If you are like a lot of owners of businesses big and small, you learned that your team can work remotely – and maybe even as efficiently as they were before. Some owners and managers who were once opposed to the very idea of a remote workforce have even seen increased productivity, better retention rates, maybe even happier employees.
And for a variety of reasons, some small businesses will opt to give up their office space or decrease it as we will all be weathering the recession. For many companies, remote workers will be here to stay.
There’s a similar trend among their big company brothers. Most recently Microsoft announced it would be allowing its employees to work permanently remote, joining the other big tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.
But that doesn’t mean every employee is cut out for working from home. Some just naturally thrive in a collaborative environment or they find it hard to work with household distractions and not being in the office.
As most small businesses begin hiring again, they need to prepared to put an extra set of questions about working remotely onto their interview list, even if they do hope to be in-person again. In addition to the possibility of work-from-home mandates in the future because of this pandemic or others, there’s also the possibility that their No. 1 choice for the job may want the arrangement. Indeed, recent trends suggest that many professionals would workplace flexibility, including the option of working from home, over other employee benefits. It may be seen as a perk.
Last week, Owl Labs’ annual State of Remote Work Report revealed that 81% of respondents expect their employer to offer continued remote work after COVID-19. Other findings of the survey:
Heightened productivity: 75% feel same or more productive when remote, with 8% saying much more
Remote work or bust: 1 in 2 employees say they won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19.
Content employees: 77% of respondents said they would be happier if they are able to WFH post-COVID.
The message for small business owners in all of this is that, whether you like it or not, more and more employees are coming to expect this arrangement, and to be competitive in hiring you may need to offer that flexibility.
The task for small business owners and hiring managers will be to find the people the right competencies to succeed when working remotely long-term.
Here are a few qualities to look for in remote employees:
Are they self-motivated and proactive, not reactive?
These are traits sought after for any employee, but even more important to remote workers where there is no in-sight supervision. You need people who are going to take action and take the initiative to come to you when it’s appropriate, such as when they are running into a technical issues, they need clarification or guidance or they have a suggestion for improvement.
When you’re interviewing and hiring remote workers, look for people who come across as slightly more aggressive and outspoken. In my experience, these are the people who tend to be more proactive. What you don’t want to see it the out of sight, out of mind mentality. Some questions you could ask include: Can you share an example of when you went above and beyond to complete a task without supervision? Or how about this one: How do you stay organized and prioritize your workload to meet deadlines?
Do they not only enjoy working independently, they really thrive on it?
Not everyone does. Ideally, you want employees who are team-oriented but can work independently. Ask candidates about how they would handle particular situations. Ask them about times they’ve had to make decisions independently and they would communicate a problem on the job? Ask them what they see as an ideal work-from-home scenario – including things like hours on the mob, how involved they would want to be, how they like to receive feedback, etc.? This will give you an idea of whether your work styles and time commitments will mesh.
Somebody who truly enjoys working independently will likely go the extra mile to make the situation work.
At the same time, are they a team player, communicating when needed, as well as adaptable and trainable?
Just like your employees in the office, you need people who will step up when needed, offering to help a co-worker or taking on assignments to make a key deadline. They can take constructive criticism, and are open to learning new skills. Working with a remote employee can make on-the-job training and delivering regular feedback harder. In the questions you ask, try to suss out how they take feedback and seek out training and guidance when needed.
The willingness and ability to communicate in a timely manner is a key quality to have in remote workers. That “out of sight, out of mind” mindset just won’t work.
One of the greatest benefits of remote work is having more time to spend with family issues. Your job as a business owner is to identify candidates who can find ways to adapt and shuffle tasks around to adapt to changing priorities and help cover for others, all the while continuing to produce results consistently without heavy direction. Be sure to ask the candidate how they plan to balance their work and life, and that it’s a strategy you can live with, as well.
Once you’ve chosen your remote employees, GrowBiz has you covered with some great tips on managing and retaining them here and here. And here’s another article with some solid advice on ways to make your new remote employees (or any employees) feel welcome.
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