How to Grow Your Business with Remote Employees

October 16, 2019
Posted in: Uncategorized

Table of Contents

 

An increasing number of business owners are taking advantage of technological advances and opting to augment their workforces with remote employees. Online and cloud-based tools make it possible for them to communicate and collaborate with their employees regardless of where in the world they’re located. These business owners are no longer limited to local talent.   

Employing remote workers has become a popular staffing solution because it also allows business owners to reduce overhead (i.e. rent, equipment), but it isn’t without challenges. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of hiring remote employees as well as the challenges. We’ll also look at ways to effectively manage the challenges in order to successfully build a remote team. 

 

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Benefits of Hiring Remote Employees

The increasing popularity of remote working is largely due to its positive attributes. What was once seen as an occasional employee perk has become a valued staffing option. For many business owners, this hiring model just makes sense.  

 

Reduced Overhead

Office space is where most companies will realize the greatest reduction in overhead. By hiring remote employees, a business can save $10,000 per employee per year in office space costs. Multiply that by 25 employees and that’s a substantial savings.

There are other overhead costs associated with having on-site employees. The cost of computers, furniture, office supplies, heating and cooling, electricity, and janitorial services are all reduced with remote employees. Also, when employees work from home, fewer will call in due to slight illness or inclement weather. Unscheduled absences can cost a business close to $2,000 in lost production. 

 

Access to Global Talent Pool

If you require employment candidates to be located within your geographic area, you may not end up with the best person for the job. By relaxing the geographic restrictions and considering remote employees, you gain access to a global talent pool. There’s a lot of exceptional talent outside of your “own backyard” that may be willing to take on projects for less compensation. 

 

Reduced Employee Turnover

The costs of replacing a highly-trained, highly-educated employee can be greater than 20 percent of the employee’s salary. In order to retain their top talent, more companies are offering remote work options. Being able to work from home and eliminating the commute greatly impacts an employee’s decision to stay with a company. 
 
 

 

 Employees Save Money

Businesses aren’t the only ones saving money in a remote work arrangement. By not having to work at an employer’s place of business, remote employees save on gas or public transportation, car repair/maintenance (since it’s being driven less), dry cleaning, and professional wardrobe. The average person can save $4,000 per year by working from home

 

Employees Eliminate the Commute

Anyone who has ever been stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic travelling to and from work knows that commutes can be horrible. What’s worse is that employees aren’t paid for this time. This, no doubt, adds to an employee’s frustration with the commute.

Being able to avoid a commute makes for a more contented employee. If an employee is more contented, he or she is likely to be more productive which ultimately boosts your bottom line.  

 

Workers are More Productive

If you’re insightful during the interview process and hire remote employees who are self-motivated and competent, they’ll be more productive than their on-site counterparts. This may seem counterintuitive, because some business owners feel employees produce more when they’re closely monitored. However, remote employees are more likely to work overtime than on-site employees. Working from home also allows them to avoid the distractions of working in a traditional office setting; they aren’t called into last-minute meetings or engaged in idle office chatter. 

Working from home also allows employees to work during their most productive hours. Not everyone performs best during traditional office hours; some employees are night owls and their energy peaks during evening hours while others are more productive before traditional office hours start.  

Again, insight during the interview process will help you hire the right team members so you don’t have to contend with employees who view their new found autonomy as a way to be less productive. 

 

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Remote Work Options

When you hear the term “remote work”, what’s your perception of it? Remote work has multiple versions and the business owners who have embraced it have done so to varying degrees. Some are just testing the waters while others have gone full throttle and operate as a completely distributed organization. Here are the different options for adding remote employees to your workforce.

 

Office-based with Work-From-Home Option

Some companies choose to experiment with a remote working culture and start by giving employees the option to work from home one or more days per week. On the days that employees are working from home, the team will need to mostly communicate via email, online chat or use other communication tools.  This setup requires taking steps to ensure that employees who work from home feel connected to the on-site team.

