3 Things You Need to Look for in a Remote Employee

Make your remote hire the right one
Yashraj Shukla
March 26, 2020

There’s never been a better time to hire remote workers. While the coronavirus might have forced many of our hands, we may just find that having a remote, or even a partially remote organisation, can do wonders for our organisations.

There are huge benefits of hiring remote employees. These include:

  • Access to the global talent market
  • Less office spaces
  • Possible to have people working around the clock

But when hiring someone to work remotely, there are a few traits and characteristics that you should look for in particular. Hiring someone for a remote position differs from traditional models. Being aware of what makes a good remote employee can save you a lot of time, headaches, and money in the future.

So what should you look for in a remote candidate?

Great Communication Skills

The ability to communicate effectively is by far the most important skill a remote worker needs to have. When working remotely, you can’t just walk down the hallway and poke your head in to your colleagues office to add clarity to the email you just sent.

Working across multiple locations and time zones means that the ability to convey information clearly and succinctly is critical to ensure that things get done properly, quickly, and on time.

The best way to figure out if someone you’re looking to hire is a good communicator is to ask them for some examples of written work. The reason for using the written word is because, when working remotely, a substantial portion of communications will take place through text alone.

As Basecamp (one of the most vocal supporters and successful practitioners of remote work) say in their guide to internal communications:

Speaking only helps who’s in the room, writing helps everyone.

A focus on an applicant’s writing capability will not only help with day to day operations, but also when it comes to creating documentation to describe how

Autonomy, or a Bias Towards Action

Working remotely means people can be more flexible, fitting their work into their lives in a way that suits them best. This, combined with the fact that you’ll most likely have colleagues in other time-zones, means that questions and queries people in your organisation may have might not get answered straight away.

Rather than sitting on their hands waiting for a response to an email that may take hours to come through, you’ll want to hire someone who will choose to take action in a way that’s best for the company.

You want someone who will do something useful and meaningful without any instruction.

Hiring people with a bias towards action isn’t enough, however. Employees need to be given autonomy and freedom to act in the first place. This means that companies need to set up systems to empower people to make decisions and act. It also means you need to trust the people you hire. This isn’t a big ask. Let’s be honest, why would you hire someone you don’t trust in the first place? The good news is that giving employees autonomy makes them more likely to be motivated and happier.

Support Systems

Working remotely means barely any in-person, face-to-face communication with your coworkers (video chat just doesn’t quite cut it). This form of interaction is vital for people’s mental well-being, so you’re going to want to make sure that the person you’re thinking about hiring is getting this need met in other areas of their lives.

To make sure the person you’re hiring has a strong support network around them, here are some questions you can as:

  • What are their hobbies?
  • How do they like to spend their time when they’re not working?
  • How often do they catch up with friends and family?
  • Get them to run you through a standard 7 day week of theirs to get a feel for how much time they spend with other people.
  • If they’ve worked remotely in the past, ask them outright they made sure they get enough social interaction.

These questions may seem like overkill, but loneliness has a huge impact on health, rivaling smoking and obesity. Making your potential employee has support networks in place is more than a question of your bottom-line, it’s about their health. If all they really have going on in their lives is their job, you can expect them to burn out in not much time at all.

Our Remote Future

This period of uncertainty and social isolation could last a lot longer than we might like to think. Imperial College London has said that many of the measures put in place may be necessary for up to 18 months.

Experimenting with working remotely for many businesses is a matter of survival. While there’s a huge array of technologies available to us to make this transition smooth and productive, the element most critical to the ongoing success of organisations is not tools, but the health of our people.

At Think&Grow we have had a globally and nationally dispersed team from day one. We are here to listen, support and help any business going through these challenges.

Yashraj Shukla

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