More and more small businesses have been deciding to use remote employees for a few different reasons, not the least of which is to save money that would otherwise be spent on an office space. Then Covid-19 comes along & inadvertently forces us all to truly reevaluate our current working environments.
While some people are already very familiar with working this way, many are not. So in this article we’ll dive in & address some of the issues a business owner will run into when hiring and managing remote employees.
Working remotely immediately sounds like a great idea, and it is, but there are some things that you will encounter that you probably won’t expect. That’s precisely why it’s good to know certain key things before you delve into this pervasive & fairly new working sphere. These 7 points will help you a great deal as you move into the remote working environment:
1. Be Sure You’re Okay with this Business Structure
It’s much different than the conventional way to run a business. The problem is that you think you’re prepared for what you’re getting into, but you’re most likely not. The first question is whether you will be able to trust your employees completely to get their work done in a full and timely manner with minimal supervision.
For most owners running this type of business, they will typically default to running everything in the same way that a normal business with an office would run and simply try and translate those skills and practices to the remote environment.
Though that works to some degree because it’s still like any other small business, there is considerably more responsibility placed on your employees, as they are out there working alone. Technology for communication and management is also going to play a large role.
2. Applicants Will Be Eager to Work Remotely
When applicants find out that you are hiring people to work remotely, they will come out of the woodwork. This is for one reason; everyone sees working from home as a dream job. So even though they may not fully understand what it entails, or are qualified for the position, you’ll be flooded with people who aren’t really viable candidates.
It’s very likely that you’ll have to turn away a lot of applicants for this reason, but don’t be disheartened by that because it will also attract some high-quality candidates.
3. Find People Who Are Very Self-Motivated
It takes a special kind of person to excel in a job that requires them to work from home. Everyone thinks that it’s a cakewalk and that they hit the lottery, but not everyone can actually handle it.
After some time of working remotely, many people get used to it and lock into a rhythm so that they can be productive; however, that isn’t always the case. Remember that employees will be creating their own space and operating within it.
Usually, an employer has already set up the schedule and priority of tasks, an office or a cubicle, and a general environment that is conducive to work. In the remote environment, everybody on your team has to set that up for themselves and conduct their work appropriately. They really have to keep themselves on point.
Almost in the same way that an independent contractor operates, remote employees need to have the ability to make sure they are staying on task at all times because, even though a supervisor can still check in through calls or messages, no one will be there to look over their shoulder. Speaking of which, try to resist the temptation to micro-manage your team when you inevitably feel the need to do so when your employees work far away from you.
There is no real need to watch anyone so closely most of the time, anyway, as all you have to do is watch their output. Just monitor your team’s productivity, and you always know if they’re on task by watching how much work they put out.
4. Remote Employees Must Be Good at Written Communication
It’s not something that you always consider as a factor when you’re looking for the right people to fill positions, but when everyone is going to be offsite, this is actually critical. Everyone on your team is going to have to be proficient at conversing and conveying messages in written form.
Your remote employees will need to be skilled at this since you won’t be interacting with them in person too often. It may seem trivial and inconsequential, but you will certainly encounter many scenarios when communicating clearly and effectively in writing will be important. If employees lack these skills, the transmission of thoughts, ideas, and plans will quickly break down.
Online messaging platforms will become instrumental to ensuring that everyone on your staff stays in contact and has a fast way to transmit information so that things aren’t missed or delayed. Check out Slack to fill this need, an excellent online messaging platform:
5. Make Sure Employees Know What to Expect
As we’ve already pointed out, the remote working environment is not for everyone. All of the work and projects for which they are responsible need to be done with a lot less oversight than they may be used to.
A supervisor can of course check in with them, but everyone has to keep themselves on the ball because they’re on their own and not in a collective space. As the person hiring them, it’s important that you prepare people for what they’re getting into.
That is, you need to tell them first off that working from home, though a luxury, can be extremely stressful. Living and working in the same place every single day takes some getting used to, and cabin fever is a genuine concern.
Everyone thinks it’s going to be wonderful when they haven’t done it before; that’s before they have the experience of never leaving the house because there is seldom a reason to.
6. Use Virtual Tools to Stay in Contact & Manage Employees
Even though you’re not all in the same physical space, the fact that you & your staff need to stay in regular contact obviously doesn’t change. It just works a little bit differently when you’re not in an office.
For starters, it’s going to be a challenge for you if you’re averse to using web tools for work, or rather, virtual tools. Only if every person on your team was personally extremely organized and self-motivated would you be able to operate daily with minimal communication.
As the owner, you’re going to have to learn how to use and implement these tools because they’re quite simply indispensable when managing remote employees. Online messaging with a service like Slack, as well as email and phone calls are crucial for regular contact with your staff for obvious reasons, and there are also tools available for video conference.
Another fantastic online tool you can use to manage employees is Clockspot, an employee tracking and management tool. Using their service, you can give remote employees a place to clock in and out (only on approved devices, so you avoid employees clocking in on their phone when they’re far from being in their work space, for example), keep track of vacation hours available, and even keep tabs on what everyone’s working on.
7. Find Ways to Make Employees Feel Part of the Team
Though they’re getting paid for it and they signed up for it, your remote employees will need a little encouragement to stay productive. An important issue that you’ll need to address is that, when working out of their homes, people can start to feel very separate, as if they’re out on their own without backup.
The traditional work environment has always given the people working for a company a communal space where they were surrounded by their colleagues, so it was never a problem. Now, you have the ability to employ people without ever bringing them into a communal space, isolating them and potentially causing them to feel very secluded.
We take it for granted when working in a traditional setting that our coworkers will always be around us, which serves as moral support and an outlet for stimulating conversation. In the remote environment, that element is subtracted; so, there has to be something that compensates for it.
People need a reminder that they’re part of a group, part of the company. This is why it’s really good to hold events to involve everybody, like company parties, dinners, or other gatherings for holidays and other occasions.
However you do it, be sure that your employees feel connected to the company, and remind them that they’re a valuable member of the team. You can save a lot of money and be very successful with a remote team, but it’s a unique way to run a company and calls for special measures to do it right.
What’s Next? Check out all of the articles in our series, Starting Your Home-Based Business:
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.