The idea of allowing employees to work remotely has shifted from a risky proposition, thanks to technology. But when does it really work?
As technology has evolved—especially internet-based technology—the idea of allowing employees to work remotely has transitioned from a risky proposition to one that actually makes sense. There are quite a few benefits from both the employers' and the employees perspective, and plenty of companies have opened their doors as completely remote operations.
That being said, knowing when it is and is not appropriate to allow employees to work remotely is key.
Not every situation is best for virtual employees, but there are some roles and companies that function well virtually. Is it yours? Read on to find out.
Situations Where Remote Employees Make Sense
Know this upfront: it doesn’t always make sense to hire remote employees. If everything is going well, you’re not constrained, and your employees are happy, there’s probably not much benefit in adding remote employees to the equation.
However, if you’re underperforming and lacking resources, they may be capable of coming to the rescue. Here are the specific situations in which remote employees make logical sense:
Limited office space
Sometimes the need to hire remote employees is a logistical problem. Something as simple as a lack of physical office space may require you to hire remotely. This can save you from having to spend time and money on an expensive move – not to mention the added cost of more square footage, higher utility bills, office supplies, furniture, and other items.
According to a research study published in the Harvard Business Review, one company was able to save an estimated $1,900 per employee over a nine-month period.
Desire to decrease turnover
According to that same study, remote workers are approximately 50 percent less likely to quit their job than office-based counterparts. In other words, if your attrition rates are through the roof, allowing employees to work from home may be a way to improve retention and reduce hiring costs.
Poor local hiring pool
For companies in small or rural markets, the local hiring pool is sometimes more shallow than desired. This can make it challenging to compete with competitors who have access to extremely qualified talent pools in major cities. By opening your business up to remote employees, you can essentially tear down geographical borders and increase the quality of applicants.
Presence in additional markets
If your company depends heavily on salespeople going into the field and delivering presentations to close deals, you can benefit from hiring employees in additional markets.
For example, an Atlanta-based company that typically sells in a four-state footprint of Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Alabama could benefit from adding a remote employee in Miami. This would allow them to close the gap between southern Florida and Georgia and increase their footprint.
Too many distractions
How distracted are your office employees? From long rush hour commutes and extended lunch breaks to impromptu meetings and incessant chatting with co-workers, actually working is sometimes an afterthought. By eliminating these distractions, employees can focus on completing tasks – not procrastinating.
Side note: if you’re worried that your employees would slack off while working remotely, you have issues with the employees you’re hiring. You’re not a babysitter.
Tips for Hiring Remote Employees
Still on board? Here are a handful of tips designed to help you weed through your applicant pool and hone in on employees that are right for the job:
Clearly state expectations. Start the hiring process by crafting very descriptive, clear, and thorough expectations. Applicants need to know exactly what they’re applying for, or everyone’s time will be wasted.
Face-to-face matters. You don’t necessarily have to meet a new remote employee before hiring them, but you do need to conduct a face-to-face interview. This allows you to pick up on non-verbal cues, personality, and professionalism.
Hone in on motivation and discipline. One of the biggest keys to hiring good remote employees is to understand their motivation. After all, they’re going to have a lot of freedom and you need to be sure they have the right makeup. By asking good behavioral questions, you can really hone in on motivation and discipline. Some questions to ask include: What goals – career and personal – have you set for your life? In your personal experience, what motivates you to go the extra mile? What are two time management tricks you use on a daily basis?
Look internally. Unless you’re looking to expand into other geographical areas or specifically need more manpower, you may consider looking internally. If you know your employees well, you’ll know which ones would work well in remote situations.
Incorporate Feedback Throughout
If it’s your first time hiring remote employees, you’re going to learn a lot the first go-round. Regardless of how much you prepare for this new chapter of your business, you’ll be surprised by the situations, issues, and challenges that arise. The only way to continue improving is to incorporate feedback throughout the process.
Find out what the remote employees think about the setup, ask your office-based employees if there’s anything you can do differently, and really tap into the overall corporate reaction.
With the right tweaks and a dose of patience, you may soon discover that remote employees make financial, practical, and logistical sense for your growing business.