In the last several years more and more companies have become more receptive to hiring remote workers. In fact, it’s being predicted that by 2027 58 percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing. As a business owner who relies on remote employees, I can tell you personally why this is no longer a taboo. In fact, for most of my employees — it is a definite perk. Employing remote workers allows you to hire from a wider talent pool that’s not restricted by location. What’s more, remote workers tend to be more productive and satisfied. Remote work also helps your bottom line. Companies can save $ 10,000 annually in real estate. Additionally, telework programs have 63 percent fewer absences, which saves businesses $ 1,800 per employee per year.
The Signs You’ve Outgrown Your Remote Team
While I’m a big proponent of having a remote team, there may come a time when you’ve outgrown your team. In order to be prepared, instead of being caught-off-guard, here are the signs that you should be paying attention to.
You need a full-time staff.
Unless you’ve specifically hired a full-time remote worker, you’re relying on freelancers. That’s not a bad thing at all. Hiring freelancers is a cost-effective way to get quality work done on specific tasks while you focus on growing your business.
At the same time, they’re running their own business. That means they have other clients and may not always be accessible. Furthermore, if you’re investing in training or the position requires oversight, then it might be time to bringing a full-time employee.
There are also some tax implications. If you have control over what the worker does, a written contract, and provide benefits, that individual is classified as an employee and not an independent contractor.
In short, if you need a worker to be there full-time, and they’re classified as an employee, remote workers may no longer cut it.
There’s a communication breakdown.
With virtual workers you just can’t pop into their office to ask a question or see how they’re weekend is going. Remember, since they may have other clients or live in different time zones, communication is limited.
This may not have been an issue in your early days. But as your team grows and you’re asking more of them, miscommunication can happen more frequently. That’s not good for productivity or morale.
Remote workers don’t feel like part of the team.
I’ll be honest. It can sometimes be a challenge to build a relationship with remote employees. Again, communication is limited and you don’t have the chance to get to know them over a cup of coffee. Even more, business owners occasionally tend to treat their remote workers like second class citizens.
This may not be intentional. But, we often exclude them from company updates or events. While using tools like Slack and inviting them to join your newsletter helps, it’s not always the same when building your company’s culture.
Less direct oversight.
Traditional supervision usually isn’t possible with remote workers. Instead of directly observing their work, you’re focusing on the product of their work, as well as the results they achieve. As such, status updates become increasingly important in order to establish milestones and troubleshoot issues.
This isn’t a problem when working with a smaller team, but it becomes more difficult to manage as your virtual team grows. It’s a definite sign that you have outgrown your remote team.
Collaborative overload is a term coined by Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant in a Harvard Business Review article. It describes how emails, meeting requests, and other frequent interactions disrupt highly knowledgeable and highly approachable employees.
In fact, studies show that employees who are considered the most valuable collaborators within an organization often possess the lowest levels of job engagement and career satisfaction. That’s because the constant stream of requests prevent these employees from finding the time to do their own work. As a result, their quality of life is impacted.
Constant communication is essential when working with remote workers, but if they’re being bombarded so much that it’s distracting and overwhelming them, it’s time to get some full-time employees.
Remote team members are becoming less engaged.
Remote employees may not have the distractions that the traditional office employee does. But, they do have their own issues to address, such as staying motivated, childcare, and home maintenance. As such, they need guidelines, expectations, and status updates to keep them engaged.
As mentioned several times already, this becomes more challenging as your team grows. If you notice that your remote team is becoming less engaged because you can no longer motivate them, it may be time to make a change.
Everyone can’t attend team meetings at the same time.
Not every team member is expected to attend every meeting. That’s one of the ways that meetings can waste your time and money. However, there are times when you’ll want all hands on deck. You can help these remote employees feel like a part of the team by having them attend your team meeting through some avenue such as Google hangouts, or zoom.
Of course, that’s not always possible with a remote team. If you live in New York and schedule a meeting at 9:00 a.m., you’re asking your employees in Seattle to attend a virtual meeting at 6:00 a.m. That’s not exactly fair to that employee — and I bet they’ll skip the meeting.
If you’re requiring meetings where you need employees to be in attendance, it’s probably a better option to have an in-house team so that you’re positive they can attend.
Customer service is lacking.
For smaller businesses, you can outsource customer service. It’s a great way to enhance the experience of your customers without breaking the bank. However, outsourcing your customer service can backfire. Keep in mind that these employees may not know the ins-and-outs of your business and they may not have all of the information to assists a customer.
Additionally, customer service doesn’t just stop with responding to questions or inquiries. Customer service also involves meeting deadlines, fulfilling orders, and building relationships with customers.
If you notice that customer service is slipping, then you’ve most likely outgrown your remote team.
It’s time to bring some tasks back home.
Remote workers are ideal while getting your business rolling. However, as your company grows, it may start making sense to bring back certain tasks in-house.
The aforementioned customer service is one example. But, so would be IT specialists just in case your network, website, or app crashes. You’ll need to resolve those ASAP.
Resources aren’t a problem.
In other words, do you have the money to pay a full-time staff? Can you afford a large enough office space? If so, this is an excellent long-term investment. It’s a sign that you have outgrown your remote team.
Once again. Full-time staff has a deeper understanding of your business that’s useful when growing.
Can’t leave the workplace.
We all need to step away from work occasionally. Whether if it’s because you have a business trip, family emergency, or just need a mental day-off, you want to make sure that business runs smoothly while you’re out. That may not be possible when you have a remote team.
If you find that you can never leave your workplace, then hiring at least even one employee to hold down the fort is worth the investment.