How to Work with Remote Workers

We may have mentioned a few times just how much opportunity the internet creates for businesses, but to this point, we have primarily focused on the client acquisition and structural aspects. In this post, we're going to talk about the benefits of utilizing remote workers to gain access to the best talent the world has to offer.

We have an entirely remote workplace at SlatePeak. We work with team members in Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Germany, and we love it!

First, we want to highlight some of the pros and cons of working with remote employees:

Pros:

  • You aren't limited to nearby talent. This is especially true for businesses in smaller or rural areas. It is harder to find quality talent in some areas than others. Having remote workers allows you to draw from a global talent pool.
  • If your whole team is remote, you can save on overhead by not needing an office in some circumstances. You will also save in utilities and could require less insurance coverage for having substantially lower physical risk.
  • You gain a diversified perspective. If you're working with a nationwide or worldwide team, you're gaining insight from a variety of different backgrounds.
  • You don't need to purchase as much equipment, which reduces total costs as well. If you don't have an office, you don't need to furnish it!
  • Happier employees are more productive employees. Cutting your workers' commute out of the picture can provide them with the same amount of happiness as a $40,000 raise.

Cons:

  • You miss out on some of the social interaction. You can't go out for drinks after work. You can still exchange IMs, but that's not the same.
  • If your remote employees aren't self-starters, they could easily slack without direct supervision.
  • Timezone issues can arise, which can make it harder to deal with urgent deadlines or emergencies.
  • Having employees working on the same projects at different times can lead to miscommunication.

With the pros and cons in mind, here are some ideas on who to hire as remote workers:

  • Hire self-starters. These are people who are going to get to work without constant prodding. They can generally steer themselves and won't slack.
  • Hire people who don't need to have daily in-person interaction. Your employees won't see much of each other in-person, and they need to be okay with that.
  • Hire effective verbal communicators. Goals, progress, and dilemmas need to be conveyed in a timely and effective manner for a remote team to be successful.
  • Hire people with reliable technology. You don't want internet outages or hardware problems constantly interrupting your company's workflow.
  • Hire talented people. You don't need to settle with what's around you when you're hiring remote workers. Hire exactly the type of people you want to work for your company. You have the whole world to draw from.

And finally, how to work with remote workers:

  • Use a group instant messaging tool like Skype. This allows the team to effectively and immediately communicate, and it leaves the messages available for later access if you're working with people in multiple timezones. It also allows for some positive social interaction, which is always nice!
  • Take advantage of collaboration tools like Google Docs for creating presentations, spreadsheets, and other documents.
  • If you need to accurately track working hours for your remote employees (if they aren't salaried), HiveDesk is a great solution.
  • Use Trello to manage projects, keep track of tasks, and more. It is very convenient for helping make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Google Hangouts is great for screen sharing and video conferencing. You may consider having scheduled webcam check-ins on a weekly to monthly basis!
  • As for paying your remote workers; there are several main options. PayPal and Square Cash are quick and easy, but they do charge a fee. Wire transfers are quick and easy as well, but there is often a sending fee of $30 and a receiving fee between $10-15. Direct deposit via ACH is likely the best option for paying remote workers on an on-going basis. To set this up, speak with your bank.
  • Consider meeting up in person on an annual retreat if at all possible. It's great for company morale to spend some face to face time together.

We think working with a remote staff can create wonderful opportunities for your small business or startup that would have never been possible in the past. Do you have experience with a remote team? Do you have any tips, tricks, or tools you enjoy that we didn't mention here? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.

Joshua Slate

Entrepreneur. Rock climber. Software engineer. Founder of @SlatePeak and others.

Saint Paul, MN

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