Who would have thought that in the past decade alone, remote working will increase up to 115%, an unprecedented growth that is 10 times faster than any kind of work as of date?
By 2028, 73% of all departments within a company will have remote workers. With all global issues between now and in the future, fully-remote workers will more likely become the mainstream and office-based workers the exception.
What’s Good About Hiring Remote Workers?
There are many advantages to getting remote workers in your team. Instead of being limited geographically, it’s now a possibility to attract the best talent in the world you can afford. You get to tap top talents and professionals instead of settling for whatever’s available near your brick-and-mortar business.
You also get to enjoy a new dynamic in your team in terms of diversity, creativity, even culture, and productivity.
Hiring remote workers also help employers save on operational expenses. Extra funds can be used for worthy causes such as staff upskill training, increased employee benefits, or investment in assets to improve revenue.
Remote workers on your team also mean you’ll have improved productivity of around 31% or more. They are also happier, more productive people, despite not utilizing their full vacation leaves in a year. The flexibility of work schedules is a premium, especially for Millennials that will be the bulk of the workforce in a few years.
However, despite all the benefits of hiring remote workers, employers are also experiencing challenges.
5 Risks in Hiring Remote Workers and How to Avoid Them
This is a significant discovery for a lot of employees who have shifted to the remote working lifestyle. If you’ve been used to working at an office or communal setting for the longest time, the sudden change can be jarring.
There’d be no more of that occasional chit-chat at the water station or during those quick coffee breaks. You go to work by yourself and go through the day alone. Not all people can stand that.
Remote work is not for everybody. While most are happy shifters, some have to deal with some loneliness and isolation before they were able to fully adjust to a remote work set-up.
Resolve this potential risk by advising your employees to set up clear boundaries or hours of work even now that they work offsite. 19% of remote workers encounter loneliness and isolation in the course of their freelancing or remote work careers, so it cannot be ignored.
As an employer, engage with your distributed teams, both onsite and offsite.
Assign team leaders to help you foster camaraderie and connectedness. Loneliness in the workplace, whether onsite or off-sight, can lead to heightened levels of stress, poor decision-making, and depression.
Depression has become an epidemic in this generation, so be sensitive about the welfare and general well-being of your teams. After all, you won’t be able to do what you do and take your business where you have taken it if you were by your lonesome too.
2) Lack of Communication
Establish clear communication management systems right from the get-go. There are email and conventional messaging systems like SMS or phone call. Make use of apps such as Slack, Zoom, and Skype for a conference or one-on-one calls. When hiring somebody, include small test projects and see the response rate of potential hires to instructions, how often they update you, or if they just disappear on you.
If it’s hard to communicate with them during the application process, that’s not a good sign that they’ll be diligent communicators when they are hired. If you are hiring remote workers of different cultures and backgrounds, you need to remember that you cannot expect all of them to have the same standards or work ethic you have.
For example, what you deem as “prompt” feedback may be a mile-different from what your new hires consider as prompt. Without judgment and keeping your workers’ sense of dignity, just establish clear-cut expectations you have regarding what kind and level of work you are expecting. Give them ample learning curves to adjust their work ethic to meet your company’s standards.
Also, be mindful of the way you communicate, not just what you communicate. Some cultures might be more sensitive or conservative than others. What might not be offensive to you might be offensive in another country’s context. Show your employees that you also did your research and that it’s not all about you.
Engaging well with your team fosters a positive working environment that transcends remote work conditions. Mind your tone, body language on video calls, and even idioms and expressions you might use that are limited to your own culture’s context. Conduct yourself in more neutral professionalism, so your team will follow suit.
3) Left Out of the Office Culture
With no coworkers around, socializing with peers is a challenge, and remote workers might feel left out of the office culture and miss out on much-needed camaraderie. Out of sight, out of mind. They don’t have much opportunity to brainstorm with coworkers, have those in-person connections and networking that is much easier when everyone’s in the same location.
Employers and team managers need to be strategic and creative to keep the team connected.
Schedule times when remote workers can come to the office or meet-up someplace to keep team synergy alive and well. Hold frequent virtual meetings to increase face time among your distributed team.
Remote workers should also be more proactive and take the initiative to socialize. They can also aim for self-improvement and networking in their free time. LinkedIn and Facebook groups have effective networking systems that connect you with other professionals and enthusiasts in your field. Join expos and social gatherings to widen your network. Use all the time you saved on not getting stuck in traffic to get out of your house and do something that sparks life and creativity in you. Even just engaging with your family without the distractions of work is one very effective way to do that too.
Co-working spaces are also a good chance in the environment. Maybe schedule working in one that’s near you once a week. You may even work at a friend’s or family’s house once in a while, so you can also share time with them once you are done.
