Tips For Conducting a Remote Layoff

In difficult economic times, employers may need to make the hard decision to lay off employees to ensure the viability of their business. To complicate matters, even more, the increasing number of remote employees can make layoff logistics difficult to navigate.

There are many schools of thought on the best or most compassionate way to deliver a layoff message to an employee. Often, a face-to-face discussion is considered the best way, but does it make sense for remote employees? Financial considerations, timeliness, safety, or social distancing requirements are key factors for employers to consider when making their decision.

If an in-person layoff isn’t feasible for the reasons described above, here are some tips to effectively and empathetically lay off a remote employee:

  • Use video conferencing software. This allows for a “face-to-face” conversation with the impacted employee. Both Human Resources and the manager can be connected so that the employee feels supported and can get all of their questions answered without the need for multiple conversations. If video conferencing isn’t available, use the phone instead of relying on email or text to inform employees of the impact on their position.
  • Deliver your key messages the same way you would in person. Be sure to pause throughout the conversation to allow the employee to ask clarifying questions. EANE has resources both on our website and through our hotline to help you navigate this difficult discussion.
  • Be prepared to discuss the logistics and expectations around returning company property. It is important to ensure a safe return of critical assets – this includes both equipment and project files. But, don’t put the burden entirely on the employee. Send them a pre-paid package that is scheduled to arrive shortly after the layoff conversation. Include a list of what needs to be sent back along with a clear timeframe to help with a smooth transition. If applicable, discuss the consequences of not returning company property.
  • For multi-state or global employers, don’t forget to consider time zones before setting up a virtual meeting. Be considerate of the time of day and day of the week when scheduling a meeting.
  • After delivering your key messages, don’t forget to follow-up. Send any documents via same-day or next-day delivery and require a signature and delivery confirmation.
  • Have IT ready to shutdown remote access immediately following the employee conversation since equipment cannot be physically collected. Explain the IT process to the employee during the layoff conversation so they are not caught off guard. Discuss any information an employee may need to access on their computer or phone and make arrangements, if appropriate.

Even though remote layoffs can be tricky to navigate, employers who have carefully considered these options can minimize risk while treating their employees with respect.