By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder
As the founder of 10x Management, the world’s first tech talent agency, I am often asked by customers to discuss the benefits and risks of hiring remote workers. It is a really fantastic question and one worth examining from two perspectives. First, from the perspective of the organization looking to hire remote workers. And second, from the perspective of workers. While a lot of myths exist about the advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting, in my experience, as economics and technology continue to converge, remote work is an increasingly reliable and essential tool for raising productivity for both an organization and an employee.
Let’s first look at the benefits, potential trade-offs and logistics of remote work for businesses looking to hire telecommuters. Next week we’ll feature part 2 of the article which addresses the benefits and disadvantages from the perspective of remote workers.
The Benefits of Remote Work For Businesses
- More Access to the Best Talent
One of the most overlooked advantages to hiring remote workers is the immediate expansion of talent to which your organization has access. Rather than hiring the best person located near your office, you can now hire the best qualified person for the job.
In a recent CIO Update, Greg Baker, CFO of Logicalis, said “the most crucial benefit companies realize from enabling telecommuting is the expansion of their talent pool. It is clearly a competitive advantage to employ the very best people, but it’s usually impossible to find them all in just one town or city. Extending the telework option removes geography as a limiting factor and allows you to attract the very best talent wherever they are. Being able to telework has also become a must-have especially for a younger generation of workers who have grown up with smartphones and social networking.”
- Reduced Hiring Costs
Hiring remote workers can significantly reduce overhead. With enough remote workers, your organization can save on office space. Even hiring a few remote employees will save your business on office supplies, equipment, janitorial services, coffee/water expenses, furniture, and transit subsidies. Furthermore, remote work reduces travel costs for a company, as business can be conducted efficiently via video conference as opposed to flying somewhere for a face-to-face meeting.
According to Entrepreneur Magazine, “The Telework Research Network estimates that companies could save more than $10,000 per year, per employee, with telework-work and flextime jobs that reduces cost for real estate, parking and capital required to run a business.”
- Bring Your Company to Scale Quickly
The main advantage to hiring talented workers quickly without massive overhead costs is the ability of your company to scale. You can increase your workforce without increasing costs, and that provides the opportunity to conduct more business in a less stringent and more efficient manner.
- Increased Productivity
Next, a recent Harvard Business Review article showed that productivity could actually increase when your organization takes on hiring remote workers. Remote workers do not face the same distractions as office employees, and breakroom interruptions can hinder employee performance. In recent studies, remote employees log more hours and have been nearly 14% more productive than their office employee counterparts. Remote workers can start the work day earlier, take shorter breaks, and work until the end of the day without having to worry about the commute home.
- Employee Retention and Satisfaction
The costs to hire someone, train them and instill company best practices, and then lose them are massive. Remote workers quit at half the rate of office employees, and 80% of employees claim that flexible hours have a positive effect in retention. Studies have shown that approximately two-thirds of employees would prefer the ability to telecommute over a pay raise. Companies often lose workers to significant life changes such as starting a family or relocating to another area, but telecommuting provides companies the ability to stave off this attrition. Less turnover means reduced hiring and training costs, and those cost savings reflect well on your business.
Remote workers do not have to sacrifice their time to commuting, which is better for the environment and the office will use less electricity, another bonus. Ultimately, hiring remote workers reduces your company’s carbon footprint, and I think we can all get onboard with that.
Now let’s take a look at some of the potential trade-offs of remote work and the logistics involved.
Potential Trade-offs of Remote Work
One of the biggest disadvantages of hiring remote workers is that company culture can sometimes take a hit. Nonetheless, there are steps you can take to build a company culture when teams are remote. Hiring remote workers does not mean your company will lose morale or company culture, especially if your organization makes it a priority.
When you’re face-to-face with someone, you can tell a lot through their body language, facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. Remote workers do not have the luxury of face-to-face communication. Emails and messages can lend themselves to misinterpretation. That’s why it is critical that you hire a remote worker with excellent communication skills both verbal and in writing. With technology advancements like video conferencing and the right remote employee, you can do a lot to make up for these deficiencies.
The Logistics of Hiring Remote Workers
In order to reap the benefits of remote work, you need to ensure that your organization is ready to take on remote workers. A recent Gallup report indicated that 37% of the workforce in the US is now telecommuting (up from 9% only 20 years ago!), and this number is projected to increase to 43% in the next year.
Set up Your Company for Remote Work
Your business needs to attract and retain fantastic high-level managers in order for remote work to be successful. Great managers who can set meaningful goals, monitor performance and measure the results of tasks are critical to ensuring productive remote work. Also ensure your company is equipped with updated and secure technology.
For more on what it takes to manage remote workers, check out this article in Entrepreneur Magazine entitled “Managing the Invisible Worker” that really gets to the heart of issues facing companies.
What to Look for in A Remote Worker
If you truly want the benefits of great remote work you need to hire workers that are effective working offsite.
Here’s a checklist of what to look for when hiring a remote worker:
- Experienced – this comes in many forms, but ensuring previous experiences as a remote worker should put your mind at ease that the worker is reliable.
- Self-motivated – this is critical for anyone that works on their own schedule.
- Communicates well and effectively – the worker you hire needs to be virtually present whenever you need them. This comes in the form of email, phone calls, video conferencing, Skype, etc.
- Sets specific goals and clearly defines success – remote work needs to be measurable, and the results need to be consistent.
- Independent and reliable – your worker needs to be able to work on his or her own schedule in a reliable manner.
A Quick Word About Trust
If your company cannot trust its employees to do their jobs without a manager standing over their shoulder, then your company has hired the wrong people. One of the cornerstones of the telecommuting process is trust in your employees to perform their work efficiently and without micromanagement.
At 10x Management, the most frequent complaint we hear from our technologists is that they are being micromanaged and that it is negatively impacting their ability to do the best job for their customer. Certain projects stand out in my mind where our technologists were very excited to work on a project, but stringent management hindered their efficiency and output. Thankfully, they were still able to get the job done, but with a lot more stress and hassle than had they been given a level of self-direction.
Remote Work is a Competitive Advantage for Businesses
It’s clear that remote work provides many benefits for businesses that far outweigh the risks. When done right, with the proper technology and the right management in place, remote work is a major competitive advantage for any company seeking an edge. At 10x Management we’re proud to have a reputation for facilitating fantastic remote working relationships with innovative companies.
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