The COVID-19 crisis has brought sweeping change to so many aspects of our lives – where we work being one of them. Some of these changes will be permanent. Indeed, many organisations have found that having a greater number of their employees based at home has worked out well for all parties. As a result, some employers have decided to shift completely to remote working for good, while others are transitioning more towards a hybrid way of working.
Whatever the situation at your own organisation, there could be an interesting shift among many employers to increase hiring for permanently remote jobs – jobs that lack a set location and can theoretically be done from anywhere in the world.
But what should you consider when planning and hiring for roles that will be based remotely, 100 per cent of the time? Here are 12 factors to think about, particularly if this will be the first time you’ll be hiring for a remote role.
1. Which roles in your team are best suited to working remotely? Certain roles – such as developers, computer programmers, web designers, digital marketers, even call centre positions – can be done completely remotely. Indeed, many ‘knowledge worker’ roles can be done just as well, if not better, from home or remotely. The pandemic has proved that. So, objectively think about which roles in your team, both current and future, could be well-suited to having no set location. Generally, it’ll be those that involve a high degree of screen time, whereby human interactions can be facilitated over the phone, video or chat technology, that can be most effectively done remotely.
2. Will you need to tweak your employer value proposition to attract remote workers? The perks and benefits that you offer to remote employees may have to differ from those offered to those who are always based in the workplace, or even hybrid employees. For example, you might support your remote workers by helping them to achieve the right set-up in their home office. Alternatively, perhaps you could consider providing perks that will enable your remote workers to more easily de-stress, such as virtual yoga classes or meditation apps.
3. Which skills are needed to work effectively remotely? Working remotely requires a different skillset to working in an office. It’s also important to keep in mind that those skills won’t necessarily be the same from one role to another. It’s therefore crucial to carefully consider these differences in required skills throughout the planning and hiring process – from the initial definition of what you’re looking for in an ideal candidate, to writing the job description and interviewing candidates. The most effective remote workers tend to be strong self-starters, who are punctual and responsive, have a positive attitude, value results over process and are good problem solvers.
4. Does your interview process need to change? It’s not enough merely to know which skills the candidate will need in order to work well remotely – you’ll also need an effective way of remotely assessing whether they possess those skills and are the right fit for the remote role you’re hiring for. That might involve giving the candidate a test project, as well as asking them questions designed to tease out whether they have what it takes to be a remote worker, such as “What do you like about working remotely?” and “How do you intend to collaborate with colleagues when working remotely?” You may need to use video technology exclusively when interviewing a candidate, which will give you the opportunity to assess how comfortable they are with technology. Also take time zones into account when interviewing. After all, due to the remote nature of the role you’re recruiting for, candidates may be based in other parts of the country or even a different country altogether. You may also find our guide to remote interviewing, and this blog from Hays US CEO, David Brown helpful when considering any changes to your interview process.
5. How will you onboard permanently remote employees? It may be the case that you can simply adapt the onboarding process you have in place for office-based workers to suit remote employees, or you may have to undertake a more detailed revamp. Regardless, there are various proven steps that you might take to effectively onboard a remote worker including ensuring they can access the relevant files they’ll need from day one, and organising any virtual training that might be required, such as in the technology they will be using. You should also consider organising virtual ‘meet and greets’ between the new starter and existing team members, and even perhaps putting a buddy or mentor system in place. As Dr Maggi Evans explains in her blog, it’s important your remote team members feel a sense of belonging and that they are actively contributing right from the start.
6. Do your people managers have the skills they need to manage permanently remote employees? To get the most out of your remote employees and ensure they’re engaged and motivated, your people managers will need to be able to establish a relationship of mutual trust. They will also need to be clear communicators, good at setting priorities and tolerant of the individual’s remote working situation and personal responsibilities. A compassionate leadership approach will help your managers understand how to help each remote employee thrive, whilst holding them accountable for their work and prioritising their wellbeing.
7. How will you measure value in permanently remote roles? Many organisations are looking at how they will measure value in the post-COVID-19 working world and may well decide to redefine their traditional performance metrics for the new, hybrid world. You too will likely need to challenge yourself on exactly how you measure your employees’ performance going forward. Will these transformed performance metrics need to differ between your employees based in the workplace and your remote workers, or will they be the same?
8. How will you give remote workers the same visibility and opportunities for progression? ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ shouldn’t apply when managing your permanently remote people. By this, I mean, even though they won’t necessarily be as ‘visible’ as your office-based team members, they should have the same access to career opportunities and progression. That’s why it’s important to schedule regular one-to-ones with all of your remote employees, as well as your office-based ones, and to make honest career conversations habitual for all of your people. Such conversations will be important for helping your remote workers to think about their professional futures, which will help to instil motivation, loyalty and a growth mindset.
9. How will you train and develop employees who are working remotely? While training and development is no less important for remote employees than it is for those based in the workplace, it does require a different skillset, different processes and different technology compared to face-to-face training. Nonetheless, as our EMEA Learning & Development Manager, Micki Frankland has explained, there are various ways to make virtual training work for your remote teams. They include ensuring that you can use the latest online collaboration technologies effectively yourself, as well as providing any targeted one-to-one training support that may be required. Our Chief Executive, Alistair Cox has also written recently on how crucial it will be for your organisation to ensure its people possess the skills that will be needed for the new, post-COVID-19 era of work. That’s precisely why you will need to commit to upskilling your remote staff throughout the pandemic and beyond – and our Australia Director Jane McNeill has provided guidance on how you can do exactly that.
10. How will you further prioritise your permanently remote employees’ mental health and wellbeing? As should be the case with any employee of yours, it’s crucial to set boundaries for your remote workers and encourage them to use their holiday allowance, so that they can achieve a healthy life-work balance. Prioritising the wellbeing of your permanently remote people should also include encouraging them to connect and build relationships with their other team members, emphasising that they should feel comfortable coming to you if they are struggling and being a positive role model from a wellbeing perspective.
11. What equipment will you need to provide to ensure your permanently remote employees can work remotely effectively? It is as crucial to pay close attention to your remote employees’ working conditions as it is for your office-based personnel. As part of this, don’t just consider whether they have a comfortable office chair and the right software to do the job on their laptop – also consider any health and safety issues that might apply in the specific setting where they will be working. Consider how you will conduct workstation assessments remotely and make the necessary changes to mitigate the health and safety risks associated with extensive periods of screen work.
12. Have you considered the security implications for remote work? There are a number of security risks that come hand-in-hand with remote or home working which need to be considered and planned for in advance. This CIO.com article shares some helpful best practices, including moving to multi-factor authentication (MFA), increasing internal awareness of phishing emails, introducing safe protocols for sharing files and data, and taking extra precautions for virtual meetings.
Follow the above steps when considering hiring for permanently remote roles, and you will be well-placed to assemble a team with which you can confidently take on the professional challenges and opportunities which will come about in the next era of work.
Mark joined Hays in 1985 as a trainee consultant and has been in various roles, sectors and locations during his time at Hays. He is a Board member and in 2019 his responsibilities extended to Hays Ireland.