How to run a business using only remote workers
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How to run a business using only remote workers

5th May 2016
By Tom Ladle

It’s amazing to think that the tech world has made it possible to run a business without paying for an office, or even needing to meet your employees in real life. Indeed, organisations like the Hoxby Collective do just that, with a team of talented individuals from all disciplines working collaboratively on projects across the globe. But of course, running a business where you aren’t sat next to your colleagues has its own set of challenges. Here’s how to tackle them, and triumph.

Hire the right people

Easier said than done, right? But if you’re going to let your employees work independently, you need to be able to trust them 100%. Using video conferencing to do your interviews will give you a good idea of their personality, and make sure you hire “doers, not dreamers”, according to business expert Ryan Halliday at Observer. “Only hire people that simply get things done,” he advises. “If the candidate isn’t already self-motivated to get stuff done, they aren’t going to magically become a doer because you hire them. You can teach skills–you can’t teach initiative, discipline or dedication.

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Remember the time zones

If you’ve got staff scattered across the globe, you’ll have to learn to work in a more fluid way. Your team won’t be keeping office hours in the UK, so factor that in when you’re asking them to complete work. Making sure your employees are happy is no less applicable for remote workers.  There are a number of tips you can learn for managing teams in different time zones here.  But keep in mind that there will be different national holidays depending on what country they’re in.  So if you’ve got someone based in the Middle East, remember their weekend starts on a Friday. It’s respecting the small differences like this will make your remote team will feel valued.

Utilise software

Communicating clearly with your employees about your expectations is a key part of any business’ success – but when you can’t actually see what they’re doing, you need to find another way to monitor progress. Luckily, there are loads of great tools now like Basecamp or 15Five that allow you to communicate and run a business anywhere in the world (with internet). “This gives employees a much needed voice in the day to day working of a company, update their boss on their great work and answer important questions. It also gives management a good view from the sky to see what each employee is working and responsible for,” says Ryan Halliday at Observer. “Don’t overthink tools–just pick the ones that work and use them.

Create an online water-cooler

It’s not just about your employees hitting targets – you also need to know how they’re feeling, too, and whether things are going well for them. If there are gripes and resentments, you need to hear about them before you lose staff. So, fabricate that ‘informal chat at the water-cooler’ moment with tools that enable both of you to offer positive or negative feedback. If your team uses Slack to communicate, set up a channel to focus on publicly congratulating employees for a job well done, and set up regular calls, screen share sessions or web meetings to check in with your staff.

Make people happy

Essentially, to run a business and manage a remote team successfully, it boils down to one key factor – making your staff feel valued, wherever they are in the world. “You must build rapport with *every* member of your team,” says GetLighthouse. “Rapport is what will help you work through problems each team member has, trust they can come to you with things important to them, and give you the benefit of the doubt when you make a mistake or an unpopular decision. Rapport comes from getting to know them as a complete person…taking the time to do this will also make them like working for you more.”

Benefits of remote working

It keeps your staff from leaving

High turnover of staff is a headache for businesses, and canny managers will want to do all they can to retain talented employees. Offering them the option to work from home is one way to reduce this, with a report from Stanford University demonstrating that “job attrition rates fell by over 50%” when companies offered working from home, according to Remote.co. Demonstrating to your team that you’re willing to adapt in this way gives a great impression of trust and flexibility, and means they’re more likely to stay loyal to you.

Great talent will want to work for you

Offering remote working will also attract new talent – especially millennials – to your company, as 70% of UK employees said that they would be put off from applying to a job that doesn’t offer it. Being at the forefront of this sea change shows that your business is forward-facing, and will appeal to the talent of the future.

It saves you money

All those overheads – office space, electricity, equipment – are hugely reduced by having a remote workforce. Big companies that have adapted to this model have made huge savings – American Express saved $10-$15million annually in real estate costs by shifting to a flexible working program. Even if you’re a tiny start-up, you’ve really no need to rent a permanent office space – unless absolutely necessary – so have saved yourself a big expense right off the bat.

It increases productivity

The tired cliché of ‘working from home’ equalling ‘sitting on the sofa watching Loose Women’ has been firmly debunked. Study after study show that homeworkers are actually way more effective in getting their work done. Stanford University found a 13% performance increase by those working from home compared to those in an office doing the same role. And when asked themselves, employees agree – with 91% saying they’re more productive when working remotely, according to Forbes.

Remote working is better for your business, better for your employees and better for you.