March 25, 2016
On Recruiter Today, we’ve written often about remote work, strong company cultures, and how those two things intersect – but now it’s time to take a step back and look at the benefits and logistics of integrating remote workers. A recent article from Fast Company predicts that 2016 will see a large shift toward remote employees and entirely remote businesses. Companies both large and small companies, from startups to Fortune 500 organizations, can potentially benefit from remote workers – but they may not know just where to start.
Marilyn Weber, CEO of Deaf Interpreter Services, a sign language interpreting agency based out of San Antonio, has years of experience working with virtual employees and integrating them into her team.
According to Weber, there are two obvious benefits of remote employees that may be driving the shift we’re seeing in business these days: more flexibility for both the employees and the company, and a bigger talent pool of candidates.
“You may have a need and not have someone with the skill set in your general vicinity,” Weber explains. “But if you have someone in another state or even across the country, and you can get the best of the best, your organization is going to benefit tremendously.”
As with anything, there are potential challenges to overcome when adopting a virtual workplace or bringing virtual employees on board.
Start With the Right Technology
Since daily physical proximity is no longer an option with remote employees, setting up your virtual employees with proper technology is the first and foremost key to remote work success.
Similarly, another major concern for employers is workflow awareness. A remote worker, naturally, can’t always be cognizant of what’s taking place in the office at any given point in time. There may be situations where the team is collaborating within the office, and the remote employee simply can’t be a part of it. Here, access to technology is absolutely critical.
Go Physical When You Can
In addition to maintaining steady video contact, Weber brings her remote workers on site every 4-5 weeks.
“It’s important for everyone to learn each other’s habits,” Weber says. “And beyond that, it’s important to know who your employees are in order to place them with the most appropriate clients.”
In traditional office settings, this comes easy. However, it takes a little more initiative when you don’t see your employees everyday. Corporate culture still exists when employees are off site, and both virtual and in-office employees have to work together to achieve the company goals. More team cohesion can be achieved when virtual and in-office workers get the chance to meet in person from time to time.
I know the task of integrating remote workers into your workforce may seem daunting – especially if you don’t have any experience with managing remote teams – but according to Weber, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. The key is in finding the right balance, maintaining communication, and incorporating the best technology. Do that, and you’ll have a smooth transition.
So, take the plunge. Your company will be all the better.
Hillary Ferguson is a New York City-based poet and writer. She is currently an MFA candidate in poetry and fiction at The New School and a coeditor of the forthcoming journal Politics and Poems. She lives a quiet, Netflix-filled life with her partner and their two dogs.