Meeting up with friends and colleagues on lunch breaks is a great idea too. If your location is far, then take a proper lunch break and video chat officemates for a few minutes or so, just so you feel you’re still part of their world.
Has the right balance of social time added to your work commitments? Meaningful social interactions are crucial for your general well-being. Work on building relationships, especially now that you have more flexibility to do so.
4) Consistency in Employee Performance
One other challenge for employers is how to monitor employee performance of remote workers without bordering into overbearing. The right balance is crucial because if you overdo tracking of their performance, your team will get burned out and pressured as well. Your team needs to know you trust them to encourage them to do a better job.
Micromanagers tend to squeeze the joy out of work, and when you have a team that is not at their best, they will not be able to give you their best too.
Establish expectations. It’s not just about the number of minutes they clock in. It should be more about the actual output they are expected to provide, and if they are meeting it excellently.
There are many ways to measure performance aside from proof of their time. You cannot use conventional office methods on a dynamic team with remote workers.
For instance, if you are heading a creative team, you need to understand that creativity is not always on demand. Creatives have their unique ways of how they get to develop an idea and execute it beautifully. If your creative team works best at night, why force them to work from 8-5 like the rest of your workers?
That simply means you also miss out on the best possible output they can provide. Give leeway on time, but do set boundaries, like deadlines on projects, scheduled updates or progress reports, and conference calls. Since these things cannot be so flexible, your remote workers need to “show up” on these times. Adjust the variables and be consistent with your non-negotiables.
Also, utilize time-tracking apps and project management software or apps that make team monitoring and collaboration much more straightforward. It gives you a grasp of how productive your team really is. It also motivates workers to be accountable for the way they work and meet deliverables.
Flexible work arrangements will only work based on trust. So take your time in screening applicants so you get the best of the best you can be confident will succeed in a remote, self-directed work environment.
Prioritize not just the educational background and skills, but also qualities such as initiative, independence, and self-discipline. Consistency and resilience in their past jobs or projects.
Hubspot provides actionable tips in this video for both employers and remote workers:
Video Source: Stop Managing Your Remote Workers as if They Are Onsite / Hubspot © 2018
5) Cybersecurity Concerns
Distributed teams experience higher cybersecurity risks like malware and data breach. Since all communication is done online, information sharing can be compromised.
For example, recent pandemic concerns made a lot of businesses shift to remote working for the time being. Tesla chief, Elon Musk, had to command his team to revert to emails and stop using Zoom conference calling. They found out that they were breached in those calls, and vital information was leaked.
Invest in securing your network even in a distributed team setting. Have your IT team get a robust security system that protects your online business from hackers and cyber-attacks.
Also, set security and privacy protocols that all staff must follow, whether they are working remotely or not. Reduce access and vulnerability points, and use cloud storage instead of your remote workers’ individual devices that can heighten breaches and attacks even more.
It also requires all your staff to stay accountable with the IT team and report any malicious or suspicious performance issues in their devices or the network itself. Provide the internet and even VPN for your remote workers, or include it in their compensation. This ensures that everyone’s network performance is standardized and secure. Vigilance is the best defense against cyberattacks.
Conclusion: The Benefits of Remote Work Outweigh the Risks
Every emerging innovation in history has met opposition. Remote work is not exempt from that. But when the benefits far outweigh the risks, then it makes those risks worth taking.
Remote working may not be for all, but the benefits of it have revolutionized the workplace dramatically in the past decade. For those who had to endure heavy traffic and countless wasted hours on the commute, remote working has definitely been a liberator of sorts. Global emergency situations like outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics have made remote working the only choice for most businesses in areas that are under quarantine or lockdown.
Natural calamities and even social threats (mass shootings, violent city-wide protests, and the like), have also led to a lot of employees working from home. Indeed, remote working is not just some trend that will be gone after a season or two.
In fact, Forbes forecasts that by 2030, flexible work will no more be seen as “a benefit but an expectation. The shift towards greater flexibility is not just benefiting younger generations either, it’s having a big impact on more experienced workers who need time to care for their families and themselves.”
LiquidSpace founder and CEO, Mark Gilbreath, mentions that “30% of the enterprise workspace portfolio would be flexible by 2030.”
One’s location will more and more cease to be a limitation. Companies today like WordPress, GitHub, Trello, Buffer, and the like are successfully working remotely.
With the way remote working is keeping operational expenses lower, productivity higher, and revenues increasing, more and more companies are willing to take the risk of distributed teams and flexible schedules. These businesses will continue to cope with the risks better, even reverse the risks by finding sustainable solutions to a dynamic work set-up like that of remote working.