The extent to which you set up remote workers will affect how much you need your IT team. At the minimum, most companies give work-from-home employees access to their network and databases, while others go so far as to providing hardware and equipment. When firing a remote worker, you lose the advantage of escorting that person away from their desk. Instead, a disgruntled ex-employee could cause havoc the second they learn their fate. Your tech team will need to be available to immediately cut-off all access. In addition, be prepared with a process for returning all equipment and property back to the company (ideally, this was laid out when hiring your remote worker).

More communication

What about the rest of your company or the now ex-employee’s team? Do they need to know about the change in roster? Every unique situation will answer that question differently, but be sure to answer the question and notify people appropriately.

Firing an employee is never an easy situation for any manager. The challenge escalates when you can’t follow traditional methods that you may be used to. In summary, the first point we make above is the most important when terminating work-from-home employees: The rules stay the same.

Have you had to let a remote worker go? How did you do it? Were there any learning points you can share with our readers? If so, please leave them in the comments below.