Getting started with remote workers

Remote work is here to stay. In fact, companies that engage remote workers are more likely to find and retain top talent. This shift towards a more liquid workforce can be strategic, too: companies with remote teams tend to be ahead of the innovation curve.

Research indicates that, within a year, 50 percent of all workers will engage in some type of remote work. McKinsey estimates a profound impact, predicting that online talent platforms, like DevReady, will contribute up to $2.7 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

Still, getting started with remote teams is often approached with trepidation, fear, or outright rejection. Here are some types on getting started with remote workers and distributed teams.

What is remote work?

Fueled by technology and internet connectivity, remote work allows a team in any office or location to add talented workers, whether full-time contractors or short-term freelancers, to their team to capitalize on specific skillsets. (Related terms distributed team or distributed workforce – a group of workers that are not collocated.)

Remote workers often favor hands-on experience and skills instead of traditional education. Instead of only touting a university degree, remote workers showcase their best work on portfolio sites, not unlike something an artist or academic researcher would show – letting the work speak for itself.

Benefits to remote work

Remote work offers is beneficial to workers and employers alike:

  • Flexibility. Remote workers appreciate that they can work anywhere – home, co-working space, another continent – as long as they’re in contact as appropriate for the work. Employers value that they can hire remote workers only for the specific projects or project duration that they need.
  • Staying agile. Remote workers want to engage in challenging work that expands their skillset, which means they can bring skillsets that your in-house team may lack. Similarly, employers can bring remote workers in quickly because they can skip full-time onboarding and begin contributing to the project ASAP.
  • Job and product satisfaction. Many remote workers are happy to help with the “meat and potatoes” of the work but aren’t interested in workplace activities like long-running meetings and office politics. Companies, on the other hand, can invest strategically for top on-demand talent, ensuring a successful product.

Best practices when working with remote teams

Getting started with remote workers might seem daunting – how do you find the talent? How do manage them from afar? – but as distributed teams become more common, best practices have emerged:

  • Be specific. Hiring a developer to help out on ad hoc work is less likely to be a successful venture than knowing exactly what that developer is going to help with. Designate the specific project, make clear the type of work and timeline, and define the job skills and work hours you’re expecting.
  • Focus on skillsets your team doesn’t have. Perhaps a few languages and frameworks are more popular in your city, but you need help on a project for a national client in a specific framework. Add a developer who is an expert in this skill to be the linchpin to the product’s success. (Plus, your on-site team may learn a thing or two.)
  • Go for quality. When hiring full-time salaried employees, you may have to balance skillset against budget. But with remote workers who bill on an hourly or weekly basis, you can incorporate elite talent strategically and exactly when you need them.
  • Opt for an online hiring platform. You may be all-in on hiring remote workers, but you don’t know where to find the talent. Traditional hiring or recruiting agencies tend to focus on the local area (the same as your own approach). But online platforms like DevReady specialize in finding top talent, especially in industries like programming, copywriting, and sales and marketing. Some platforms even manage the contract and payment details, keeping your “to do” list a bit shorter.
  • Keep the technology simple. One of the biggest benefits to hiring remote workers is the speed-to-hire. Don’t require they work with your in-house tools and technology unless it’s crucial to the project (if you do, plan for training time). Instead, opt for well-known cloud-based platforms that automatically sync content and track history, promoting collaboration.
  • Communicate intentionally. Remote workers can easily feel left out. At least at the start of a project, loop in your remote workers as much as possible, so they can understand the driving forces behind their project. As internal and remote workers get comfortable with each other, a more natural communication style will evolve. Importantly, real-time communication with remote workers is extremely beneficial, especially if you’re managing a worker across several time zones. Consider tech-enhanced options like video chat, screen sharing, and screen or document annotation.
  • Encourage results-oriented efficiency. On-site employees may have to cope with set 9-hour workdays and required meetings, but your remote workers should be encouraged to work efficiently – if they only need to bill you for five hours and the work is equal or better, both you and your remote workers will be satisfied. Of course, efficiency for its own sake risks a lower quality, but promoting results-oriented work means a remote worker doesn’t have to work the exact same schedule as your in-house team.
  • Recognize success. With no added benefits like catered lunch or an impromptu happy hour, remote workers aren’t often recognized for their contributions. Simple shout-outs in a company newsletter, a personal phone call, or even a handwritten thank you can promote job satisfaction, which means remote workers may be more inclined to partner with you again.

Opting for a distributed workforce isn’t an either/or situation. Instead, you get the best of both worlds: you can hire traditional, salaried employees as appropriate and bolster those teams with top talent in an on-demand manner. This means your talent pool just got a lot bigger!

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