In a world that's rapidly evolving to make remote work easier and a new workforce demographic that wants to work anywhere (look at the success of the Remote Year program), you should be asking yourself: Can we offer remote jobs at our company? When you open a job and list the city as "Anywhere, USA," it can be a differentiator in your ability to attract and retain top talent.
Hireology, the company I co-founded in 2010, began with a remote engineering team. We were managing for speed and cost and it was impossible to find local engineering talent on our startup budget. Now that we've been doing this for a few years, it's become clear that our remote policy is a differentiator for our employment brand. 30 percent of our 130-person workforce is remote, and remote workers exist across all departments.
There are three components of a successful remote work policy that you need to get a handle on before you take this path.
It's easy for remote employees to feel like they're on an island. Teams and meeting cadence keep people accountable and offer camaraderie and purpose: utilize daily syncs, weekly huddles, quarterly conversations, and/or any other opportunities where your remote team is able to check-in on measurables, ask questions, get coaching and feedback from their manager. It's critical that your remote employees feel like they are part of your team, working together towards a common goal.
At Hireology, we have monthly Town Halls where we align on our mission as a company and answer the team's questions. We use instant messenger technology to facilitate a "water cooler" environment for our remote team (more on this below). We fly everyone into Chicago for an "onsite week" twice each year to drive maximum team bonding. You can figure out what works best for your company, but make sure that your remote employees feel like part of the team.
You need the technology and systems in place to make remote work at your company successful before you ever hire a remote employee.
Wifi -- A strong internet connection at HQ is critical. Everyone thinks, "I can get wifi anywhere," but when you're trying to run an all-company huddle and 30 percent of your team can't hear what's being said because you can't get enough upload speed to make it work--not cool.
We give our remote employees an internet stipend to help remove the burden of pricey plans at home and we offer wifi hotspots to folks that are constantly traveling. We upgraded the office to fiber optic internet with the express goal of improving the team's experience in our weekly all-company huddle.
Video Conferencing -- Any video conference technology that gives you the ability to record the meeting, share your screen, and conference in many people from many different locations will get the job done. You need to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively and easily and nothing works better than the face-time enabled by video conferencing.
Cloud Storage and Applications -- Google for Business offers the ability to collaborate and share documents seamlessly through their cloud storage drive and business applications. We love that we're not renaming files with "version_2" "version_3" etcetera and emailing them back and forth every time someone needs to change a document and you never have to worry about running out of server or hard-drive space.
The Water Cooler -- We all know that missing Game of Thrones or Insecure on Sunday means we'll miss the water cooler chat at the office. Providing the proverbial water cooler for your remote team allows for freeform interaction and the critical space that helps employees get to know each other as people.
At Hireology we use Hipchat and many other companies use Slack for this function, but these platforms aren't just a water cooler. They're messaging and collaboration tools necessary for effective remote team communication.
Trust is the most important part of being a remote employer and can also be the most difficult for some managers. You'll wonder, "How do I know that my employees are working?" You don't, but you have to trust that they will--but this is true in any business, with or without remote employees.
The best way to set yourself up for success is to set clear expectations and define success with measurable goals that get reported on regularly for all to see. In my experience, providing people with clear expectations, the tools to succeed and the leeway to work on their terms are a recipe for creating strong trust between managers and their team members.
Once you've got a handle on these three areas of your business, you're ready to reap the benefits of offering remote employment. Go ahead, open that job in "Anywhere, USA."