Who is a remote worker?
Remote workers are employees who are not physically present in the business premises and work from separate, even offshore locations (hence the term remote). Due to the nature of work, being physically present within the business premises is not a necessity to getting the job done. Remote working is limited to white collar jobs like software development, marketing etc. which can use existing technologies like cloud computing to render physical boundaries irrelevant.
Remote workers are a reality in many businesses today. From specialized work like designing and PHP development to more common but crucial functions like data entry and HR- remote workers have been engaged by companies in pretty much every domain.
How are remote workers different from outsourcing?
Often, remote workers and outsourcing are used as interchangeable terms and this has given rise to a certain level of ambiguity to the term. It must be clarified that, whilst lines do blur at times, the two are functionally different, although the concept of remote workers can be called an offshoot of outsourcing at large.
The biggest difference between outsourcing and engaging remote workers is management and scope of involvement. While outsourcing generally means engaging the services of an independent third party contractor/vendor or freelancer/s, with a degree of independence or with local/on-site (where the third party is located) supervision, remote workers largely function as in-house employees, reporting to and within the organizational hierarchy itself, albeit from a remote location.
How to best manage your remote workers?
This is an oft asked question. At Virtual Employee, a staffing platform, we regularly come across potential clients who have the natural confusion between outsourcing and remote workers. We have also observed that clients are often in a dilemma regarding the management of the remote worker/she/she engages. Having pretty much seen it all and more, we have found that the following tips are useful.
1. Treat the remote workers at par with your in-house employees in terms of guidance and mentorship.
2. Regularly monitor their work to ensure efficiency.
3. Create well defined hierarchies to avoid internal strife and ensure smooth functioning
4. Engage the services of your remote workers through an established staffing platform to ensure access to state of the art infrastructure, data security and an organized environment.
Mentorship and Guidance
Treat the remote workers at par with your in-house employees in terms of mentorship and guidance. Remember, while they may be specialists in their domains, they will still look up to you during a crunch and expect you to provide leadership. This is also the biggest difference between purely outsourcing and engaging remote workers. Remote workers are much more involved in the framework of your organization and everyday things affect him/her as much as it would your in-house employee. The idea of loyalty and job satisfaction is as true for your remote worker as it is to an onsite one. And just as any regular employee, he/she will look to learn from you and his/her immediate peers in your organization.
Remote workers often work alone, especially the ones with specialized functions like designers, developers etc. While bigger team models do exist (and we have quite a few of them in Virtual Employee itself), by and large, the professionals work independently and report directly to you or an assigned supervisor in-house. Hence, it’s highly advisable to actively supervise and track your remote worker’s work through screen share and other online monitoring tools. That way the remote worker will feel that you are actively involved and what he/she is doing is important- a big motivational factor.
Communication and hierarchies
It’s very important that lines of communication are clear and hierarchies well defined. Which means if your remote worker depends on the output of an in-house employee, he/she should be able to do follow ups with authority. It might happen, due to their remote locations, remote workers might find it difficult to command any authority or risk being ignored by onsite employees. It’s always good to have clear and transparent hierarchies, especially in large, decentralized organizations.
Play It Safe
It’s always advisable to engage the services of a remote staffing company or platform, through which you can hire your remote worker. Such a move has multiple benefits-
a. The employee is ensured state of the art resources at his/her disposal (of course, depends on how well established the organization is)
b. There is always some sort of local supervision that ensures discipline and, in some cases, even mentorship. As a result, work flows smoothly.
c. I speak from personal experience when I say that good staffing organizations are almost paranoid about data security. They sign strict NDAs with the remote workers they hire on behalf of their clients (that would be you) and get into strict non-disclosure agreements themselves with the clients. By the time GDPR was implemented in Virtual Employee, for instance, we found that we have already been following most of the measures anyways!
We, at Virtual Employee, have seen clients grow and thrive with the help of remote staffing through us. There are so many wonderful and thoroughly uplifting stories that it feels genuinely great to be able to share and partner with someone’s dream and success story. Thousands of miles away, everything might seem virtual, but the shared joys are very real.