Remote teams are no longer the exception, but rather the norm for small businesses of today. Still, there are challenges to operating with a virtual team in place. However, that's no excuse to make these stereotypical assumptions about employees who work from home, because they may harm your business, culture, and employee's performance.
From not being compliant with local regulations, to having negative beliefs about productivity and performance, small business owners can easily restrict and jeopardize growth.
Let's debunk some these all-too-common myths about hiring and operating with work-from-home employees.
1. Working from home is a perk.
Working remotely is not a perk, it's a policy: one that can be changed or eliminated as needed. Five or ten years ago, telecommuting was considered a perk and people were willing to make sacrifices for the opportunity to work from home. Today, while workers still appreciate the opportunity, it's a common one. Alluding to your remote employees that they are privileged can be dispiriting for them, since they work hard just like anyone else. And, they know they have the job of their dreams, so you don't need to reinforce it.
2. This policy only benefits employees.
If your team is managed correctly it will benefit you in many ways, including financially. Here are only a few of the employer advantages:
- The employer pays no (or less) rent
- Reduces absenteeism
- Expands your talent pool from local to unlimited
- Increases productivity (despite popular belief)
- Cuts down on office conflicts, gossip, and personality clashes
- The employer has fewer costs for furniture, phone, connectivity, and other office necessities
3. I can pay my remote workers less, since they don't have commuting costs.
When Yahoo! eliminated their telecommuting policy under Marissa Mayer's leadership, do you think they gave those employees a raise? Hardly. Likewise, you wouldn't pay people less for working from home. Salaries are determined by responsibility, skill level, and experience, not convenience. Pay your employees a fair wage, and remember that your work from home policy saves you money in other ways.
4. Hiring out-of-state employees requires no extra effort or attention.
Small Business Trends published this must-read article, which contains up-to-date information on what you need to know about establishing a remote employee policy. Entrepreneurs are often taken by surprise when they learn about the laws and regulations on compliance and licensing. Yes, you may need a permit or license for your remote workers, and there's more.
5. It's impossible to build a strong culture outside of an office environment.
Your culture is what you make it, with or without the physical presence of employees. Establish your company values, vision, and policies and communicate them clearly and often. Consider things like:
- How we talk to customers and show up as a brand.
- How your team communicates with one another. Slack is a great way to stay connected, as is Skype. It's important to draw boundaries though; designate times for communication so that everyone has uninterrupted work time.
- Weekly meetings, even brief daily meetings, are even more important in a virtual situation.
- Develop recognition and reward systems and use a public forum, like Zoom, to talk about achievements.
6. Productivity and commitment are an issue.
If you know how to interview, select, and train your employees properly, productivity is not likely going to be an issue.
This one is so incredibly false. Many of my clients have remote teams and their loyalty, sense of ownership, and discipline are exceptional. This study published in Harvard Business Review shows that, while not everyone is cut out to work from home, those who do are even more productive than their office counterparts.
7. The privilege of working from home comes at a cost.
Opinions vary on this one. In my opinion, which has been vetted and proven by many of my clients, the employer should offer compensation for equipment and other expenses. Entrepreneurs sometimes believe that, since their employees need computers anyway, the expense should fall on their shoulders. An additional eight hours (or more) of use creates wear on their personal equipment and lessens its lifetime. It's also wise to separate work from personal, so employees appreciate having multiple devices. Your employees may need to upgrade internet services and use software they normally wouldn't purchase. Consider these expenses and offer an allowance every year or two.
8. I don't need to offer any perks since we're not in an office together.
Office workers often receive perks like free coffee, the occasional lunch in or out of the office, and fun holiday parties, to name a few. Your virtual team should be shown similar acts of appreciation. Here are a few ideas.
- Pay for a basic coworking space membership to get them out of the home office.
- Send the occasional treat via mail: coffee or tea, snacks, coffee house or chain restaurant gift cards, and movie tickets are inexpensive options.
- Call an impromptu meeting to celebrate a team or individual achievement.
- Send a handwritten note of appreciation in the mail.
- Reward someone who goes above and beyond by giving them an afternoon off.
Out of sight out of mind is a belief that is 100 percent ineffective and counter-productive when it comes to your virtual team. It's not "extra" work to keep them engaged and feeling appreciated and valued; it all comes with the job of being a great leader and entrepreneur.