April 23, 2018
Estimated Read Time: 10 Minutes
Remote employees are becoming more popular in this day and age with the ever-so-changing use of technology. It has become easier to communicate with our employees through the web, email, Skype, and many other apps and software. Having the communication right at your finger tips by the touch of a button can make things a lot easier for your company as well as your work load. Being able to get something to someone that is 1,000 miles away and having them send it back to you in a matter of minutes is something that really can make the quality of your work that much better.
However; remote employees can make things also a bit more challenging. While you may have that rock star employee that lives across the country, they’re also typically on their own clock and a lot can happen between the hours of nine and five that might be different if the person were actually working in the office. It’s important for the employee and the employer to not only be considerate of each other’s time but also to make sure they are on a schedule that suits both of the parties needs. There is also the issue of speed. What if something needed to be done quickly and the remote employee didn’t get it back to their teammate till the next day because they didn’t see the email in time. Then the concept of timeliness arises as emergency situations come about. For an in-house employee, face-to-face communication can usually be very beneficial if something urgent needs to be done.
There are many benefits as well as challenges both the employer and employee face when working remote and it is important that we open a dialog and address the things central to a team’s workflow.
The talent you find here might be better somewhere else.
So often in the hiring process are people hiring people just because they think they would be a suitable fit for the position and they are in need of someone as soon as possible so why not just hire the first good candidate they come across? While that person might be the best choice from your candidate pool, they might not be the best of the best if you were to examine similar candidates in other parts of the country. There is an essence of laziness and urgency in hiring as employers are too willing to settle rather than enhance their search for someone better by including candidates willing to work remotely. If employers who have the ability of hiring remote, searched for the most qualified candidate for the position regardless of their physical location, it would not only help their company be the best they can be, but it would really advance the work to a much higher level by building a richer and more diverse culture. This could help the company have the best talent and the best players on their team because they took the time to look further, dig deeper, and find the perfect person for the job. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to have the most valuable player on your team.
How it will save you money.
When you think about working in your standard office, you typically think of computers, phones, desks, chairs, notebooks, the list goes on. For me personally, I know the employees in our office each have their own desk, chair, computer, phone all provided for them by the company when they were hired-not to mention the cost to maintain the office space. Computers are expensive, desks are expensive, all of this adds up especially when you bring on someone new to the team. However, it is different for remote employees. Remote employees might have their own desk, phone, computer, laptop, etc that they have purchased on their own; thus not costing the company a dime. When you hire someone and they already have everything they would need to work for you, this can dramatically reduce the overhead cost for the employer. I know for me, personally, I love writing on my laptop at home as I am just more comfortable on it and know how to work and use everything on there. When you give a computer to a new employee in-house, you’ll most likely go through the awkward phase of orientating them with a new piece if technology. When you hire remote, they will also feel much more relaxed and comfortable using their own computer and phone which can provide a smoother work environment in all, which brings me to my next point.
Flexible work hours can actually make for better happiness (Which makes for better business).
When your boss tells you they need something from you within the hour it can typically lead to stress on both sides. It can force everyone to operate very quickly and can lead to all sorts of problems between you and the company as well as the audience and/or the person you are trying to impress. You might not be able to deliver the best result or have the best idea at hand when you feel so rushed. Having flexible work hours can help relieve some of this stress of by allowing you to focus more time and energy on making the end product look good. Taking the time to look at something and really sit down and brainstorm on how to make it as good as it can be can leave a lot of room for creative thinking and ideas on delivering exceptional work. Creative problem solving and being in a comfortable environment without being tied down to a desk allows the brain to open up not be so confined. Creative thoughts may not only come to you while you are at a desk. Sometimes these thoughts and ideas come to you when you are simply making a cup of coffee. Creativity comes naturally.
Flexible work hours can also make you more attentive to detail and put the extra final touches on the work you are doing that you might not have otherwise had a chance to do during the strict nine to five hours in-office. By working on your own time and having control over your schedule can not only contribute to your own happiness but also make the employer a lot happier with the improved results that come from it.
These are only a few of the many benefits remote employees have. People work different ways so not all of these may apply to you, but just a few important ones I have seen and heard of. With the good, also come the hardships and challenges that remote employees face along with what the employer experiences.
The Challenges of Remote Employees
Interruptions and Distractions
While working in the office leads to distractions such as other co-workers talking to you, the phone ringing, texting, there can be far more distractions at home while you are working. Kids, pets, laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, and yard work- all of these can be powerful distractions if left unchecked. These interruptions can affect your work load and the product of your work too. It can prevent you from getting the work done and cause tension or problems with your team. In the workplace, when working the strict nine to five hours on the clock, you know you are there to work and there isn’t much else to do besides that, especially when your boss is standing right there. Discipline definitely when working remote. You need to maintain a strict schedule of the time you are going to be working and communicate with your boss so that you are being held accountable for the work you should be doing and not folding shirts till three in the afternoon. By planning out and limiting yourself to a certain time period dedicated to work, you’ll be setting yourself up for success and minimizing the distractions in your environment.
