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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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Sigmar Announces “COVID Ready” Learning Partnership with Alison to Upskill Newly Unemployed

Sigmar Announces “COVID Ready” Learning Partnership with Alison to Upskill Newly Unemployed

Sigmar Recruitment and Alison today announce a COVID ready learning partnership as part of the emergency jobs initiative www.covidresponsejobs.com. The initiative is an online platform set up by Sigmar Recruitment to help connect the displaced workforce with current frontline job opportunities, and to upskill the restricted workforce to enhance career prospects and enable a faster economic recovery. Alison, one of the largest learning websites worldwide, is now offering access to all of its courses free and unencumbered through www.covidresponsejobs.com. The learning content being offered through the platform has been hand curated to reflect in-demand, recession-proof skills across an array of business and IT disciplines, including; data science project management customer service accounting web development computer networking e-commerce The core learning has been paired with lifestyle courses covering mental health, stress management and practical content on parenting while working from home for example aimed to support those working remote throughout the crisis period and beyond. The learning pathways have also been designed with jobseekers in mind with content on public speaking, job hunting, personal development supported by jobseeker advice on how to compete in the current marketplace, including tips on video interviewing, digital collaboration, remote onboarding and much more. Commenting on the partnership, founder of the initiative and Sigmar CCO Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig says: “As one of the world’s largest free learning platforms, Alison presents an excellent opportunity for newly unemployed in Ireland to upskill. The learning content has been COVID curated for maximum impact encompassing business skills, IT skills, mental health and personal development. We also aim to support the restricted workforce by providing upskilling opportunities during the downtime, to better equip our workforce to rebound from the crisis in the medium term.” Speaking at the announcement, Alison Founder & CEO, Mike Feerick stated that the gesture is one Alison is happy to make. “While being a global learning business, most of our team live and work in Ireland and know personally people whose employment has been jeopardised by the coronavirus pandemic crisis. Alison has over 1,500 free certificate and diploma courses, in subjects from project management, languages, IT, to health & safety, elderly caregiving, MS Excel and free courses on GDPR. “If you have been laid off, it is an opportunity to build up and strengthen your workplace skills to enhance your chances for employment in the months and years ahead. We are delighted to partner with Sigmar on the COVID Jobs Initiative.” www.covidresponsejobs.com is a for purpose “Team Ireland” initiative created by Sigmar Recruitment, supported by Alison, Candidate Manager, The Irish Times and Communicorp, established to mobilise the Irish Workforce.

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Working From Home Guide

Working From Home Guide

As many of us have been plunged into working from home for the first time without warning, we may be struggling with where to start. Our normal routine has changed entirely leaving a lot of us wondering how you keep yourself motivated and productive. Read on for our top tips on making the most of working from home. 1. Working Space When it comes to setting up your working from home environment there is no one size fits all approach. While some people prefer one dedicated desk area that resembles an office work station, others prefer to change their environment throughout the day whether it be to sit at a desk space/their kitchen table for work that requires focus and concentration, their patio area for business calls/team meetings or their couch for catching up on emails. This is one of the key benefits of working from home - you get to decide on your ideal office set-up. However, while it can be tempting to lie in bed on your laptop all day, you are likely to tire of this and hurt your neck or back. What you want is a dedicated space that allows you to work productively with minimum distraction. Having a dedicated space also signals to your brain that you’re “at work” and puts you in the mind-frame of being productive. If working from home is a temporary measure for coronavirus, you probably don’t have that much equipment beyond a laptop. Laptops have bad ergonomics so it might be an idea to rise it on a pile of books and get a USB keyboard and mouse and treat it as a desktop. Or if you are enjoying working from home and see yourself continuing to work from home beyond coronavirus perhaps invest in a docking station and a second monitor. Stand-up desks are another popular option. A bar table or even a wide and tall surface in your home may be suitable for a couple hours a day. Switching your desk may energise you and increase your productivity for certain tasks. Finally, don’t forget to check your tech! Ensuring good connectivity at all times is fairly important for most online workers. Be prepared for an outage by having a back-up such as a mobile plan with extra data or a mobile router. After that make sure you have all the technology and tools you need to work effectively. From email and video conference software to collaboration tools - some of these may be new to you so take the time to get to grips with the basics. 2. Routine As mentioned, our normal routine has been changed, we’re no longer commuting, grabbing a coffee at the café around the corner from the office, chatting to colleagues in the canteen, attending meetings, visiting clients etc. Therefore, you will need to make a new routine to work from home. Triggers It’s important to identify “triggers” for yourself that signal to your brain that you are in work mode. Every article you read will tell you to make sure you get up and get dressed, while it is tempting to stay in your pyjamas for an hour, that hour can easily slip into a full day. After this incorporate the parts of your old routine that you benefitted from. Perhaps you enjoyed walking to work in the morning as it woke you up, if so, get outside for a walk first thing. Have a coffee in your garden/on your balcony to replace the one you had in your local café. Do an at home workout if you used to go to the gym in the morning. Set reminders to get away from your desk for five minutes every so often to mimic the breaks you took in the office to grab a coffee in the kitchen. Structure You are your own personal manager when working from home. Without things like in-person meetings to break your day, it can be easy to lose focus. Also your motivation naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day, so set yourself a schedule. List what you’ll do and then block times on your calendar as to when you will work on them. For me personally I like to block the first 2 hours of every morning for writing tasks as I find that’s when I am at my most creative. I then try to schedule video calls and meetings for the afternoon when I find my productivity is waning. Make sure to set fixed working hours for yourself. It can be tempting to stay logged on long past when you said you will finish but it is best to set up a consistent schedule with yourself so that you can make a clean break between “work” and “home”. Kill distractions Working from home and particularly at the moment it can be easy to let yourself be consumed by the news and social media. To counteract this, remove social networks from your internet browser bookmarks and log out of every account. Or create a work bookmark list and a personal bookmark list. Your work bookmark list will only consist of the bookmarks you need for your job and the personal list can include your social networks. You can hide your personal bookmark list during your working day to remove the impulse to click into social networks. 3. Stay Connected Naturally, given the anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and being unexpectedly thrown into working from home, it is natural to feel isolated. Instant messaging and video conferencing tools can make it easy to check in with your colleagues so make sure to schedule in some “non-work” related chats with your colleagues. Here in Sigmar, we schedule virtual coffee breaks with our colleagues, a ten-minute call to check in with each other and to have a chit-chat. This helps maintain team bonds and provides some light relief throughout your day. 4. Give Yourself a Break Being thrown into working from home, employees can often be harder on themselves about their productivity levels as they forget about the amount of distractions that come with working in an office environment. You might not have scheduled your coffee breaks when you worked in the office but regular breaks are important for maintaining focus and productivity so don’t be afraid to include them in your schedule. It could be a simple 10-minute break for a coffee or a snack or a few minutes to read an interesting article. Ideally, you should try to get some outdoor time during your lunch break too, so you don’t go stir crazy. Ultimately, what works best will vary from person to person so don’t be afraid to try things out over the next few weeks until you find your ideal set-up and structure. The most important thing is to find what helps you stay focused, while maintain a work life balance.