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Digital technology lets us assemble a "workplace" almost anywhere. Today that workplace is likely to partially consist of a remote workforce.

Workers and employers alike are taking advantage of this capability to introduce remote working arrangements. Under the right circumstances, these arrangements can help you scale and expand your business quickly and find and retain the best talent. Such arrangements can also lead to increased worker satisfaction, as people like the flexibility of working from home or a local co-working space, without a long commute to an office building.

Growth of remote work

The growth of remote work doesn't seem to be slowing down. The State of the American Workplace report by Gallup has revealed the number of employees working remotely from 2012 to 2016 has increased from 39 percent to 43 percent. For future employees--millennials to be exact--remote work is something many of them look for in a job.

Benefits of a remote workforce

A remote workforce can benefit your company in a number of important ways, including:

  1. Cost savings. Whether a remote working arrangement is part- or full-time, you will be saving money. Anytime employees are working remotely, you are using fewer office resources, so there will be less overhead. You can save on the cost of office space, utilities, equipment, snacks, and beverages. And relocation expenses become unnecessary for new hires. If you have half of your workforce or more working remotely, the savings could be considerable.
  2. Increased productivity. A report by SurePayroll has revealed 86 percent of employees who prefer to work alone to hit maximum productivity. And 65 percent think a flexible and remote work schedule would increase their productivity. Not having to commute, being in a comfortable environment, and not being distracted all can contribute to making remote workers more productive.
  3. Expanded talent pool. If you have a fully implemented system for managing remote workers, it means you are not limited to the talent pool in your geography. As long as the infrastructure is in place to support the workflow of your company, you can attract national, even global, talent.

Considerations when hiring remote workers

At the same time, there are considerations to keep in mind when using remote employees:

  1. Security. One of the main considerations with remote workers is security. Remote working relies heavily on digital communications, which places added significance on information technology (IT) security. Think about securing your data and network through options such as a virtual private network (VPN) and mobile device management. Small businesses without an in-house IT staff can hire an IT consultant or rely on a partner to set up cloud arrangements that are secure yet flexible.
  2. Liability. Another consideration with remote workers is protecting against potential liability risks -- for example arising from the loss of sensitive information due to data breaches, cyber extortion, fraud or loss or destruction of data. Take steps to securely manage health and financial data, which is strictly regulated. Be sure to also consult legal counsel on state and local legal and taxation requirements if you have remote employees in other states.
  3. Managing workers. Use a thorough vetting process for remote workers to make sure you have the right candidates. This will make managing remote workers much easier. Ask about candidates' working style, and whether they've ever worked from home for extended periods in the past. Are they comfortable communicating via video conference, phone calls, and chat? Are they self-starters who prefer to run with a project -- or do they operate better under daily face-to-face interaction?

Remote work shows considerable benefits. According to a study by Forrester titled, "Demystifying the Mobile Workforce," 66 percent of information workers in North America and Europe already do many of their tasks remotely.

In today's competitive labor market, attracting the best talent may require having a full or flexible remote working arrangement for your candidates, as well as your current workforce if you don't want to lose them.