Why Your Firm Should Consider Switching to Remote Operations

Many businesses around the world function 100% remotely or at least have part of their workforce in remote roles. And there are a number of reasons why more firms should consider this approach.

It’s common to be skeptical about how remote work affects performance, and there’s no denying it takes a different mindset to hire and manage a remote team. But with the right strategies, switching to remote operations can boost productivity, help eliminate overhead costs, and bring you a competitive recruiting advantage.

By knowing what to look for in remote workers, you can build a highly functional team that understands their responsibilities and produces great work day in and day out.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of switching to remote operations, how to hire a remote team, and the strategies you can use to manage your team effectively.

Key Benefits of Switching to Remote Operations

1) The Right Employees Will be More Productive

To start out, it should be noted that not everyone will be successful in a remote role. There are many factors that contribute to the right fit (which will be discussed later), but for those that are a good fit for remote work, their productivity will be enhanced.

One of the main reasons productivity increases is because remote work presents less distractions. If you currently work in an office setting, I’m sure you can think of a number of things that distract you on a daily basis. One of the biggest offenders, office chit chat and gossip, is removed from the equation when you’re in a remote environment. Office comradery is great, but every time someone has a story they want to share, it diverts your focus from the task at hand.

Every time you become distracted, it takes a certain amount of time to regain the level of focus you had before. Even if a coworker has a question related to your work, it still can be distracting and reduce productivity. There are simply so many distractions that are unplanned and unpredictable within an office setting that aren’t an issue when you work remotely.

The next reason why people are more productive in a remote setting is because they can structure their day according to how they work best. By removing the need to be at a desk from 9 to 5, employees can work when they are most energized. Some employees are “morning people” and would prefer to get up and at ‘em first thing, then clock out a little early. Some workers are highly productive in the evenings.

Employees also have the ability to take real, energizing breaks. Workers who are stuck at their desks may browse Facebook for an hour at their desk when they’re tired and unfocused. We all know that social media is not a restful activity for the mind and will not create great productivity later on. But let’s say they are working from home. A 15 minute walk or even a power nap might do wonders for the next couple hours of work. This will lead them to come back to their work more energized because they’re able to fulfill their mental and physical needs throughout the day.

2) You Save On Many Overhead Costs

When you switch to remote operations, there’s no longer a need to rent office space, which greatly reduces costs to your company. Also by not having to travel to an office, you and your employees can save a ton of money on gas and other transportation expenses.

There are communication and project management tools your team will need, but many businesses already use these even in an office environment. Tools like Slack or Asana are commonplace for businesses, and you can use them remotely in the same way you would use them in a physical space.

In my opinion, it makes sense for your firm to pay for the tools your team will need because you would be paying for them even if your staff worked in an office. This includes supporting them with a home office setup, company computer, or anything else they would typically need. Furthermore, by providing these tools, it’s easier to guarantee the security of your data and other information versus letting staff use their personal devices.

3) Allowing Employees to Work Remotely is a Great Recruiting Tool

Remote work provides the freedom and flexibility that most people desire. The Gen-Z and Millennial workforces have come to expect remote work opportunities, and older generations are also seeing the value of working remotely. As long as they are the right fit, it really doesn’t matter what age group or demographic they’re part of.

A remote work option makes your company more attractive, and it also gives you the ability to hire from a larger pool of candidates. You can select from candidates from all across the country – and even the world. The right candidates will find a way to accommodate to the varying time zones if they’re serious about the job.

Not only do remote work options help with recruitment of new talent, they also help with the retention of your existing talent. When an employee can move anywhere in the country and keep the same job, they’ll likely stay loyal to you. Also, if you decide to move, your current workforce doesn’t have to change based on your location.

How to Hire Remote Workers

There are some key qualities to look for when hiring remote workers, such as the following:

  • He/she is passionate about the role – If someone isn’t invested in your vision, and the daily responsibilities of the job,, they will have trouble staying on task in a remote role.
  • He/she is a self-starter – Remote work takes a lot of self discipline and motivation, which not everyone has. 

Ideally, you want to hire someone who has prior remote work experience and references you can speak to. 

Here are some questions you should ask when speaking to a candidate’s former supervisor:

  • How much oversight did they require to get the work done?
  • Do they need external motivation to get the work done?
  • How much did you have to communicate with them about deadlines?

Hopefully the answer to these questions is “little to none.”

If you do get a promising applicant who doesn’t have prior remote experience, you need to ask the right questions and listen to your gut feeling about the candidate.

Some questions that you might want to ask your candidates are:

  • How do you structure your day?
    • If they don’t have a solid routine that they can describe, that’s a red flag. They should be able to tell you how they start their morning and prioritize their tasks throughout the day.
  • What technologies/tools do you use in your everyday life (work and personal)?
    • If the list is minimal or unrelated to tools they might use in the job, that’s an issue. You need your candidates to be tech savvy and able to switch between online tools effectively.
  • Why do you want this job?
    • If the main reason they want the job is so they can work remotely, that’s a red flag. They likely only care about having flexibility and not the work itself.

Once you find a candidate that seems like a good fit, you’ll want to make the offer contingent on a background check for security reasons. If they are working with sensitive information, you need to make sure they don’t have a criminal history related to financial crimes and data or identity theft.

If they pass the background check, it’s also smart to put new hires on a 90 day review, especially if they don’t have any remote work history. Set a 30/60/90 day expectation plan where they understand what you need to see from their performance in those time frames. That way, if they don’t live up to the challenge or are not being productive, you can hold them accountable.

How You Can Get Started with Your Current Team:

For firms that are already running and want to switch to remote operations, approach the change slowly. Treat it like  an experiment to see if your employees do well in a remote setting. Talk to each of your employees and make sure they actually want to work remotely (because not everyone wants to). If your employees have no interest in working remotely, don’t force them to do it.

Make sure you have 1-on-1 conversations with everyone on the team about what they want and what it would look like for them to work in a remote role. You can start slowly with them working remotely just 1-2 days per week and measure productivity. If all goes well, and your employees are enjoying it, then you can eventually move them to a full time remote role, or stick with a hybrid model.

How to Manage Remote Workers

Whether you’re hiring new remote workers or transitioning current ones, measuring results is vital because you don’t see them everyday. You likely already have the tools and systems to track progress, so just apply that same process in a remote setting. 

If you don’t have a strong progress tracking system in place, the first thing you need to do is make tasks and projects transparent to your whole team. This way managers know in real-time what’s happening with each project and if they need to intervene in any way. This works both ways. By having total transparency of responsibilities across the company, employees can also “manage up” and help their managers (or other teams) if something is falling behind..

Tools that help with making projects transparent include:

  • Shared email inboxes such as Hiver
  • Project Management tools such as Trello or Asana
  • Chat/Video tools such as Slack, Zoom, Skype, or Loom

The most important part of managing a successful remote team is having clear lines of responsibility and communication. Everyone should always know what their tasks are and what workload they need to accomplish each day.

To Recap:

Switching to remote operations is easier than ever before. With the many communication and project management tools available, your team can thrive in a remote environment. Your staff can become more productive, you can save money on overhead costs, and you can give your company a competitive recruiting advantage.

Success with a remote team comes down to the people you hire and how you manage them. 

By ensuring your candidates are the right fit and making sure their responsibilities are clearly understood, your business can reap all the benefits of working remotely.