When you work remote you may never see the people you actually “work with.” This can create a significant amount of distance between your co-workers that you may not have felt if you were working a cube over from them. When you are in-office and working 40 hours per week, your co-workers can become like your family and people develop deep relationships amongst one another. For someone who never sees their co-workers and may not have even met their boss, this can create a gap in the relationship and also create a feeling of exclusion. Fear of missing out is definitely something that most remote employees may deal with when they see pictures on their social media of all the fun things their company is doing.
Company culture can be very different for a remote employee. There is also the lack of communication that arises with remote employees which can lead to another feeling of loneliness and isolation. Being on your own and doing the work by yourself can limit you from being able to communicate better ideas to your team and manager when compared to someone who works in house and can generate ideas and thoughts with your team creating relationships. There is something about talking face-to-face that is way better and more efficient then calling someone, at least I think so, which in turn leads me to my final point.
Lack of Communication
In-office employees have a lot easier access to talk to co-workers and their boss if they are in need of something quick. For remote employees, it may be a little trickier to get a hold of them during their scheduled work hours because not only are they not physically present in the office but technology issues happen, life happens, and they may not always be logged in to their email and on their phone 24/7. The issue of time zones also comes into effect here. If the remote employee works on the east coast and the employer is on the west coast, there is a large gap in time zone that could result in one employee eating lunch while another is setting up a conference call. Being mindful of what time it is for remote employees can be hard for some employers who may need something out of nowhere and right at that second. It’s also difficult for teams to operate. If a team member is remote and the team has a weekly meeting, then you have to be able to communicate with the remote employee and consider when they can get to their phone or computer.
There are many challenges that come with being a remote employee, but if you try to work around those challenges and work together with your employer so that you both have a clear understanding of what is expected and how to make it work, you should be just fine. Overcoming those challenges is just another part of life for remote employees.
Up Close and Personal with Remote Employee, Jennifer Hale
Jennifer Hale has been with Validity almost five and half years working as a Verification Specialist. She verifies professional and personal references as well as education, employment, credential, and Department of Transportation orders.
Jennifer has been working remote for her entire tenure at Validity. Her first time in the ‘office’ during her tenure with Validity was actually last week when she came up from Saint Louis, where she lives, to visit for the day. She said the whole experience was very surreal. She felt like a stranger at first as she barely recognized her own boss, Kaymee Phillips, until she spoke.
She says, “It’s odd because you have an image in your head about what people look like and then seeing them in person is funny.”
She really enjoyed meeting everyone and putting faces to the voices she had become so familiar with. Her favorite time in the office was actually in our break room where she was talking to Kaymee and Andrea, Verification Unit Supervisor, as if she had “known them forever”, she said. She may not have seen them until now, but she said it felt like family as soon as she met them.
Being a remote employee herself, she says there is plenty of good and bad that comes with it. She loves waking up a few minutes later and can literally show up to “work” in her pajamas and messy hair. She also enjoys being able to schedule her work around her children’s schedules so that she isn’t missing anything important in their lives.
She said working remote “has truly been a blessing.” She loves being able to communicate and socialize with individuals outside of her immediate family and friends. She loves how her schedule allows her to cater to her kids whenever they need something. She just loves her job and it really shows. Her 17 year old son even asks her every single day how work was that day and she loves that he takes so much interest in it and she is able to share that with him.
Of course with loving your job, there can also be things you may not love so much. A few items that Jennifer has a hard time dealing with are getting distracted by family, especially when the kids are home from school during the summer. Another item is the fact that the restroom is upstairs in her house and her office is in the basement, so when she has to use the restroom, she has to overlook the dishes and things that need to be done because she is technically “at work.”
Advice to Any Remote Employee from Jennifer Hale
Advice that Jennifer would give to any remote employee is to simply take it one day at a time. She says, “you may not be able to get everything done in your one shift that day, just know that the next day or the day after will be smooth as silk. Know that what you do does make a difference, and someone out there is depending on you.”
Everybody is on the same team, achieving the same goal. “Having a chat system with my fellow co-workers is something that really helps me stay connected.” She would encourage any company with remote employees to develop some kind of chat system so that work gets done efficiently and you are able to communicate if need be.
Validity uses the chat system, Trillian, which allows of all our employees to communicate as a team. Jennifer says, “some days it may seem as if people are getting a little chatty but at the same time, know that Trillian is what keeps us connected and sane. It gives us the sense of family and let’s you know that there is an entire team of folks out there ready to help and listen at the drop of a pin. All you have to do is ask.”