Overcome Challenges With Remote Employees Returning Equipment
August 25, 2023
With the pandemic leading to an increase in remote work and the number of remote workers, more companies have had to adapt their policies and procedures for offboarding to cope with the challenges associated with remote equipment management. One critical step in the offboarding process is the return of company equipment, including laptops, cell phones, keyboards, headsets, and other office equipment. Having a standardized system in place for collecting employee equipment ensures that valuable company property is reused and confidential data is protected. This article will outline the steps and guidelines you can use when implementing an equipment return policy for a terminated employee or one who is leaving voluntarily.
A clear company policy should be communicated during onboarding and before issuing any company-owned equipment to employees working offsite. New hires, both part-time and full-time, should sign equipment agreement notifications that include a list of all equipment provided to them, its pricing, and the expectations for return of company property. An important caveat: Don’t threaten to withhold the final paycheck until the equipment is returned—many state laws forbid denying an employee’s last paycheck for any reason.
Types of Equipment Remote Employees May Need to Return
Remote employees may need to return various types of equipment, including electronic equipment and home office furniture. The company's policy should outline the different types of equipment issued to employees and the guidelines for returning each type.
The most common type of equipment most employees will need to return is electronic equipment. This includes items such as:
• Computers and laptops
• Keyboards and mice
• Headsets and microphones
• Printers and scanners
• Mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones
• Networking equipment, such as routers or access points
• External storage devices
Guidelines for Returning Electronic Equipment
You don’t want to get a jumbled mass of devices and cords to sort through, so include clear guidelines for returning electronic equipment in good working condition. These guidelines should include:
• A deadline for the return
• An itemized list of equipment, including accessories
• Instructions for how to pack the equipment
• Prelabeled packing materials, as well as directions for shipping or pickup
Data Backup Procedures
To maintain good data hygiene, make sure your employees back up their personal data and remove any personal software and information they may have installed on the equipment. You may need to provide IT support to walk employees through this process.
Cleaning and Sanitizing Protocols
Encourage your employees to clean their equipment thoroughly before returning it by:
• Wiping down surfaces with a slightly damp cloth
• Using compressed air to remove dust and debris from keyboards and other crevices
• Sanitizing high-touch areas such as keyboards, mice, and touchscreens with a disinfectant wipe
Once the equipment has been returned, have someone inspect the equipment before it’s put away or redistributed.
Don’t overlook other equipment employees may need to return upon leaving. This can include items such as:
• Office furniture, such as ergonomic chairs or standing desks
• Office supplies, such as staplers, hole punches, or paper shredders.
• Security devices, such as security tokens, keycards, or other physical security devices
Guidelines for Returning Other Equipment
As with electronic equipment, you should provide your employees with an itemized list of the equipment they need to return. Also outline the process for returning it, whether they’ll be shipping it back to you, returning it in person, or preparing it for someone to pick it up. Provide boxes and labels as needed.
Cleaning and Sanitizing Protocols
Ask departing employees to clean and sanitize their equipment as much as they can. Hard surfaces can be wiped down with disinfecting spray. However, you may need to hire professionals to clean the upholstery. Have someone inspect returned equipment and arrange for any additional cleaning, if necessary, before it’s stored or reassigned.
The Process for Returning Equipment
Incorporating an equipment return policy into the offboarding process ensures that critical steps are not overlooked. The process should include checklists for returning equipment, equipment tracking, and verification that the equipment is returned.
Effective communication with the departing employee is critical. The IT department should also be notified of the impending return of equipment so they can prepare to receive, inspect, and redistribute or store the items.
A checklist or template can be provided to everyone involved in the equipment return process, including the departing employee, the IT department, and the HR team. The checklist for returning equipment should include everything that needs to be returned and the procedure to follow, including steps for packing, labeling, and shipping equipment.
Implementing an inventory tracking system that monitors shipping labels, serial numbers, asset tags, or barcodes will help you ensure equipment is not overlooked during the transition.
Verification of Returned Equipment
A point person or team should be designated to verify that all equipment has been returned and is in good condition. The equipment should be inspected for any missing or damaged components, and the employee should be contacted if necessary.
Challenges and Solutions
Implementing an equipment return policy for remote employees can present various challenges, some of which are discussed below.
Remote employees may have access to confidential data and other proprietary information that could pose a security concern when they leave. Procedures should be in place to protect data, such as backing it up or securely deleting it. It's also essential to comply with applicable regulations and laws relating to data protection, such as HIPAA or the GDPR.
Logistics and Costs
You can streamline the return process by providing clear instructions on how to pack and ship the equipment. Provide a return label for FedEx or another shipping company, a stipend to pay for shipping, or arrange for someone to pick up the equipment. You can also arrange for a local drop-off point to make it more convenient for the employee.
In some cases, alternative solutions for equipment return may be more economical, such as allowing the employee to purchase the equipment at a discounted rate. If the equipment is not returned, consider having your IT team wipe electronics remotely to protect sensitive data and comply with industry regulations.
Next Steps to Ensure Equipment Return
Managing the return of company equipment during the offboarding process for remote employees is critical for protecting company property and confidential data. A clear return policy and agreement can eliminate misunderstandings and ensure they understand how and when to return company-owned equipment. By using clear communication and a straightforward return process, you can help ensure that all equipment is returned before an employee's final paycheck is issued and their time with the company is complete.
Implementing a standardized process will save money, prevent security risks, and ensure you comply with all federal and state laws. By incorporating these steps and guidelines into the offboarding process, companies can ensure a smooth transition for both the departing employee and the company.
With a distributed workforce where workers are scattered across the world, this can become very complex and time-consuming for your IT team to handle—especially when dealing with a reduction in force (RIF) that requires this process to be scalable. The Firstbase laptop retrieval process ensures a 90%+ retrieval rate while the affected employees can move on without hassle. Interested in learning more? Take a product tour today.