 

Entirely Remote Team in the Same Time Zone

In this setup, the entire organization works remotely and is mostly in one time zone, or very few overlapping time zones. The way work is performed will be different from that of a team based within an office. Communication and collaboration tools will be more heavily relied upon. However, when the team is located mostly within the same time zone, you can rely on team members being available when you need them; projects can be completed in a more synchronous manner.

 

Entirely Remote Team Across Numerous Time Zones

When a remote team is spread across different time zones, you’ll likely have only a few hours of overlap with other team members. In this setup, you’ll need to foster an environment where effective communication and synchronous collaboration can occur. Companies often choose to concentrate certain positions in the same time zone to allow team members to effectively collaborate. For example, all marketing staff may be intentionally located in the same time zone.

 

Fully Distributed Team with Migrant Employees

The objective of this remote work option is to allow employees to live and work smarter. In this setup, team members aren’t just spread across different time zones; some are migrant, or travelling. Imagine a journalist who is living his or her dream of travelling the world but regularly contributes articles to The New Yorker
Because some team members are moving from place to place, working collaboratively can be challenging and productivity adversely affected. With the right communication and collaboration tools, however, projects can still be completed efficiently with nomadic team members on board.

 
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Interviewing Remote Employees

Once you’ve decided on the remote work option that best suits your company, it’s time to find the exceptional talent that will help you reach your goals. Whether working from your office or from their homes, all employees must be capable of performing the jobs for which they were hired. The hiring process for on-site employees can be challenging but you’ll find that recruiting virtual employees can be considerably more challenging: 

  • Not interviewing candidates in person can make it more difficult to assess their abilities.
  • Experience isn’t the only factor to be considered. Will the candidate be able to effectively communicate virtually? Can they work with limited supervision? Are they self-motivated?
  • With a distributed workforce it may be difficult to compare the credentials of candidates who are based in various parts of the world.

To manage the challenges involved in hiring remote employees, you’ll need to take a different approach to interviewing than you would with on-site employees. 

 

Conduct a Live Interview

Conducting live interviews helps you to study candidates’ body language. You’ll get a sense of whether they’re genuinely interested in the position and whether they’re being forthright about their backgrounds and accomplishments. Since the interview process is inherently stressful, you’ll also be able to gauge how they react to pressure.

If the candidate is local, interview them at your office or at a restaurant if your business is home-based. For non-local candidates, conduct a video interview using Skype or another video chat application. You may choose to also interview local candidates by video chat as it’s an effective and efficient interview method used by 60% of hiring managers to shorten the hiring timeframe. 

 

Assess Their Competencies

Standard interview questions don’t always provide enough information to adequately assess a candidate’s competencies especially if you’re interviewing for positions requiring analytical or technical acumen. To ensure that a candidate possesses the required skills, use one of the many online skills assessment tools. Eskill offers over 600 pre-employment assessments for positions in a variety of industries.  

Once you’ve shortlisted candidates, create a test project that’s representative of the work that candidates can expect to perform in the position. This is a common practice when hiring remote writers. If you want more assurance that the candidate will be a good fit for your company, check references from previous clients or employers. 

 

Are They Self-Motivated?

When hiring remote employees, it’s extremely important that they be self-motivated. After all, they won’t have encouraging co-workers or managers physically present so they must be able to work independently. To gauge a candidate’s ability to work without in-person direction:

  • Use the interview process to get a sense of the candidate’s level of interest in the position and in your company. As an employee, they’ll be more likely to stay motivated if there’s genuine interest in the position and employer.
  • Ask open-ended questions to see if their answers suggest that they’d take initiative in handling specific issues and not always wait for managerial direction. 
  • Consider if they were proactive throughout the hiring process. Did they reach out to you concerning next steps or did you have to send multiple emails before getting a response? This is indicative of their ability to work with minimal supervision.
  • Have candidates take an online personality test to see if their personality type is suited to working remotely. The Caliper Profile and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator measure how an individual’s personality traits correlate to his/her job performance. These tests will help you measure the candidate’s self-motivation.  

