THE BLOG

Do Remote Workforces Really Work?

01/10/2014 15:27 BST | Updated 30/11/2014 10:59 GMT

The benefits of outsourcing are impossible to argue with, but before you rush off and throw those tasks out there, know that implementing a workforce built up largely of remote workers does have its pros and cons, and you need to know how to manage them. If you already have a strong team of freelancers and independent workers in place, then this may be a refresher. As for those of you intent on setting up, consider these six key tips when employing a remote workforce, or building on the one you already have.

1. WIDEN YOUR NET - Accepting remote workers enables you to pull talent from a wider pool of professionals. With today's modern professional usually a lucid creature, you'll find that the best talent has a few strings to their bow and therefore prefers to work from home or base themselves between projects. These guys are the leaders of their profession and can afford to work where they want, so deciding to accommodate this will increase the amount of talent interested in working with you. Widen your net to win the best.

2. WORK ON RECOMMENDATIONS- In detaching yourself (physically) from your workforce, you leave yourself vulnerable to miscommunication or, simply, the obvious lack of focus and productivity that we all assume comes as a part of the territory. But it goes further than that. Trusting your team is an essential ingredient in your business, so finding people who you feel comfortable relinquishing control to on a long distance basis is important. Take recommendations seriously and, where possible, always work on referrals and not more traditional forms of recruitment. Use platforms to find freelancers with an eBay style "rating" system with full disclosure which in itself ensures that you'll get the best quality work, fast, and for a good price, so if you don't have the connections within your own network, it's a good place to start.

3. DECREASE OVERHEADS - This one is a no brainer. A remote workforce will eliminate the need for a pricey bricks-and-mortar premises and cut down on HR and other nuisances. Plus releases you from the endless tea-round politics and other general office annoyances. Smiles all round.

4. MAKE MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS - Now by meaningful connections, I mean face to face communication. When you have a meeting or encounter with a member of your workforce, you often underestimate how important those minutes may be to that person. If you're anything like me, you have a million things on your mind at once and so even a round-the-board-room-table meeting may have you checking your emails under the desk. But taking that away by yet another degree and having your workforce remote means that the best you'll get (or give) is a phone call. You may even find yourself with less informative emails and before you know it you're down to once a week texts from your graphic designer. So to keep that meaningful connection a habit with your remote workforce, making sure you speak with them once a week at least. If it can't be in person, use video-conferencing. It will greatly increase your working relationship, their loyalty to you and, thus, their productivity. Leaving you able to trust and relax.

5. STRENGTHEN LOYALTY - Even the largest companies will tell you how valuable it is to have a loyal workforce. Training, orientation and recruitment requires an entire team in some cases and retaining existing employees is a talent in itself. But you have to consider why that person is leaving their job. Are they unhappy with your ethos? The direction your company is heading? Could they be ill at ease with your projections? Not if you're doing it right. So the most likely reason they'll be jumping ship is to increase the quality of their personal lives. A move, a new addition to the family, or any change in circumstances. Whereas with a remote worker, this won't even factor in to their quality of work, in most instances. They'll juggle instead of jumping ship. Keeping your need to re-hire to a minimum.

6. ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS - The temptation for distraction within a remote workforce is a struggle, especially as it's one that is impossible to monitor. To nip this in the bud, make sure you set your expectations from the start, make them clear and concise and be firm but fair on deadlines. Equal treatment across the board and taking a strong stance on those lagging behind puts you in the drivers seat and keeps the track smooth. Take no prisoners, but make no exceptions. Having a probation period is a good call, as it gives you the chance to duck out of that business relationship if strictly necessary.

So step forward with care. From my experience running PeoplePerHour a remote workforce can be incredibly effective in streamlining processes, but doesn't come without it's challenges. Make wise decisions, expect some bumps and prepare yourself for the challenges, as this is the only way to ensure you'll reap the rewards.