01, March, 2017
Have you ever thought about hiring a remote workforce rather than trying to corral your team at a central office? Consider these pros and cons to help you decide whether or not that path is the right one.
One of the biggest differences between the business worlds of today and yesterday is the expansion of telecommuting. As communication technology has become more sophisticated, it’s become possible for workers to do their jobs, attend meetings, collaborate with teams, and communicate with colleagues and clients without actually coming into the office. From feature-rich email systems to tools like Dropbox, Google Docs, Skype, and Slack, technology has yielded a parade of programs that make telecommuting both easy and productive.
If you are thinking about hiring and managing a remote team—either in place of or in addition to a more traditional on-site workforce—the main question isn’t one of feasibility. Countless businesses around the globe have proven that it is possible to manage a successful team remotely. The bigger question is whether the benefits of managing a remote team can outweigh the drawbacks.
To answer that question, you will need to spend some time considering these pros and cons. Here are the key rewards and obstacles you will likely encounter if you embrace telecommuting.
Pro: A wider applicant pool. If you want to have the broadest talent pool possible to draw from, then hiring a remote team is the way to get there. When you require all your employees to work out of a central office, you limit your talent pool to the local area. This limitation isn’t a huge problem in big cities like New York or Los Angeles, where a diverse group of professionals and skillsets may already be represented locally. In smaller towns or rural areas, some types of skillsets simply aren’t represented in the nearby vicinity. When you allow or encourage telecommuting, you can cast a much wider net to build your team, making it easier to find the exact right fit for each job.
Con: Limited sense of company culture. For businesses that consider strong company culture to be a major advantage, telecommuting tends not to be popular. These businesses want to maintain positive office environments in which everyone works together to create a vibrant and robust team. It’s more difficult to build camaraderie between your team members when everyone is scattered geographically and 90% of all communication occurs through digital channels, and possibly even in different time zones.
Pro: Lower overhead costs. One of the big perks to building a remote team is reduced costs—not just for your business, but for your employees as well. When you don’t have to have an office environment for your entire team to work in every day, you can save all the money you would otherwise use to set up and maintain that big office space. The savings go beyond rent. Your company will also save money on furniture, technology, and office supplies, as you no longer have to create individual workspaces for each employee. Your employees, meanwhile, save money and time on commuting, which can make an especially big difference in urban areas.
Con: Communication hurdles. As sophisticated as digital communication has become, there still isn’t a complete replacement for old-fashioned face-to-face conversations. Team collaboration is more difficult when everyone can’t get into a meeting room to hash things out, and misunderstandings or miscommunications tend to be more common in email than in dialogue. If you decide to focus your energies on building a remote work team, you should expect to deal with communication flubs from time to time.
Pro: Improved productivity. Some people work very well in an office environment, playing off the energy and enthusiasm of others to get their work done. Often, your staff will also include workers who can’t achieve their full productivity in the office. Noise and activity serve as distractions. Schedules saturated with meetings make it difficult to get in the groove and get daily work done. And office environments filled with fluorescent lights and drab colors simply aren’t inspiring. When you allow your employees to work from home, they are free from these distractions and hurdles. The result is often greater productivity and higher quality work.
Con: Challenges with training and onboarding. Working through training and other onboarding tasks for new employees are some of the biggest challenges that the average business faces in the best circumstances. Familiarizing a new person with your company’s processes and expectations takes time and typically requires a lot of work from the person or people tasked with helping the new hires. Now, imagine the training and onboarding process without any face-to-face contact. Unfortunately, using digital communication for onboarding purposes will likely never be ideal. The process becomes more frustrating for the trainer, who can’t provide in-person demonstrations or tutorials to help the new hire learn company software, documentation, and daily routines. The process also becomes isolating for the trainee, who needs to rely on email, IM chat, or phone calls to get the help they need to learn. Combined, these hurdles make onboarding arguably the biggest con of building a remote workforce.
Can Your Business Benefit from Putting Together a Remote Team?
The pros and cons above reflect some of the biggest perks that companies have experienced from building remote teams and some of the toughest challenges. Your job is to decide, based on this list of pros and cons, whether remote teams and telecommuting are right for your business.
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to maintain a strong screening and vetting process. Remote workers will be representatives of your brand just as much as workers are on-premises. Using detailed interview processes, running background checks, and verifying resume information will help ensure that you are hiring qualified, trustworthy people to represent your brand.
For businesses desperately in need of a way to slash overhead, building a remote workforce might be a godsend. For companies that rely heavily on company culture and face-to-face communication to attract new employees and drive innovation and productivity, telecommuting will likely be out of the question. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer here. All you should be thinking about is what is best for your business.
This is a guest post by Michael Klazema. Michael has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.