Everywhere you turn nowadays, people are talking about gig economy and flexible work that is changing the workplace landscape. For the majority of small entrepreneurs and small-to-medium companies, this tends to revolve around remote employees who only occasionally visit the company’s offices, if ever.
Many small businesses are seriously considering getting in on this and their owners are trying to weigh their options as carefully and as precisely as possible.
So, how does one actually make the decision of whether they should start employing remote employees?
One of the first things to understand about remote employees is that you should never simply jump on the bandwagon for the sake of it. It is not one of those things that you try out for a fit.
In other words, you need to decide if there is a good reason for you to start employing the practice.
For example, is there a shortage of talent in your industry? This often happens to small companies that operate in innovative industries. Business owners in certain industries (such as data-related industries) often realize that there simply isn’t any talent in the area and that they need to cast their net a bit wider. Other times, you will realize that remote talent is much better than local one and that you can make significant savings by hiring someone from around the world.
Another reason why companies hire remote employees is that their existing offices cannot fit new people while the workload demands that they increase their staff. They cannot afford new offices and hiring remote employees is sort of a bridging option.
At times, remote work becomes a choice because it doesn’t really matter if employees share a single office. They will be mostly working on separate projects and it is perfectly possible to coordinate everything remotely.
Finally, some companies let their employees work remotely as a perk. They will allow some or all of their employees to work remotely when they don’t feel like coming to the office. This is actually becoming a more popular perk for employees.
While remote employees and remote work can save money, improve the talent that works for your company and make your employees happier, it should also be pointed out that having remote employees is also a sizeable challenge.
For one, effective leadership of remote teams is a far greater undertaking than leading teams that you can see in person, day-to-day. Despite the wide array of communication tools available to the modern manager, communication still suffers due to the lack of face-to-face interaction. Also, it is not that uncommon to observe certain hierarchical and responsibility lapses in remote teams due to the physical distance.
All in all, if you wish to lead a remote team, you will do well to brush up on your leadership theories and come up with the most effective way to run your team.
Welcoming new members of the team can also be somewhat tricky in a remote setting, simply because people do not interact in person. Developing a company culture in a setup where people’s small talk and personal interaction is limited will take longer and doing proper onboarding of new employees will be made more difficult. That being said, it can be done. Remote teams can still share a culture and you can onboard your remote employees too.
Hiring remote employees or allowing your existing ones to work remotely can do good things for your company, there is no doubt about that. However, this does not mean you should rush into it without considering some very real challenges that might make the whole experience less than spectacular for your business.
James D. Burbank has been working in the trade show industry and marketing for almost two decades. He has seen innumerable small businesses succeed and fail. With some friends, he runs BizzMarkBlog, a business-oriented blog.