By Sharon Koifman
So, first up, it’s important to set the record clear about remote work. Yes, some high-profile companies have decided to step away from their telecommuting policies. The most prominent examples are like Yahoo and IBM. And that’s fair enough — it wasn’t working for them. But realize that this says more about where they are at as companies than it says about remote work. These are huge companies, built on a traditional model of work. Giants move slowly, and they aren’t good at significant change.
That’s not the case when it comes to a small business. A small business can do something a monolith like IBM can’t. It can be nimble, restructuring processes, and taking advantage of new ways of doing things. Hiring remote employees is one of those new things a small or medium-sized business can tap into.
The World Is Your (Hiring) Oyster
Everyone thinks “money” when they think about remote work. They think about the savings. No office costs, employees living in less expensive areas don’t ask for high salaries, etc. They are wrong. Not about the money; no – it’s true, remote work does come with savings. But that’s missing the point.
Let’s say you decide that to expand your business, you need an android app. Well, you can always outsource creation and maintenance. But that comes with its own challenges. No, you believe this is the way forward for your business, and you want to start an in-house tech department. Good for you, that’s an excellent choice. Don’t make your business’ future rely on people that don’t work for you. Only…
What are the odds of you finding the best person for the job within commuting distance of your office?
Consider that app developers are in huge demand in North America. The best and the brightest tend to go live in the Valley. Is your business near the Valley? Then you’re competing with Google and friends for your developer. Sounds fun? It isn’t.
But if you’re willing to hire a developer that will work from home, that opens up a lot of possibilities. Maybe it’s a girl that graduated at the top of her class but wants to live close to her parents in Texas. Perhaps it’s a genius from Ukraine that knows he’s worth a western salary but had trouble getting his visa.
Whatever the case, when you expand your hiring pool to the whole world, you can get pickier. You can look for better people, and you can filter for the quality of communication and culture. You don’t have to be stuck with someone you’re not excited about just because all the good ones are taken.
Remote Work is the Ultimate Productivity Booster
Let’s face it, most if not all the work people do in the office is on the computer. And we’ve had computers in our homes for a while, now. The real reason we’ve kept the office is that work is tedious and we don’t trust people to do it if left to their own devices.
This logic is twisted. No one should be made to do something they hate. If that’s the case, you hired poorly. Of course, some jobs are very dull. No matter how much you search for that one weird guy or girl that would love to do them, you come up empty-handed.
But for the most part, a lot of people that resent work in an office setting will do a better job from home. They’ll even work longer hours! It’s because they don’t have to deal with the stress of a commute, the heartbreak of being away from their family, and the distractions of their co-workers.
When people find that they can focus on their work in a familiar environment, they enjoy their work more. And if they feel that their boss is trusting them to do a good job even unsupervised, what happens then? People step up.
It sounds banal, sure, but it’s true. Besides, most are so happy with the sweet work-from-home deal they got, they want to work hard to keep it. You gain a newfound appreciation for your job once you realize you can do it in pajamas!
Choosing the Right Remote Employee
Of course, not everyone is suited for remote work. There are certain traits you need to look for when hiring. Unless you want to get someone that will spend their work hours eating ice-cream and watching Swedish teenagers scream on YouTube.
The first thing you need to look for is clear communication. Your evaluation should start on the first email and all the way up to a video chat call. Does the person use clear language? Are you ever in doubt about what they meant after reading something they wrote? In the video chat, do they look at the screen and reply promptly, or do they seem to be paying attention to something else?
You also need to make sure the your potential remote worker knows how to handle him or herself, working from home. Ask about what a typical workday looks like for them. Ask them about their favorite tools and how they manage their schedule. Ask them how they intend to get the job done if you hire them.
At the same time, be clear about what you expect from them. Do you have any goals for them to hit? Do you expect them to work during certain hours? How available do you need them to be? Do you want them to check in and out and report progress through any particular software? There are no rules set in stone, so you need to figure out what will work best for you. But you must also be clear to people about what you expect from them.