The remote workforce has exploded in the past year (2020) as a result of many companies shifting to accommodate and adapt to the social distancing and health and safety precautions needed for COVID-19. A survey done last September 2020 by Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) forecasted that the percentage of workers permanently working from home was expected to double in 2021. Another survey done last March 2020 by Gartner revealed that 74% of CFOs plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the pandemic ends.
The continuous rise of remote work over the past decade proves that this isn’t simply a trend on the rise, but rather a striking paradigm shift in the workplace that is here to stay and grow in the future. So if you’re looking for a few tips and resources to help you get your remote team up and running, check out our Ultimate Guide to Hiring Remote Employees below:
Before we dive into the advantages, disadvantages, tips, and best practices of hiring remote employees, here are few more statistics that paint a picture of the landscape that is remote work:
- 4.7 million people were already working remotely from home before the COVID-19 pandemic (Flexjobs): In a joint study done by Flexjobs and Global Workplace Analytics on data provided by the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was found that roughly 3.4% (4.7 million people) of the U.S. workforce was already working remotely prior to the pandemic. This was an increase of 800,000 people compared to the previous year.
- 88% of organizations worldwide have made it mandatory or encouraged their employees to work from home after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic (Gartner): This March 2020 study surveyed 800 global leaders and found that 88% of organizations have responded to the pandemic with mandatory or encouraged work from home policies. 97% of organizations have also canceled work-related travel since March 3, 2020.
- The number of people who work from home has increased by 140% since 2005 (Global Workplace Analytics): The advancement of technology over the past decade has been instrumental in bringing work from home to the forefront of today’s working landscape. With the introduction of the internet, cloud storage options, remote working tools and other professional software, work from home has grown 10 times faster than other areas of the workforce.
- 25% to 30% of the workforce will be working remotely from home by the end of 2021 (Global Workplace Analytics): The demand for flexibility in where and how people work has been gradually increasing over the years. The study by Global Workplace Analytics states, “We believe, based on historical trends, that those who were working remotely before the pandemic, will increase their frequency after they are allowed to return to their offices. For those who were new to remote work until the pandemic, we believe there will be a significant upswing in their adoption.”
- By 2028, 73% of all departments will have remote workers (Upwork): Millennials and Gen z employees currently make up only 38% of the workforce. However, by 2028, they’ll make up roughly 58% of the workforce. The younger generations will have a significant impact on workforce planning, bypassing traditional hiring methods and focusing on workplace flexibility, affecting the number of remote workers in the next few years.
If you’re fairly new to the remote work game, there are a few buzzwords and terminologies that you need to be familiar with:
- Remote work: A working arrangement that allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment. This means that employees do not need to commute or travel to a central place of work such as an office.
- Distributed team: A group of remote employees who are working in a variety of different locations (e.g. different cities, different countries, etc.)
- Digital nomad: A person who chooses to live a location-independent and technology-enabled lifestyle – often traveling to foreign countries while working remotely
- Work from home: A working arrangement that allows a professional to work from home instead of an office or central working space
- Independent contractor: A person who is contracted to perform a service for another business as a nonemployee. This person is self-employed and pays their own taxes, uses their own equipment, follows their own schedule, and works offsite
- Full-time employee: A person who works a minimum number of hours following a job description set up by their employer. This person is paid a regular wage, has tax withheld, uses company owned equipment, and usually reports to a company office or facility
- Payroll: The total compensation a business must pay to its employees for a set period of time or on a given date. This can be managed by an accounting or human resources department, the owner of a small business, or outsourced to a third party who specializes in paycheck processing, employee benefits and insurance, and tax and labor law compliance.
- Compliance: The human resources process of ensuring your company follows and demonstrates a thorough understanding of applicable employment laws and regulations
- Professional Employer Organization (PEO): A company that provides co-employment solutions and services such as payroll, processing, benefits, tax filing, etc.
- Employer Of Record (EOR): A company that acts as the legal employer of your employees, managing all responsibilities which coincide with employing staff such as timekeeping, payroll, compliance, benefits, onboarding, terminations, etc.
- Access to global top talent: One of the biggest advantages of hiring remote employees is that you have no constrictions or limitations when it comes to your talent pool. You aren’t limited to finding people with a specific skill set from a certain area. Your options are limitless!
- Possible lower operational costs: If you manage a completely remote team, this can help you save costs on a physical office, maintenance staff, transportation allowance and time, more. You can also save on base salaries of your remote employees if they will be working from countries that have lower costs of living. Another study by Global Workplace Analytics showed that U.S.-based businesses saved an average of $11,000 annually for every half-time telecommuter.
- Increased happiness and productivity: There are multiple studies and surveys that show that remote workers are more productive and are generally happier than their non-remote worker contemporaries. Owl Labs noted that people who work remotely at least once a month are 24% more likely to be happy and productive. FlexJobs stated that approximately 86% of people feel that working remotely reduces stress, while a study by CoSo Cloud showed that 77% of remote employees say that they are more productive when working from home.
- Employee retention: If your employees are happy and their flexible work considerations are met, employee retention will become a natural outcome or result. A report published by FlexJobs showed that 76% of workers would be more willing to stay with their current employer if they could work flexible hours. Another one by Owl Labs found that companies that allow remote work have 25% lower employee turnover than those that don’t.
