March 23, 2017 By Chris Conforti
January 11, 2017
Join the Office Exodus: Remote Working Tips From the Pros
Frazzled. That’s one way of describing how Jody Grunden felt when his company hired its first remote worker. “Our first remote hire was in Texas, and we struggled psychologically through the whole process. We asked ourselves: How do we manage this person? How do we keep them motivated? How do we bring them into our culture?” says the managing partner and now-virtual CFO of Summit CPA Group in Fort Wayne, IN.
Cut to three years later, and the entire 35-employee company is working remotely. Suffice it to say, Summit CPA made things work, by joining the mass exodus from office to remote offices. Okay, maybe not mass, but 38 percent of workers in management, business, and financial operations occupations and 35 percent of those employed in professional and related occupations are now doing some or all of their work from home, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But, we know this one success story won’t wash away all your anxieties about supporting, or even transitioning into, a remote workforce. So to ease the minds of owners and managers at small- and medium-sized companies, we spoke to your peers who’ve already embarked into the world of remote workers. Here are some tips from leadership on how to make remote teams work, and why it’ll be boon to your small business.
Better, Faster, Stronger (Workers).
If you think that you need to hover over employees desks for them to get work done, think again. In a survey conducted by TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm, 91 percent of respondents overwhelmingly answered that they feel more productive when working remotely, according to the aptly named What Leaders Need To Know About Remote Workers survey. And, a study by the smart folks over at the Harvard Business Review found that 87 percent of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing.
As the founder of SMACK! Media puts it, this comes down to time not being wasted. “Without having to commute and put on make-up and blow dry our hair every day, we all get right to it, we are happy in our environments and different places lead to different inspirations,” says Elisette Carlson, who manages six remote employees.
Chris Hazzard, who helps manage 35 remote workers at the Sanborn Agency, says, “remote work not only made people happier, but also made them more effective. The remote environment gives people flexibility, and everyone appreciates that. Folks can do their work in a way that makes sense for them. As long as the deliverables are solid, everyone is good.”
But, why is that? “Remote work forces you to focus on deliverables, but you can do it in your own time and in your own way,” says Hazzard. “The lack of in person interaction actually really helps force managers to focus on the most important aspects: processes, productivity, and results.”
Hire Here, Near, or Far.
Right now, you have a sizable, physical office in small-town, USA. Or, maybe you have a small firm operating in a big city. That fact alone is cutting down your chances of recruiting and hiring top talent. Why, you ask? Because you’re constrained, limited to applicants who are already living in you area (or willing to relocate). You’ll also be competing with those huge companies (the ones with major name recognition) for talent in the city. That’s not ideal.
But when you’re hiring remote employees, your talent pool becomes endless. “Being able to hire smart, talented employees regardless of their location has helped fuel our company’s growth immensely over the last few years,” says Grunden. “Our team members are phenomenally high quality and talented. And that’s because our talent pool is bigger, and we can be more selective about who we choose to bring on.”
And Summit CPA isn’t the only one who’ve experienced this benefit. “It’s much easier to hire talented people wherever they’re happiest, as opposed to scoping our pool of potential employees to a single geographic area,” says Craig Bryant, founder and CEO of Kin HR, which made the shift to remote employees five years ago.
Chris Hazzard, of the Sanborn Agency, emphatically concurs. “One of the best ongoing benefits of remote workers has been our ability to hire incredibly talented people as the company grows, from a wide variety of locations throughout the U.S.,” he says. “And having a remote setup opened us up to a whole new talent pool. And we’ve hired folks from all over the USA, including a place in the middle of Kansas that’s more remote than Antarctica.”
It’ll also make your company more appealing to the oh so important Millennials, at least according to a survey by AfterCollege, a career network for college students and recent grads. In their survey, they found that 68 percent of Millennials seeking jobs said the option to work remotely would increase their interest in an employer.
They Won’t Walk Out That Door.
Not only does offering remote employment help attract top talent, it also helps companies retain that talent. Offering remote positions greatly reduces turnover, and according to a study published by Stanford University, job attrition rates fell by over 50 percent.
And the managers we spoke with back that up. “Employees who decide to leave our Chicago headquarters can move and take their jobs with—and most have!” says Bryant from Kin HR.
Hazzard gives a bit more of colorful picture: “Offering a remote setup helped us retain the folks we already had. After going remote, a good portion of our team packed their bags and moved around the country.” And going remote even helped the Sanborn Agency go global, as one of their employees moved halfway across the world to Prague.
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