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March 13, 2014

The benefits of hiring remote workers

By shutterstock_60590755

My father was a school teacher for 40 years. He religiously went to work every day, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. He worked for the same school corporation his entire career. He even wore the same clothes: a pair of black slacks and a polo shirt. The only variation you could find on him day to day was his shirt color. He never would have imagined he’d have a son that has had eight jobs and had been working in his sweatpants from his couch for the last four years at the age of 34.

Work has changed drastically for my generation. Knowledge workers like myself are consistently demanding more flexibility in our jobs and are typically getting it. Why? Employers want to keep employees happy and productive. What better way to do that than to allow them to forego the slog to work and entrust them enough to get work done at home?

Employers are noticing the many benefits that come with working with someone who works remotely.

The perks

You can find talent anywhere in the world. I work in a smaller consulting firm in southern Indiana. We’re a senior-level firm where the average engineer’s experience is 15 years. The hiring process can get pretty picky and HR is seeing just how limited this area is. If we were to look more broadly, dozens or hundreds more qualified applicants could be interviewed.

Remote workers are generally happier. I’m going to preface this comment with an asterisk. This greatly depends on the employee’s personality type. Extroverted individuals that need that social interaction may tend to get bored and lonely if they only work from home by themselves. However, remote working does not necessarily mean staying at home with limited clothes either. I’ve gone to coffee shops and libraries to work before. As long as you have an internet connection and a laptop you’re good to go.

Remote workers generally require less supervision. In my opinion, if you trust your employee enough to be working and being productive without having the ability to cruise by the cubicle to check in on them then they’re probably going to be a self-starter. They’re someone that sees where there’s work to be done and just gets it done.

Employees can be more productive by deterring the constant stream of interruptions. We’ve all been there. We get into the office, grab some coffee, start up the computer and begin seeing what fires have cropped up since you left. However, 15 minutes into your morning routine, Joe from payroll comes down and needs a report ran ASAP. You oblige and get on it, but then Susie from two cubes down wants to shoot the breeze about her date last night and… well, you get the point. This is office culture. Now imagine if you had a self-motivated, passionate employee that’s removed from all of that. He’s clear to just get stuff done without putting time limitations that these interruptions take away from him.

The challenge

Obviously, some positions are going to require hands-on activities. An employer’s not going to look for a remote worker for a crane operator. That is until some innovative crane manufacturer comes along and builds a reliable, remote-controlled crane with HD cameras.

What type of jobs do work? Typical remote jobs include software developers, medical coders, data entry jobs, software system support jobs or really any position that does not require some kind of tool to be in your hand against some object at a specific location or eye to eye interaction. For example, if you’re in sales you probably don’t have to see your customers face to face. You can interact over email, phone, text, etc.

However, lots of potential customers still love being bought free lunch and feel more comfortable talking to someone in person, so not everyone who is willing to work remotely necessarily should. Or, the reasons they want to work remotely should line up with their job type at least. If someone wants to pursue a job in sales, for example, and simply wants to hide out in a hole in front of a glowing screen all day, that person should probably think about career change first.

What to look for

As I alluded to earlier, working remotely isn’t for every individual. Here are a few key personality types I recommend an employer look for when deciding to hire someone to work remotely.

Look for someone sincerely interested in the work. Here comes a shocker. People who don’t like what they do and are given the freedom to work on their own time with little oversight are probably not going to do a good job. In my opinion, I would hire someone with less experience at a position but showed interest in the work over someone with more experience but took the position for the money.

The person must be trustworthy. Just like in any relationship, if trust is not there it’s going to eventually lead to a breakup. As an employer, you can’t be constantly wondering if someone you can’t physically see is actually “working.” You must set clear goals and milestones to meet those goals and trust they’ll come through.

Someone that’s self-directed will excel at remote work. A person who requires constant approval and attention is going to fail miserably working from home. You do not want someone who lacks the vision of where you, as an employer, want the position to be at. Some people pick up on this and some don’t. I suppose some people lack the confidence to just get work done and fear repercussions if not done properly. Along that same vein, someone who needs an “atta boy” every time they check off a task will eventually be miserable, in my opinion. There are ways to stay connected and still reasons to give praise, but people who require constant praise are going to burn out.

Where to find remote talent

Finally, you’ve been wooed by all the hype about remote work, and you have a position open and want to make it happen. Awesome! But this is the first time you’ve looked into this type of relationship. Do you just put up an ad on the big freelancer sites like Elance, oDesk or freelancer.com? We’re talking remote, right? Don’t they have to be far away? No. “Remote” work means different things to different people. “Remote” work for me means I was originally hired to be on-site but as my job role changed I was given the opportunity to work from home. I now choose to work from home every day even though I’m only 10 minutes from my office cubicle. It works for me.

You can still find people like me the old fashioned way: newspaper, word of mouth, careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, etc. “Remote” work doesn’t necessarily mean India when you’re in Indiana.

The beauty of not being tied down to local talent is that you have the option to cast the net out as wide as you want. Sites like elance.com, odesk.com or freelancer.com are great for hiring people overseas or across the country. Does your company have an active Twitter account? Send out a tweet saying you’re hiring. You always have all the other social media venues as well. Linkedin anyone? Why not post a banner on your website saying you’re hiring? Get creative. Use whatever means necessary to get in front of your target talent!

If you’re an employer new to hiring remote work, I hope some of your qualms have been alleviated. In my area, remote work is still a very new concept and is typically frowned upon. When I was able to begin working from home four years ago, it changed the way I approach my day. I stay more productive, and it has allowed me to get way more things done that I ever would have fielding interruptions and participating in office chatter. It’s worth it.

About the Author

is a system administrator and Pluralsight author who's obsessed with automating and making processes more efficient. His tool of choice is Powershell. Adam has been in the enterprise IT space since 1998 mostly employed as a Microsoft system administrator, although his other hats include open source fan, network engineer, IT security, VoIP engineer and web developer. You can follow him on Twitter at @adbertram.

Author's Website: http://adamtheautomator.com


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