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Managing a Business

Should You Hire Remote Workers?

When you think about hiring new staff, you probably think of a traditional office setup. Finding the extra desk space, getting the new computer…and the IT struggle to have it set up in time! And that’s after you’ve even found the right person! Sound about right? 

Maybe it’s time to consider remote staff instead? After all, in today’s connected world, is work a place we go to, or a thing we do? 

This guide will cover the benefits of hiring remote employees and what to consider when doing so. Read on to learn all about switching up to a virtual workplace.

Why Hire ‘Virtual’ Employees?

Virtual employees or remote workers are the next wave of staffing. As companies are becoming more reliant on the Internet for their day-to-day operations, hiring remote staff is becoming far more common. And it’s not even tech-based companies that are embracing remote workers. Small businesses and sole traders are beginning to take on remote staff, realizing the benefits of virtual employees. They are cost-efficient, more productive, and happier overall.

If you’re thinking about taking on new staff, hiring a ‘teleworker’ may tick all the right boxes. Today, remote jobs are popping up in nearly any industry. You’d be surprised at the range of roles remote staff fill these days, whether you operate a business trading online or have a website to represent your brick-and-mortar company. 

In a recent survey, FlexJobs uncovered the reasons remote work environments are so appealing to employees:

  • Fewer distractions and interruptions from colleagues
  • Minimal office politics
  • Decreased commuting-related stress

Let’s dig a bit more into why hiring virtual staff might be a smart move for your business.

  • Lower overhead costs of running your business

This one’s a bit self-explanatory. If your entire team is fully-distributed, savings are a matter of course. Cutting out the office massively reduces resource costs. You no longer rent office space or have to purchase office furniture or computer equipment. You can also say goodbye to the bills that keep it going. 

Canceling out these related costs brings significant bottom-line benefits. Flexjobs reported that employers can save $22,000 per remote worker per year. That’s even if their entire team is not working out of office.

  • Wider talent pool

There might be a lack of talent in your area of specialty in your company’s location. Casting the net a bit wider is one way to hire experienced professionals.

  • Higher productivity

If you’ve read anything about remote working, you’ve probably seen this argument bandied about. While you might raise an eyebrow at the notice that staff ‘off the leash’ are more productive, studies generally agree that they accomplish as much or more than on-site employees. Remote staff put extra effort into their work, going above their in-office peers. That’s not just hear-say. According to Forbes, two-thirds of managers surveyed reported an increase in overall productivity from their remote staff. 

  • Happier and engaged employees

The flexibility of remote work offers many benefits for the people you hire. TINYpulse also surveyed remote employees concluding that they are happier than non-remote employees. They also felt more engaged in their jobs, according to a two-year study by Stanford University

  • Increased loyalty and retention

Talent retention is a consideration for businesses of any size. Buffer co-founder Joel Gascoigne suggests that not only does remote work improve employees’ job satisfaction, it can also help keep them around. 

In a post for GitHub’s GitPrime Blog Gascoigne wrote, 

“The biggest benefit of remote work is the flexible schedule it allows…. your employees can swap time spent commuting for walking the dogs, or go for a run during the day or meet with friends and make doctor’s appointments—without taking time off. [This leads to] happy employees who are willing and able to work harder, as they are less stressed.”

What’s more, people are beginning to expect some sort of flexibility at work. Today’s workforce is increasingly looking for options to incorporate travel or the time to incorporate a particular lifestyle, such as further study. An overwhelming number of people surveyed claim that they wouldn’t stay in a role that didn’t provide for this in some way (61% according to Flexjobs annual survey).

The same survey also revealed that remote workers are more loyal to their employers than in-house workers. While you might not envisage a working relationship spanning decades, you’ll want to keep staff on for more than a hot minute.

Types of Roles You Can Fill Remotely 

Naturally, people tend to hire for roles that translate well into a remote environment where work happens largely on computers, phones, and email. As technology continues to advance, remote work is expanding into diverse industries. Aside from just those that you’d expect such as high tech, you’ll also find remote staff in areas such as law, healthcare, and education. 

chicken examining a document

There are particular roles that small businesses benefit the most from outsourcing. You might want to consider the following:

  • Freelance creative 

When your time is taken on running your business, managing your team, budgets, and product, things like marketing and design can fall by the wayside. What happens when you need some ‘pizzazz’ but you don’t have the time or knowledge to make that infographic, viral social media campaign, or eye-catching logo happen? You can hire freelancers to fill these roles.

On the importance of getting a website right, Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle noted, 

“Running your own business is no easy task, and your to-do-list is guaranteed to never end. This said, you shouldn’t use this as an excuse to take short cuts when it comes to having online visibility.”