 

Time-Zone Differences & Language Barriers

The Internet and advances in technology allow business owners to recruit and work with people from around the world. This is a good thing; however, time zone differences can make it difficult to hold virtual meetings. In job postings, sharp business owners counter this by requiring that applicants be within a certain hour range of their time zone.  For example, “you must be within 3 hours of the Pacific Standard Time zone”.

Another challenge you may face when hiring globally is attracting candidates who aren’t fluent in your language. When posting job openings, be mindful to post in countries where your native language is spoken.  Or, include the language requirement in the job posting.

Here’s an excerpt from a posting for a remote Technical Writer:

What We’re Looking For (Qualifications)

    • Fluent in written and verbal English
    • Ability to craft in-depth and thorough content

 

meeting

 

Integrating Remote Employees into Company Culture

Employees need to feel they’re part of the company culture, even if they’re spread out around the world. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to foster a culture with a virtual team as it is with on-site employees. Here are some ideas for building a unified workforce where all employees feel valued:

 

Share the Company Vision with your Team

To have a company culture, all of your employees (remote included) need to share a unified purpose and set of principles. As new hires come on board, share your company’s vision and let them know what’s expected of them.

Your company’s vision should include your mission statement which is a short statement of why your business exists, its core values, and its goals. The vision should also include a detailed set of guidelines for all employees to follow.

Create an internal microsite that contains the company’s vision, policies and guidelines. As part of the employee onboarding process, direct new hires to the site. This will give them a clear understanding of what your company seeks to accomplish and the role they’ll play in reaching those goals. This information can also be shared via cloud-based tools like Google Docs or Dropbox Paper. Make it easy for employees to receive clarification if there’s any confusion.

 

Maintain Open Communication

Although there are a lot of benefits to working remotely, off-site employees can feel isolated and disconnected from the team.  On-site employees get to bounce ideas off each other over cubicle walls, in break rooms, and in conference rooms. As the business owner, you need to encourage open communication between remote employees and provide solutions for accomplishing this. 

 

Communicating & Collaborating with Remote Employees

Although you want to hire employees who are self-motivated and capable enough to work independently, you still need to communicate regularly with your remote team. You want to ensure that projects are running smoothly and on schedule. Generally, email is an effective form of communication but it isn’t necessarily the most efficient for managing a remote workforce. Email also isn’t the best tool for collaboration. There are numerous tools that make it easy for you to connect with employees and for employees to connect with each other. 

 

Communication Tools

  • Skype – This is the most popular tool for effectively communicating with remote teams.  Skype offers a plethora of services including video chat and instant messaging. Best of all, it’s free.
  • Slack – Slack is a simple online chat service with a clean interface and the ability to easily segment group conversations from one-on-one messaging with remote employees. It offers an informal feel without looking unprofessional. Great for daily check-ins.
  • Google Hangouts – Hangouts is part of the G Suite line of products and consists of two primary products: Google Hangouts Meet and Google Hangouts Chat. The service can be accessed online through the Gmail or Google+ websites or through mobile apps available for Android and iOS. Hangouts allows conversations between two or more users and group video chats with up to 10 users at a time.
  • Join.me –  A simple web conferencing tool that’s adequate for one-on-one desktop-sharing conferences. The free version offers screen sharing and VoIP calls for up to 10 users.
  • ClickMeeting  – This webinar software allows you to run custom webinars to teach, train, coach, and onboard employees. There’s a free trial available so you can try out the features before committing to a subscription.
  • Newsletter – As a means of regular communication, publish a newsletter to share company news and updates. Share employee triumphs and challenges. Solicit feedback.
  • RingCentral RingCentral is not only a cloud-based telephone service provider. The company offers video conferencing, calendar integration, and team messaging capabilities as well. 

