In Part 1 of this article series on managing a remote workforce, I talked about the sheer volume of telecommuting professionals – including freelancers, full-time remote workers, and part-time telecommute employees. The surveys I referenced estimated that more than 50 million people telecommuted as of 2014; a number that is likely much smaller than what it should be, since there has been no comprehensive 2015 survey conducted as of yet.
I also mentioned the many benefits for companies that utilize remote workers, including tax savings, reduced overhead costs, and access to an incredibly deep pool of talent likely not available in just one small geographic area.
Since I’ve already established that telecommuting is awesome on so many levels, let’s talk about HOW you can recruit outside talent to work remotely for your company and how you can effectively create remote work policies and procedures for your existing in-house employees.
Recruiting Outside Talent
Headhunting or recruiting used to take a serious amount of time and focus. Thanks to the World Wide Web, employers now have access to millions of professionals, all with the potential of being your next great hire.
There are many ways to find employees or freelancers to work with your team remotely, but I am going to focus on three: Elance, Outsource, and LinkedIn.
Elance.com gives you access to literally tens of thousands of providers at the click of a button. It is fast and easy to set up a free client account on their website, and you can connect with professionals in the following service categories:
- IT & Programming
- Design & Multimedia
- Finance & Management
- Sales & Marketing
- Admin Support
- Engineering & Manufacturing
- Writing & Translation
When you post a project or job opening on the site, you can specify what area of the world or language you are looking to hire for, and you can select either a fixed-price/salaried job or designate an hourly rate you are willing to pay.
When the applications and proposals begin rolling in, you simply review every applicant’s information and make a selection based on who you feel best meets your needs. As an added perk, Elance holds all funds in a secure escrow account, ensuring you never pay for work that is not completed or that is not up to par, which provides tremendous peace of mind to you throughout the entire process.
The downside to the Elance platform is the fact that they require you to keep work on Elance. If you prefer to make payments on your own or to have ongoing work contact with a specific service provider off of the Elance platform, you would be better served going with one of the other two options below.
Oursource.com works much like Elance: you create a free client account and then post you project or job. The difference that makes Outsource shine is that once you find someone to work with, your ties to the Outsource platform stop, and you are free to proceed working with that individual in whatever way you prefer. Want to pay via direct deposit to their bank account? Perfect. Want to hire them for repeat work without having to factor in fees and account charges? Go for it.
Service areas offered on the site include:
- Web Development
- Web Design
- Data Entry
- Content Writing
- Graphic Design
- App Development
- Internet Marketing
Outsource is a newer website than Elance, and their model is still growing and changing. However, the ease of use definitely makes up for any changes you may encounter over time, and there is no doubt that once they hit their stride, the site will be a fantastic talent acquisition machine.
One downside of Outsource is the smaller selection pool it offers compared to larger sites. While the talent level of the service professionals is undoubtedly high, you may not get the volume of response you are looking for when you post a job or individual project.
LinkedIn is definitely an employer’s best friend. It combines the details of a social media platform with the resume/work experience filtering process of a major hiring website, providing you with a fantastic opportunity to connect with qualified job candidates around the world.
You can post jobs and then wait for resumes and profiles to start rolling in – it’s as easy as that. The only downside is that most jobs on the platform are for full-time or contract work; if you are looking for remote workers on a short-term basis or for small on-off projects, then you would be better served using one of the above options. Otherwise, LinkedIn is a fantastic way to connect with experienced professionals that would no doubt be great additions to your team either in-house or via telecommute.
Creating Remote Work Opportunities For Existing Employees
While it is easy enough to head to a job website and hire a freelancer, it is quite another thing to figure out how to create and also effectively implement telecommute opportunities for existing in-house employees. Many businesses just opt not to bother and instead stay stuck in outdated workflow processes that do not offer as many benefits and work perks to employees as they could.
Where does your company fall on this scale? Do you lean toward the same old work rut you have always been in or are you open to trying new things?
If you want to dip your toe in to the whole remote work thing, consider implementing a few of these ideas:
- Offer an inter-office work-from-home day. Use it as an opportunity to try out a new online conference call tool, or to brainstorm some product innovations to present the next day you are all back in the office together.
- Each week offer a new company department the chance to work from home on Friday. This way you are not depleting your entire staff in one fell swoop, and you can rotate through departments each week so everyone has a chance to try out a remote work setup.
- Implement a “late-day” once or twice a week where employees can come in to work after noon, providing they are available at a home office during the morning. This could work especially well for employees that function primarily in an online or desktop-centric capacity (i.e. bookkeepers, webmasters, and on-call support techs).
If you want to dive headfirst into creating remote work positions in your company, go for it! Be sure to implement several checks and balances, though, so that you don’t get too far down the road and risk losing productivity before reeling things back in. Before allowing employees free reign to work offsite, ask yourself these questions:
- Is their task load or set of responsibilities such that they could reduce their productivity by 20-30% in the next few weeks without a negative impact to your company? Since there is an adjustment time involved with moving cold turkey from the office to home, you will need to account for some lost productivity in the beginning stages of the transition.
- Can their responsibilities really be fulfilled remotely? There are definitely some jobs that are better performed on-site…there’s no getting around that (things like stocking shelves of a retail store or making pitches to clients come to mind here). Be sure you are confident that your employee(s) will have success working from home before you send them on their way.
- Do their personalities and past work history make you feel that they would excel in a remote position? If the person or people you have in mind for a telecommute gig would handle that responsibility and freedom with poise and respect, then you will likely be very happy with them working in this capacity. If they are chronically late to work or if they struggle with procrastination, you may want to rethink how much un-managed freedom you hand to them.
In the end, it all boils down to productivity and peace of mind. If you think your employees could continue delivering stellar work on time and within your company’s set productivity standards, and if you have a staff that you can trust to work diligently and honestly when out of sight, then you would likely find great success in offering them a telecommute option.
That brings us to the end of Part 2. Be sure to check out Part 3: How To Effectively Manage Your Telework Team No Matter Where They Are Located.