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Small Business

4 Essentials of Hiring Remote Employees

Your business is growing, and it’s seeming more and more necessary to hire an employee to help with the increase in clients and customers. But your home office set up works well, and you need to hire someone long before you can get an office space set up – and those rent prices are a bit alarming.

Thanks to rapid advances in workplace technology, remote offices are becoming easier and easier to establish. Offices can share information, host meetings, and create a cohesive work environment without ever setting foot in the same building. Additionally, more workers are seeking the kind of flexibility that a remote office can provide.

Hiring remote workers has many benefits – saving on rent and utilities, allowing you to hire the best person from anywhere in the world – but there are some important considerations as well. Although technology allows for meeting and information sharing, remote managers must be far more purposeful in how they carry out these meetings to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, and employees must be trusted at a far higher level since there is no in-office oversight.

Here are four key factors to consider when hiring remote employees:

1.    Put Weight on Initial Communication

In-person interviews allow managers to get a sense of what working with a job candidate on a daily basis might be like. For remote workers, the sense of day-to-day interactions comes through responses to emails and phone calls. Since these will be the primary interactions with this employee, these interactions carry far more weight than they would with a traditional employee. Are they prompt and professional? Are they timely and on topic? If in a different time zone, are they able to adapt to keep the differing times straight?

Although you can tell a lot about an employee through these means, be sure to conduct a video interview as well. Speaking face-to-face is inviting, and it is a good test run of the video conferencing tools you may use for normal office functions. ClearCompany has some great tips for conducting a video interview.

2.    Conduct Pre-Employment Screening

Conducting skills tests, reference checks, and background checks is always a good idea when hiring, but it carries greater importance when hiring remote workers. Since they will have less oversight from you as their manager, you need every bit of information you can gather to ensure that they are trustworthy.

Skills assessments can be used to gauge a candidate’s aptitude or skill level in a certain area, such as writing or certain software programs, but should be used carefully. You can also assign a brief task for the candidate to complete, as you would if they were hired. Their success here – as well as their ability to communicate with you throughout the task – can be a great indicator of their fit for the job.

Background checks should be used to confirm identity and work history, while reference checks provide a clearer picture of what the candidate’s work style is like. These are easily done remotely – traditional offices typically accomplish these through online portals and phone calls. Be sure to be consistent in how you conduct reference and background checks. TransUnion ShareAble for Hires has a resource with steps for creating a policy for employment screening, and Harvard Business Review offers tips for checking references.

3.    Offer an Equipment Stipend

In traditional offices, employees expect that the employer will provide all necessary office equipment – everything from a computer to post-it notes and pens. With remote employees, the lines become more blurred. Who is responsible for providing the necessary equipment for the job?

The absence of a physical office space does not absolve an employer of their responsibility for ensuring their employees have the tools they need to do their job. During the hiring process, be very clear about what supplies the employee will be expected to provide and what you as the employer can cover. It’s common for remote employees to use their personal phone or computer, but they should not be expected to cover costs of work-specific software or tools.

Many remote companies offer a small stipend, either on a monthly or yearly basis, to cover the costs of typical office needs that the employee may have. Allow for some flexibility in using this; it should give the employee the freedom to purchase what they need within the confines of that budget. Other companies take different approaches, some of which are outlined in this article from FlexJobs.

4.    Establish Communication Guidelines

At the beginning of your relationship with your remote employee, take time to determine what method of communication is appropriate for different tasks. Will you communicate mainly through email or instant messaging? What topics warrant a phone or video call? It may take a few weeks to fine tune this pattern, but will set a strong foundation for how information is conveyed.

This is also the time to test the actual tools you will use for regular communication. While you should have a plan for what tools to use ahead of time, you may find that in practice, they do not meet your business needs. Don’t be afraid to switch to a different platform if the first one is continually causing problems. Many communication platforms offer several means of communication, such as instant messaging, video chat, and screen sharing, so to make it simpler for everyone, avoid using a separate tool for each need.

The near constant communication may lull you into thinking regular check-in meetings aren’t necessary, but make a point to schedule them. This can be a useful time to discuss topics that don’t come up in the course of a regular day, or provide a time for feedback in either direction.

Communication is also key in building rapport and culture among remote workers, as this article from Zapier discusses.

Hiring a remote team can make it easier for your business to expand and allows you to consider excellent candidates from all over the world to join you in this endeavor. While the considerations of hiring remotely differ drastically from those of a traditional office, technology has made it far easier to overcome the challenges of this kind of work environment.

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