 

Project Management Tools

  • Asana – It’s a free cloud-based project management tool that allows you to create workspaces for different teams and keep track of each team’s progress. It can be used to assign and manage tasks and track conversations.
  • Trello – This project management tool helps you stay connected with your team by giving a visual overview of what’s being worked on and who’s working on it. It’s comparable to a whiteboard filled with post-it notes. The free version is robust enough for most users and the paid versions are quite affordable.
  • Basecamp –  Basecamp provides a way for teams to keep track of priorities and actionable items by using to-do-lists, calendars, due dates and file-sharing. Its simple interface helps teams stay on the same page.

 
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Document Management & Collaboration Tools

  • Dropbox Paper – Formerly Hackpad, this collaboration tool allows you to create documents that remote workers can view and edit. The program also keeps track of who made what changes. Employers often use this tool to share notes and project details. 
  • LastPass – This free password management tool is ideal if you’ll use shared logins with your employees. You can generate secure passwords and then store them so that they’re automatically entered when the login fields appear. You’ll no longer have to email passwords or share passwords with employees, both of which are insecure.  
  • HelloSign – You can have your remote employees easily eSign (which is legally binding) documents, forms and agreements online. There’s no need for employees to print documents out, sign them, scan them and send back to you.

 

Managing & Motivating Remote Employees

Once you’ve added remote employees to your team, it’s important to establish processes and activities that ensure work gets done. You also want to ensure that employees feel they’re in the loop. Here are some practices to consider:  

  • Clearly Communicate Expectations At the outset, clearly state what the remote worker is to accomplish. Use to-do lists with time frames.
  • Schedule Regular Check-Ins – To stay on top of projects, schedule check-ins in the form of emails, phone calls, or video calls. Discuss the progress the remote employee has made and tasks yet to be completed.
  • Establish a Performance Management System – During check-ins, track productivity against to-do lists. Provide the remote employee with performance reviews on a monthly, quarterly, or biannual basis.
  • Make Remote Employees Feel Like Part of the Team – In addition to check-ins, include the remote employee in company-wide meetings either by video or in-person if possible. This will help them feel connected to other employees.
  • Solicit Feedback from Employees – Regularly ask remote employees if they have what they need to fulfill their roles. Ask them if they feel connected to the team. 
  • Annual In-Person Retreats – When remote employees hail from different parts of the country (or world), community-building activities like in-person retreats give them a chance to unwind and connect.

 

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How Companies Feel About Remote Work

Not sold on the merits of remote working? The 2018 State of Remote Work report found that not only did 90 percent of remote workers plan to continue for the entirety of their careers, but 88% of business owners surveyed see remote work as fitting into their company vision. Since many of the business owners worked from home themselves, they could appreciate the benefits of a remote work arrangement.

Dave Nevogt, CEO of Hubstaff (a company that helps others hire remote talent), states, “The reason we were able to build a bootstrapped software company is because we could hire the best global talent available at the rates we could afford to pay, allowing us to grow the business with the revenue. We were also able to build a business without sacrificing work/life balance. I am able to spend time with my family and friends, enjoy hobbies, and travel all while running a remote team of 30+ people.”

Business owners embrace remote work because they’ve found that remote employees stay longer, work harder, and offer better ROI over on-site employees.  Giving employees the freedom to work when and from where they want helps companies keep their attrition rates low. 

Joel Gascoigne, CEO at Buffer, says “It is my belief that working to develop a great remote working culture is an investment that will pay dividends for decades to come. If we can make this work over the long-term, we set the company up for many significant advantages and great freedom for us as a team.”

 

Final Thoughts

Hiring remote workers is an ideal way to reduce overhead costs and increase the pool of qualified candidates. It can also help reduce attrition by increasing employee satisfaction. Before considering this staffing option, be aware of the challenges associated with having off-site employees. If you employ effective processes and take advantage of available communication and collaboration tools, however, the challenges are lessened. Study other companies who have successfully built remote teams to see if any of their methods might work for your company.

 

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