HOW TO SET UP A REMOTE OFFICE
You need to hire an employee for your startup or small business, but you work from home and don’t have the money or resources for office space. The perfect solution is to hire a remote employee. Technology is rapidly erasing geographic barriers, making it possible to have a cohesive office without sharing physical space. Remote jobs are becoming more desirable for employees, particularly millennials, who want more flexibility in the workplace.
Setting up a remote office has several benefits:
● Reduced overhead costs including office rental, furniture, janitorial services and utilities
● Wider talent pool because you are not limited to your location
● More engaged and productive employees
● Increased employee retention rates
● Provide flexibility to employees
In addition to the benefits, hiring and managing remote employees does present some challenges including scheduling meetings and ensuring work continuity.
This article discusses the dos and don’ts for hiring remote workers and setting up a remote office as well as tools and resources to make the process easier.
Hiring and Onboarding
When hiring remote employees, you want to obtain as much information as possible about a candidate and assess their ability to work remotely. Throughout the process, pay attention to your interactions with the candidate to determine if they have certain characteristics, which are important for remote work. Do they respond to your emails timely? Do they demonstrate professionalism in your interactions?
● Interviews – Interviewing remote workers might be different than hiring onsite employees but the result is the same. You want a skilled employee who will be a valuable addition to your business. The ideal remote worker is a self-motivated problem solver with strong communication skills (written and verbal), ability to work independently and receptive to feedback. Finding a candidate who has experience working remotely is important. The initial screening can be done by email and phone but a video interview is important to complete the picture and allow you to meet face-to-face with the employee candidate.
During the interviews, ask questions to uncover their ability to work remotely. The first questions you should pose are “Have you worked remotely in the past?” and “How do you feel about working remotely?” These questions will help you gauge whether they are suited for remote work. Ask specific questions about their experience working remotely including how their remote office is set up, what tools they use for managing remote work and how they plan to be accountable. Give candidates a test project to evaluate how they perform in a remote environment.
● Pre-employment screening – Since you don’t have all the information an in-person interview provides, make sure you do your due diligence on the candidate by checking references and conducting pre-employment screenings. Many online services are available to perform background checks. When speaking with the references, ask them to share examples of the employee’s initiative and ability to work independently. Ask for examples of initiative and effective independent work.
● Onboarding paperwork – Use software programs supporting digital signatures such as Adobe Acrobat or DocuSign for onboarding paperwork. Cloud-based services such as Dropbox or Google Docs are great for storing policies, procedures, and other important documentation.
Management and Organization
● Develop a communication plan for meetings or questions – A productive remote team begins with a communication strategy. Top on the list is to ensure you interact with your remote workers on a daily basis. Schedule weekly meetings, daily check-ins and set guidelines for handling urgent matters. To remove communication barriers, use multiple channels to engage remote employees. Use communication tools including instant messaging, video conferencing, intranet and other collaborative solutions to help you stay connected. Some examples include:
○ Join.me – Collaborative online and presentation tools
○ Skype – Calling, messaging, and video conferencing with anyone from any location.
○ Slack – Instant messaging and file-sharing tool
● Create a way to manage projects – In order to ensure everyone is clear on what they need to accomplish, you need a single, shared system to track progress on team deliverables. Some examples of project management tools you can use include: ·
In order to create a successful remote office, you need to invest in the right software, hardware and collaboration tools. Remote employees need access to the right technology and equipment in order to perform their job responsibilities. Providing employees with company-owned computers and software helps in secure confidential company information since employees aren’t using their personal computers to do company work. The types of programs and hardware you will need to support operations fall into several categories:
● File Sharing/Web cloud
● Remote access
● Repair/ maintenance
Creating a cloud-based environment for a remote office is ideal because it will enable employees to access the applications they need quickly and easily. Ensure all hardware is in working condition to avoid delays. Be prepared to purchase software licenses and collaborative tools specific to the role. For example, if you use a specific design or data analysis software, you would be responsible for providing for remote employees.
Some businesses keep IT costs low by allowing employees use their own technology. If you do, you may want to provide a stipend (monthly or annually) to cover work-related expenses such as internet connectivity and cell phone plans. At the time of hire, make sure you clearly spell out what technology the employee will need to provide and what is the business’s responsibility at the time of hire.
Establishing a remote office has many benefits for your business. However, hiring and managing workers requires planning. By implementing the right tools and procedures, hiring a remote employee can be a smart and productive way to grow your business. Use the suggestions in this article to hire your first remote employee to get started on setting up a remote workforce.
Emily Banks a Bay Area Native who got tired of SF’s cold beaches and decided to move to San Diego. She is currently a contributing editor for 365 Business as well as a marketing expert for Hausera, a unique online faucet supplier.