The phrase “remote worker” can evoke images of quite a few stereotypes. Thousands of stock photos seem to suggest that most remote employees are moms in pajamas who perch kids on their laps while they perform a “lower-skill” job such as data entry or customer service. Or maybe the image that comes most quickly to mind is a tech-savvy freelancer operating from a hip coffee shop or co-working space, embodying the digital-nomad life of a creative professional.
While those remote jobs do exist, they fall far short of painting the full picture of the remote-job market. Today, more companies -- across nearly all professional industries -- hire for professional jobs that surprisingly can be done remotely.
In January, my company FlexJobs released the 2016 version of its fourth-annual list: 100 companies that posted the most remote jobs. We pulled job-posting data from 55 career categories and found a 52 percent increase in remote-job openings over the past two years. It seems that far more fields and companies than ever before are adopting remote jobs.
We wanted to know why. According to three of these forward-thinking companies, hiring remotely offers big benefits. The three biggest: Finding more high-quality candidates, building stronger management teams and filling skills gaps.
Taking talent to the next level.
World Travel Holdings is one of the largest travel distributors and cruise agencies in the world. It makes sense that its Vice President of Human Resources, Loren Kennedy, would take a similarly global view of the talent pool. She hires remote professionals for roles such as luxury cruise concierge, editorial assistant and group account executive. "The biggest benefit by far is the increased level of talent we have to choose from when hiring a position remotely,” Kennedy says. In fact, she calls this talent bump World Travel Holdings' "main driver" as the group continues to expand its remote-hiring practices.
Kennedy's experience translates across several business markets. Representatives from every company I contacted gave similar examples of finding highly talented staff. These positive experiences encourage leaders to consider if more of their jobs might be compatible with remote work.
Hiring leaders to work remotely.
Management buy-in is extremely important for a successful remote-work program. But some companies may be hesitant to hire remote workers for senior leadership roles. This is where Nielsen -- the international performance management, data and measurement company -- stands apart.
Nielsen hires remote workers not only for roles such as membership sales and field service but also high-level positions. The company currently is searching for a Vice President of Sales Effectiveness and a Director of Industry Relations to work remotely.
More senior-level roles typically bring added responsibilities and the heightened stress to match. Cristina Abreu, Nielsen's U.S. Field Membership Process Leader, believes remote arrangements can help support leaders and enable their best work precisely in such circumstances. “The time spent commuting to an office can often be better utilized for availability for early-morning and late-afternoon calls without the stress and pressure to leave your home or office by a certain time to jump on or in a train, bus or car,” she says.
Filling skills gaps and onboarding more efficiently.
Traditional companies operate in a set geographic area and typically hire most of their staffers from within that area. Unfortunately, those boundaries can be a limiting factor when it comes to filling skills gaps. Relocating workers is expensive -- and casts a company's net only a bit wider: only the small pool of workers willing to relocate will take the bait.
BroadPath Healthcare Solutions operates in a traditional industry. Still, it's broken from old norms to find professionals with the right skill sets to complement existing teams or form new ones. BroadPath hires professionals in surprisingly remote-friendly roles such as medical review nurse, data provider analyst, business analyst and clinical documentation improvement specialist.
Using remote work to recruit “the most highly skilled employee for each unique role” gives BroadPath a “distinct advantage over every major brick-and-mortar call center type company that we might compete with,” says Jeffrey Lanuez, Director of Human Resources and Recruiting.
Another major advantage Lanuez credits to remote work: reduced training times and faster on-ramping. “By being able to assemble our teams with industry specific skills, we cut the typical industry training time of 12 weeks down to just three weeks,” he says.
Rethinking which jobs can be performed remotely.
Nielsen, World Travel Holdings and BroadPath Healthcare Solutions are just a few of the thousands of companies hiring remote workers. Amazon, SAP, PAREXEL, Adobe and others are turning to virtual employees in career fields such as government consulting, human resources, science and nursing.
Remote hiring can help a business reach new or existing clients more naturally by expanding the company's presence across time zones or even beyond its home country's borders. Each company must approach remote work in ways that make the most sense for its business objectives.