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Pros and Cons of Hiring Remote Workers

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The tiny Irish island of Arranmore hit headlines a few weeks agoo with the announcement that they are seeking remote workers to telecommute from the island, in an attempt to boost the population. Arranmore boasts 469 inhabitants, only 22% of which are currently employed. The island council has written an open letter to Australian and US workers, citing the high-speed broadband, Guinness on tap and idyllic beaches as reasons to consider the move.

While life on Arranmore would certainly put the ‘remote’ in ‘remote working’, such a call demonstrates an awareness of the future of the workplace beyond that shown by many large corporations in mainland Ireland. In a time where the workforce is seeking greater flexibility and better work/life balance, employers will find it difficult to attract and retain top quality talent without providing any remote working options, making it an imperative that proactive business leaders consider the advantages and disadvantages of employing remote staff.

 

The Pros

Larger Talent Pool

The most significant advantage of hiring remote workers is the access employers now have to a vast, international talent pool. When a job posting is not restricted to workers within commuting distance, thousands of potential superstar employees suddenly become ripe for the taking.

 

Cut Down on Costs

There are two key ways in which hiring remote workers can significantly reduce company costs. Firstly, in not requiring employees to work from a central office location, businesses are removing the need to pay for renting/buying a workspace, the internet, electricity, cleaning, computers and broadband – the list goes on.

Secondly, remote workers are often considerably better value that office-based workers. If an employer does not require their staff to physically turn up to work each day, they can hire from any area – including ones with a lower cost of living than where the company’s headquarters are based, such as rural zones. On sites such as UpWork, for example, remote workers’ prices range from $4/hr to $70+/hr, hailing from all over the world.

Additionally, there has been research to suggest that remote workers are more likely to accept lower pay, work longer hours and forgo company-provided health insurance if it meant they were permitted to work from the comfort of their own home.

 

Higher Retention Rate

A study by Staples Advantage found that 76% of remote workers considered themselves more loyal to their company after being offered the option to telecommute, and that 39% have turned down a job, a promotion or outright quit because the company did not offer flexible working options.

Many traditionally office-based workers are finding that remote working is an increasingly attractive alternative model to consider, as they have children or gain other responsibilities outside of their professional lives. More and more employers are offering remote working options to their staff to prevent competitors, who are similarly wising up to the advantages of this system, from poaching their most experienced employees…perhaps snapping up a few of their own along the way!  

Increased Productivity Levels

‘Work smarter, not longer’  is fast becoming the mantra of the modern workforce. If an employee is able to tailor their working day to their own personal preferences, in an environment of their choosing, they’re considerably more likely to be productive and engaged throughout the day. That being said, remote workers are 53% more likely to work over 40 hours a week, according to recent studies, increasing organisational productivity as a result.

 

The Cons

Potential Security Risks

The Blueface Business Communications Technology Insight Report 2018 found that 57% of organisations with 200+ employees had experienced a cyber incident, such as hacking or phishing. When employees are permitted to use their own computer equipment in a non-secure environment, they are considerably more vulnerable to malicious cyber-attacks, potentially compromising company data security.

However, there are numerous steps employers can take to overcome these odds, such as recommending workers avoid using public WiFi networks and providing stringent security guidelines upon hiring new staff.

 

Loss of Company Culture

While remote working options are statistically proven to actually increase employee engagement, such a work arrangement company-wide can somewhat dilute the sense of culture that has been so integral to successful modern business models until now. Employees are less likely to develop a genuine rapport online, let alone arrange to socialise out of hours or organically collaborate on a new idea. That being said, there are some great ways employers can promote a positive culture for their remote workers, such as the ones explored in this Forbes article.

 

Issues with Communication

Inevitably, if managers are only communicating with staff during brief windows of time each day, there is ample opportunity for the misinterpretation of instructions, or a lack of clarity in the project objective. It’s more of a commitment for an employee to pick up the phone and call their supervisor to clear something up than to pop their heads round a door, or to pass someone in a corridor.

However, if employers rise to the challenge and adapt their communication practices to suit a remote workforce, there’s no reason why communication should hinder the productivity of the company. Investing in an instant messaging app for employees and ensuring managers are in constant contact with their team throughout the day will eliminate most potential issues before they have a chance to cause problems. Face-to-face interactions, such as video conferencing, are a further valuable tool for managers to ensure that they are getting the most out of their staff.

 

Our workforce is evolving in a way that may feel scary or uncontrollable to some employers. However, the benefits to remote working are hard to be argued with – there are many great reasons companies should consider moving with the times and expanding their talent pool beyond their immediate geographical location. Arranmore is on the right track – you should  be too!

Posted by Susannah Hunt on 24 July 2019

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