The number of remote workers is on the rise in the United States with about 3.7 million employees currently working remotely at least half of the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics. In many industries, technology like mobile and video conferencing, instant messaging, and wireless internet enables employees to stay productive and connected from anywhere.
There are many benefits to hiring remote workers, particularly for businesses in the gig economy looking to hire workers on a contract basis. Hiring remote workers allows companies to recruit the best candidates for the job, not just the best locally. Remote workers can also reduce a company’s overhead expenses. In fact, one Stanford University study found that companies who let their employees work from home could save as much as $2,000 a year per employee.
But working remotely isn’t for everyone. Remote workers must have strong communication and collaboration skills, the ability to work independently, solve problems and conflicts on their own, and gauge their productivity. Not everyone has the characteristics and self-discipline needed to be successful. Therefore, hiring remote workers is a little different than hiring for a traditional, on-site position.
For starters, employers should evaluate potential candidates on the following key characteristics:
- Driven by Metrics. Remote workers must understand that their value is driven by clearly-defined goals. Their work will be evaluated by measurable outcomes and they must be comfortable documenting their success. As a remote worker, your value to the company is defined by your output alone—you don’t get to have the small talk around the coffee machine.
- Effective Communicator. Remote workers have to be able to collect and communicate their thoughts within a predetermined time period like a staff meeting. In a remote environment, you don’t have the opportunity to play 20 questions with your supervisor. You are expected to work independently and solve problems on your own. Therefore, remote workers must ensure they gather their information in blocks of time rather than in continual one-off situations.
- Easily Cultivates Relationships Online. A successful remote worker must open up more to their colleagues online, whether it’s through conferencing or instant messaging. They have to be proactive in their discussions to navigate the pitfalls of not knowing the company processes or who to contact when catastrophe strikes.
- Self-Motivated and Disciplined. Due to their limited exposure and direct face time with colleagues, remote workers have to find motivation outside the normal dialogue with a supervisor and co-workers. They can’t be dependent upon positive daily feedback. Working remotely also requires the drive to get work done and the discipline to work through distractions.
Beyond these characteristics, employees should ask if the candidate has previous experience working remotely, the extent of their technology skills and what their home office set up would be like. Giving potential candidates a practice assignment is also a great way to gauge their skill level and how they perform in the remote environment.
Hiring remote workers is a great chance for businesses to optimize their workforce, reduce employee turnover and expand their talent pool. But to see the best return, companies must adopt a thorough and thought-out approach to hiring remote employees.