That’s where freelance creatives come in to play. Freelancing is a familiar role for remote workers and they’re available for all sorts of tasks. 

You can hire a brand strategist, for example, a graphic designer, photographer, website designer. These days, any aspect of your business that could benefit from a professional eye is at your fingertips. With websites like Upwork, Outsourcely, and Hubstaff and Weworkremotely, you can search for any role you are thinking about outsourcing.

  • Virtual assistant/ virtual receptionist 

My own father worked for himself, and I saw his frustration when his phone went off while he was working, or after hours during family time. And how many small businesses find themselves juggling office tasks with sales and business development?

That’s where virtual assistants are a smart idea. 

VA/VR professionals offer an air of order and take the burden off your shoulders, no matter the size of your business. You might even be a one-man-band looking for a helping hand. 

VAs organize work schedules, prepare letters, or set appointments. These modern staffers do much more than answer calls and schedule diaries. Thanks to modern tech, VAs are tasked with far more than your basic secretarial functions and phone handling. 

They can also provide personal assistant services such as making dinner reservations, travel arrangements or check on the availability of those theatre tickets you were too busy to chase up. Virtual receptionists are 1/10th the price of traditional in-house receptionists, and having a live voice answering your calls can mean the difference between gaining a client—or your competition taking them.

If a virtual receptionist sounds useful to you, learn all about what outsourcing one can do for your business, and where to find them

  • Regular team members

You can outsource any role to remote staff. Some of the options include accountants, customer support agents, marketers, and project managers. You can also hire remote copywriters, HR assistants, and software developers.

Taking on an entirely remote team requires some careful planning. The hiring process needs consideration. Who do you entrust to motivate themselves without someone looking over them? While remote staffing can contribute to the success of your business, it’s all dependant on your choosing the right match for the job.

What Characteristics and Skills to Look For

You can find the most fabulous secretary, bookkeeper, blogger—whatever staff roles you need. But here’s the thing: not all professionals make great remote workers. Whether you are thinking about implementing a work-from-home policy for existing staff or hiring someone to work 100% remotely, there are a few things to consider.

Working remotely requires the kind of skills that on-site employees don’t have to master. Remote workers must be able to work without a manager nearby, and need to know how to manage time independently of a structured day.

looking at potential remote worker applicants

If you’re ready to dip your toes into the remote workforce waters, keep these tips in mind to make sure you hire the best people for the job. Whether they have worked in an isolated environment before or not, your remote hire must:

  • Exemplary communication skills. The success of remote staffing depends on communication. This can’t be stressed enough. We’re talking email, online chat, video meetings, and maybe phone and text messages too.
  • Goal-oriented and motivated. A goal-oriented telecommuter will set goals and consistently achieve them. One of the skills needed to work remotely with ease is to maintain a high level of motivation with consistent hours while remaining focused.
  • Self-starter. Remote staff need to be able to keep themselves motivated without a manager popping by their desk to keep them on task. How do you find out if your potential employee is a self-starter? Mark Murphy, Forbes contributor, suggests asking questions like: “Tell me about a time when work didn’t interest you very much, and how did you get past it.”
  • Tech-savvy. Even if the job you’re recruiting for isn’t a specifically technical one, most remote employees need tech skills. They must be comfortable with software and hardware to navigate online communication and project management. You need to make sure they can manage without an IT department right by your side. You can observe their ability to use LinkedIn, for example, or how comfortable they are responding to an interview over Skype. You might even contact them across multiple messaging systems during the application process, or request they or upload a piece of ‘test’ copywriting to a board in Trello.
  • Proactive. Remote workers work on their own and don’t have colleagues to turn to for quick help. That’s why employers are eager to hire people who are self-sufficient and independent. You want someone who’s self-reliant, and to demonstrate how they are a self-starter. They might have taught themselves the ins and outs of Excel pivot tables and macros for a rale role as a sales associate. Or, have they kick-started their career at a local tech meetup because there wasn’t one in their area already?
  • Have the tools for the job. At the very least, they need a computer or laptop that runs on software compatible with your communication tools. Ask them about their current set up. How do they keep their laptop running smoothly? Do they keep their software up-to-date? Are they using virus protections? Can they rely on a fast Internet connection (plus a back-up like mobile tethering) if they’re on the move?

What Are You Waiting For?

Now that you’re clued up on hiring remote employees, you just have to post your job ad and wait for the applications to come in.

Remote staffing in all forms can be a smart idea. Whether you’re planning on offering current employees remote work options or building up your first remote team, you’ve unlocked access to top talent out of your jurisdiction. And, your remote hire might experience a better work-life balance and job satisfaction. All things that increase staff loyalty and retention, and ultimately save you money and time.

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Isobel Weston

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