Hiring Remote Workers: Does It Make Sense For Your Organization?

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Nov 16, 2012
This article is part of a series called Remote Work.

When Elance surveyed 1,500 business owners, 73 percent of employers said they planned to hire remote workers within the year.

As the survey results prove, the increasingly digital world in which we live and work is rapidly changing – and company hiring decisions are changing along with it. More and more business owners are filling their workforces with employees they may never meet face to face.

Should your company hire employees to work remotely? There’s a lot to consider before you decide.

The benefits remote workers bring

Money – in the business world, there’s no greater motivator. Cost-cutting is usually a major goal for employers who think about hiring remote workers, and there’s more than one reason why. Each time an employer hires someone who will work remotely (as opposed to coming into the office each day), they experience the following financial benefits:

  • Taxes go down, since employers don’t always have to claim these remote workers as employees.
  • Since independent contractors don’t have to be claimed, companies don’t have to be responsible for health insurance and other costs associated with supplying benefits to workers.
  • The more remote workers a company has, the less office space that company needs to rent. This saves on monthly lease costs as well as utilities like electricity and heat.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Besides just saving you money, remote workers can help you improve the quality of your workforce and, by extension, the quality of your company.

Why? Because when you decide to hire remote workers, recruiting gets easier. When you’re no longer reliant upon a local pool of qualified job applicants, you’re free to seek out the best candidate for each of your positions, and you can look for them anywhere in the world.

If the designer of your dreams works in New York and your brick-and-mortar office is in Reno, it’s no problem at all, because when you hire remote workers, location issues become a thing of the past. You can focus your efforts on recruiting the best talent possible instead.

Special considerations for hiring remote workers

Remote workers are quite different from their in-office counterparts, so as you go about deciding whether or not to hire this type of employee, it’s important to keep several things in mind. There are challenges associated with remote workers, and if you take them into consideration, you’ll be better able to determine if this is the right choice for you.

  • Deadlines and expectations. When employees spend eight hours a day in your company’s office building, checking on their progress is easy. Not so when they’re dialing in from a cabin the Appalachians. To get the most out of remote workers, you’ll definitely have to establish expectations and set deadlines, but it’s even more important to make sure that your employee selection methods can identify the right candidates in the first place.

You’re looking for people who can fulfill their responsibilities without constant oversight from management, and experience is a good indicator here. If a candidate has worked remotely for another company for several years and has done well, you’ll know you’re talking to someone who knows the game.

  • Contact and communication. Employees who work off-site aren’t always easy to track down. You can’t pop your head into an office to remind a worker about a meeting, and you can’t drop by an employee’s desk to fact-check a detail for a project. It is, however, critically important to be able to communicate with remote workers. To do it, you’ll need to have the right tools and the right mindset.

David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals assures business owners that staying connected to remote workers is easier than most people believe. “The technology to successfully run and manage remote teams has never been better,” he says. “We use Basecamp to keep track of our projects, Campfire as the virtual water cooler, Skype for calls and screensharing, and iChat and email to top it off.” If you’re comfortable with making tools like these a bigger part of your business communication strategy, you may be well-suited for employing remote workers.

  • Community and morale. How happy are your employees? If they work 10 feet from your office, answering that question is pretty easy. When one of your recruiting execs brings in doughnuts for the entire HR program, or when one of your interns lets out a wail and drops to his knees in front of the decade-old copy machine, you gain valuable insight into how people feel and function as members of your company. Remote workers, on the other hand, often smile and suffer in secret.

To keep morale high among your remote workers, schedule regular check in calls – not to delegate tasks, but to gauge emotions and offer support. A study conducted by Cornell University revealed that workers who possessed strong communication skills felt less isolated. That’s why it’s a good idea to single out applicants who have strong communication skills. If they’re comfortable speaking out about their needs and voicing their concerns openly, you’ll be able to head off potential problems well ahead of time – and that’s one important way to avoid getting stuck with a very sudden job vacancy.

Hiring employees to work remotely will mean that there’ll be fewer smiling faces to greet you each morning at the office, but in the long run, hiring remote workers could also mean more dollars in your bank account.

Whatever choice you decide to make, just remember that whether your employees work across the hall or across the globe, they look to company leaders like you for guidance and support.

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.

This article is part of a series called Remote Work.
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