Remote work is becoming increasingly popular in the business world as a means of cutting down on overhead. It’s also a nice perk for team members who are in search of greater flexibility (and less commuting.)
But many small business owners are still unsure if this working relationship is appropriate for their company culture.
Questions like, “Won’t they be distracted working from home?” or “How can I build rapport if they’re not physically in the office?” are common on this subject.
That’s why today, we wanted to go over a few ways you can better identify if this type of worker will integrate with your business model as well as some best practices for managing those unique relationships.
Lets walk through some of the situations in which remote employees are effective.
Your Office Space is Limited
When you’ve run out of office space for your team to work in, remote workers allow you to expand your operation without having to relocate to a larger facility.
Because they work from home, remote employees also save you the expense of extra office furniture, higher electrical bills, and workplace supplies.
As long as you keep the communication flowing, remote team members can have just as much impact on your business as the ones you have in-house.
You Can't Afford a FTE
Often times, remote workers are on a contractual basis—meaning they don’t get the luxuries of a traditional, full-time job (such as employer-provided healthcare, insurance, and retirement.)
And while this doesn’t always mean contractual workers can be hired on the cheap, it does relieve some of those financial burdens that are associated with taking on another full-time staff member.
If your budget is tight, hiring some affordable remote support might help you meet your business needs.
You Want to Decrease Turnover
Remote workers typically have higher job satisfaction rates than employees who work in a traditional office setting. Thanks to the increased flexibility that working from home provides, these employees feel more loyal to the roles that let them work on their terms.
In fact, one study found that remote workers quit 50% less than those who worked in-office.
When your employees feel more committed to their roles, it means all that time spent training and educating goes toward a more solid investment.
You Want the Best Candidate, Regardless of Where They Live
When you limit your hiring pool to local candidates, you might be missing out on the best possible employee. Enabling remote work allows you to tap into a larger talent pool (and saves you the cost of relocation.)
When working with a remote employee who’s far enough away to be on a different time schedule than your office, the key is to maintain communication and have at least a few hours of overlap each day so you can check in with each other if necessary.
You Want to Maximize Productivity
Remote workers don’t lose hours each workday due to impromptu meetings, chatting with co-workers, and the many other distractions that come up in a traditional office.
When your team member can be at home, in the zone, focusing on completing the work that needs to be done so he or she can go about their other tasks—there’s no procrastinating. Work gets done efficiently without interruption.
Jason Fried, Co-Founder of Basecamp (formerly 37 Signals) is known for being outspoken on the value of remote work. Here’s what he had to say about remote work and productivity in his book Remote: Office Not Required:
“If you can’t let your employees work from home out of fear they’ll slack off without your supervision, you’re a babysitter, not a manager. Remote work is very likely the least of your problems.”
― Jason Fried, Remote: Office Not Required
Best Practices for Hiring Remote Employees
So, let’s say you’re a step closer to adding some remote team members. The next questions are, “How do you keep remote workers on board with what’s happening in the workplace? How can you help them feel connected while they’re away?”
There are a few best practices to follow that can help ensure your whole team (in-office and out-of-office) is all on the same page.
Establish clear objectives and due dates for projects
Make sure there are concise directions for all assignments with hard deadlines. Since you can’t pop into each other’s offices to ask questions, you’ll need to spend more time outlining the details of a project on the phone, in a chat, or via email.
Make time for check-ins
You needn’t micromanage your remote employees, but having a weekly or monthly video chat helps keep the communication doors open and creates an opportunity to ask questions and get each other up to speed.
Include them in company happenings
Just because your remote employee isn’t in the office doesn’t mean they don’t need to know what’s happening there. Be sure to include them on conference calls, employee newsletters, and the occasional in-person meeting (if possible.)
Allow opportunities for growth
While your remote employees work from home, they still need the challenges and opportunities for advancement that are common to traditional employees. Give them chances to shine and increase their value over time.
When Remote Employees Won't Work For You
There are certainly advantages to remote workers, but there are also instances when these types of working relationships just don’t fit with your needs.
You’ll probably want an in-house employee if:
You want someone available to handle multiple office roles (like greeting visitors while at their desk)
The role is multi-faceted and often changes duties
You need someone who can travel on short notice
You need bodies who can help with physical tasks
In these situations, remote work just doesn’t make sense. And that’s okay! Every business has different needs at different times.
Just remember: Remote work is do-able for many different roles. It’s all about keeping the communication flowing.
Your Turn: How about you? Have you ever worked with remote employees (or been one) before? How did it go?