Remote working. Telecommuting. Working from home: It’s extremely popular, no matter what you call it. Millions of Americans now classify themselves as remote workers, and both employers and employees are benefiting from these relationships.
But not everyone is cut out to be a remote worker. So, if you're looking at this potential scenario from an employer's perspective, know what to look for when you hire a remote employee.
The current state of working remotely
According to a recent Gallup poll, 37 percent of U.S. workers say they have telecommuted. That number is up from 30 percent in the last decade and is more than four times greater than the 9 percent who worked remotely in 1995.
This increase in remote workers has a lot to do with improvements in technology. However, that’s not the only factor: Employers actually identify a number of benefits they reap as a result of employing remote workers. Here are several:
- Increased productivity. Believe it or not, remote workers are actually more productive than their office-bound counterparts. According to one recent survey, 53 percent of the remote workers who responded said they were more likely to work overtime, compared to just 28 percent of in-office employees surveyed. Remote workers also said they faced fewer distractions from coworkers, which has an impact on daily output.
- Saves money. When employees work remotely, everyone saves money. Businesses save an average of $10,000 per year in real estate costs, whereas the employees themselves save roughly $5,240 in expenses. That’s enough to make everyone pretty happy.
- Less turnover. Employee turnover is costly and frustrating. It takes away from an employer’s ability to focus on revenue-producing tasks and can hurt a company’s reputation among candidates. Thankfully, 95 percent of employers surveyed said telecommuting has a positive impact on retention rates.
The reason why remote working is so popular is clear. It benefits both the employer and the employee, making it a mutually beneficial setup that’s good for everyone involved.
Look for these characteristics.
Once you realize the high returns that telecommuting can bring to your organization, you may feel the urge to immediately start reassigning your employees and hiring new people to fill remote positions.
But slow down and consider what you’re doing here. Not everyone is cut out for remote working. It takes a special individual to succeed. Specifically, that individual should be:
While you may find it relatively simple to motivate in-office employees, it’s much more challenging to stay on top of remote workers. That’s why it’s so important for remote workers to be self-motivated and independent. They should be able to stay on task and take action without being prodded or told what to do.
While remote workers may not have to deal with distractions related to coworkers and office drama, they’re still exposed to their own set of unique diversions. This is especially true for people who work from home. That’s why discipline is such an important characteristic. Remote workers must be able to get enough sleep, set deadlines and follow through on them, and avoid handling personal responsibilities during the middle of the workday.
3. Strong in communication skills
Because remote employees don’t spend much time in the office, they have to be good communicators. They need to be proficient with both email and phone, understanding how to relay results in a clear and concise manner. You can usually tell if someone is a strong communicator by how he or she handles the application and interview process.
4. Already experienced in working remotely
While not a requirement, remote experience is usually a good credential to look for when hiring people who will be working remotely for you This will ensure you aren’t the guinea pig: Your candidates already have a basic understanding of what it looks like to work independently.
5. Highly responsive
You can’t afford to spend your day chasing down your remote workers when you need information or answers. That’s why, in addition to being good communicators, remote workers need to be highly responsive. They should always be reachable during the workday, and within minutes, whether that’s through phone or email.
Finally, remote workers have to be tech savvy. They’ll be spending the majority of their time working on computers and other devices. Therefore, they need to understand how to use software and important programs as efficiently as possible. The last thing you can afford is for your remote employees to constantly be tying up your IT team with simple problems that shouldn’t be an issue.