Hiring and managing a remote workforce can create an opportunity to optimize your workforce in ways a traditional office environment doesn’t offer. It allows you to find the right people for your needs no matter where they’re located. You can recruit the best candidates for the job, rather than the best candidates locally.
The best way to get started is to develop a strategy for finding and overseeing remote workers. We’ll start with some pros and cons to consider, followed by some tips on the hiring process and managing of remote workers.
Advantages of a remote workforce
Costs. You will likely see cost savings in benefits and tax expenses through hiring independent contractors or hiring remote workers from cities with lower costs of living. You can lower your overhead, as well – fewer physical locations means savings on real estate, housekeeping costs, utilities, and more.
Employee productivity. Flexible work options brings employees who feel challenged by their assignments, which results in greater productivity. Moreover, when you gain access to employees who want to work from home rather than on-site, you find specialized skills and experience that wouldn’t otherwise make it to a hiring manager’s attention.
Fewer time restrictions. Remote workers accrue no travel time and generally no business travel expenses. Plus, managed correctly, remote workers in different time zones can maximize production, because work can be completed at all hours of the day. Add to that, you can connect teams of expert workers who can teleconference across geographical borders.
Training time and turnover. If you work mainly with short-term remote workers on a per-project basis, you’ll likely experience higher turnover and training costs than you would by hiring a full-time employee. Remote employees may not feel the same degree of buy-in as traditional employees.
Hardware and internet. In a virtual workplace, employers must strive to minimize issues that low-end computers and outdated equipment can create. And if a server is down or electricity out, workers can be offline for indefinite periods of time. There may also be security concerns when an employee works remotely. Communicating and saving data in cyberspace can make your information more susceptible to hackers and data leaks.
The hiring process
First, define what you want from a remote worker, outlining your expectations. As you interview candidates, your specific needs will determine the questions you ask, but try to understand why they’ve chosen to work remotely and how they work. Offer behavioral questions to determine skill levels and ask about their organizational skills and self-direction. An experienced remote worker knows how to work effectively and on schedule.
When people work remotely, the managerial focus shifts from time spent on-site to what gets accomplished daily. During the hiring process, center on their skills and their approach to following instructions, how they ask for clarification when needed, and how they perform in a remote environment. Focusing on goals and outcomes is key to remote worker success.
Managing remote workers
Remote workers need to clearly know:
- The number of hours per week they are expected to work
- How much work they are expected to complete each week
- Their necessary level of availability
- What they are to accomplish in the coming week
- Overall goals for the next month to three months
- The tasks or projects they are responsible for, and who to report to with questions
The first in-depth discussion about employee responsibilities would preferably occur during onboarding. The conversation continues throughout the employee’s work term.
The bigger picture
Remote work allows you to empower employees to work when and where they are the most productive, rather than requiring them to work set hours at a set location. In the remote environment, however, people can sometimes feel disconnected, unaware of how their work is contributing to the company’s objectives. Address this head-on by telling them how their tasks and projects link to the progress of the business.
Finally, this data sheds light on how remote workers feel about the opportunity for flexible work options:
- 79% of respondents said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.
- 73% think remote work is conducive to having strong work relationships.
- 97% of respondents are interested in being a flexible worker in the long-term. Offering flexible work options can help attract well-educated professionals with solid experience who come from diverse backgrounds.
The potential rewards of adding remote workers to your team are plentiful and mutually beneficial to employer and employee alike.