- Cultural and language barriers: If you’re looking to hire employees from different countries, this can be quite a challenge. Different countries have different working styles that are ingrained in their culture which will make it difficult to adjust to them. Language is also a concern. While you typically want to hire English speakers, many remote workers do not speak English as their native language. To help combat this, you can set clear expectations at the beginning and be very clear in your communications.
- Employee engagement: Unlike having a whole team at the office, employee engagement for remote employees and distributed teams is a lot trickier. It’s definitely not as simple as treating everyone out to a team lunch or inviting everyone out for some after work drinks. Some remote employees experience low morale and loneliness due to lack of human interaction. While employee engagement is harder to manage for a remote team, it’s not impossible. There are numerous fun and engaging online activities you can do with your team such as games, experiences (think: Airbnb experiences), and more.
- Time zone differences: If you hire employees from all over the world, you’re going to encounter time differences, scheduling conflicts, and more. Sometimes this will mean people working night shifts just to accommodate other people’s schedules. While this is something that can’t be helped, setting clear expectations and knowing the exact time zones of your employees can help ease this challenge.
- More complicated hiring process: Even though you can do your entire hiring process online and without leaving your home, the steps to actually hiring a remote employee can be quite tedious. From video conferencing and screening multiple candidates to checking portfolios and references, the entire process can take longer than if you were to hire someone you could meet face to face. While you can definitely shorten the process if you wish, the reason most companies have longer hiring processes is because they are looking for a good fit for their company and want to minimize the risks of a potential bad hire.
How to Get Started
Hiring remote employees is vastly different compared to hiring non-remote employees. You’ll have to adapt new practices and utilize technology for you to maximize your access to a global talent pool. Here are a few basic steps to help you get started:
- Determine what you’re looking for: Besides budget, skills, and competencies, other things you should look out for when hiring remote employees include their English skill level (if necessary), communication skills, time management skills, adaptability, self motivation, and whether the person is a good cultural fit for your company.
- Write the job description: Everything rides on the details that you publish in the job description. You don’t want to leave anything vague or unclear as this will only lead to miscommunication in the future. For remote hiring, it’s always a good practice to be extremely specific. For example, you can put ‘Remote Work’ or ‘Work from Home’ in the job title. In the job description itself, make sure to specify the working hours, whether the position is part time or full time, who the position is open to (e.g. applicants from a specific country or who have a specific degree, etc.), the specific skills needed, and details about your company.
- Post and promote the job description: Look for top job portals in countries you want to attract potential employees from. You can also get in touch with recruitment agencies there if you are willing to spend on this. Another good idea would be to utilize your company’s social media platforms to promote the job description as well as promote brand awareness for your company.
- Screen applicants: There are many ways to do this with remote candidates. You can ask for a portfolio, review their resume, provide them with a test (e.g. writing test, graphic design deliverable, etc.), and even have an initial phone call just to see if the candidate will be a good fit. It’s also a good idea to have a rubric or criteria to reference skills and competencies as well.
- Conduct interviews: This is always best via a video call so you can look the candidate in the face. Set a time limit and be considerate of time differences and any excessive noise on your end. It’s also good practice to have a list of questions available that have already been tailored to the specific candidate.
- Evaluate potential candidates and make an offer: After getting all the information you need, it’s time to assess your candidates. Look at the rubric and see which candidate best matches the skills you’ve listed down in the job description. You can also look at candidates that you think will work well with the rest of the employees and those that can easily be trained. Once you’ve narrowed down your options and made your decision, you can make an offer to the candidate and draft a contract.
- Have an onboarding and training program: Once a person has been hired, welcome them to the team with an onboarding and training program to have them learn the ropes. You can have a welcome meeting with the whole team and assign a buddy or mentor to help the new employee out. Make sure that you also provide them with all the necessary tools and resources they need to do their job – whether it’s an email address, access to documents and drives, training videos, project management tools, or more.
Tips and Best Practices
Here are a few tips and best practices that you can also use when hiring your remote employees:
- Ask for referrals: If you already have other remote employees working for you, try and ask for referrals from them. Do they have friends who match a certain skill set that you’re looking for? Maybe they can utilize their personal network to try and find a potential employee? Seeking referrals from other employees establishes a bit more trust as compared to other candidates and can help you attract more candidates, especially if your employee provides a testimony or good word of mouth.
- Create an exceptional candidate experience: Leave a good impression from the very beginning of your interactions. Try to create a welcoming atmosphere while on call or on video and introduce your company’s values and culture. Respond to their questions and find out what benefits they’re looking for, and if you decide to make them an offer, tailor your offer to what you think will best appeal to the candidate.
- Offer meaningful benefits: You don’t want your potential employee to feel like they are missing out on benefits when they work for you. Look into the mandatory benefits required by the local government. What can you add to make your remote employee’s contract better? Some examples are health insurance from a premium provider, allowances or stipends for transportation and/or food, maybe even equipment such as a laptop and internet coverage.
- Consider outsourcing to a PEO: Once you’ve chosen your remote employees, the post-hiring process can be quite daunting. From onboarding and managing to payroll and compliance, the entire process can be quite an arduous one, especially if you’re working with a distributed team. Consider using an international PEO like Multiplier to help you with the entire process. All you have to do is find your ideal talent and Multiplier can take care of the rest.