Hiring The First Remote Workers At Your Startup

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Don't have enough office space but need an additional person for your startup? Remote workers might be the perfect solution for you. Here're some tips to keep in mind when hiring:

Time is money, and when you’re on a limited scale (such as being the owner of an upcoming startup) every saving second and cent helps. As such, it makes sense to look into hiring a remote worker rather than an in-office one; maybe your office is full and you can’t afford to expand the location to match your team, or perhaps you’re looking to pick up your first hire but don’t want to limit your scope to the local area. Whatever the reason, you need to be aware of some of the basics when hiring your first remote workers.

All of the following are things which we back at Process Street learned the hard way – by expanding and testing out techniques as we went. From the reason to look to remote hires when getting new members, to individual help for new teams or those looking to expand into remote workers. Let’s get going!

Why Choose Remote Workers?

First up, let’s think about the ways in which remote workers benefit your startup before you’ve even hired them.

The most obvious upside to hiring remote workers would be the amount you save on real estate costs. This might not be true for if you run an in-office team already and have room in the building for one more, but on average, companies save roughly $11,000 per year per employee by going remote in real estate costs alone. That’s enough to hire two virtual assistants with change!

Not only do you not have to invest in any real estate costs (or, at least, any more than you already do), but you have a much wider talent pool to choose from! Think about it, if you’re looking for a developer, salesperson or even a content marketer, is it absolutely necessary for them to be in-house? Probably not, which means that you have the whole world to choose from, rather than just your backyard; if they have an internet connection (and, obviously, the skills and experience), they’re good to hire.

Remote workers have also shown themselves to be generally more motivated, productive and loyal than their office counterparts. That’s not to say that you won’t find good and bad apples in both crowds, but the trend is most certainly there. Speaking from experience (and the experience of our remote team back at base), working remotely imposes a greater need to prove yourself capable, hence a properly onboarded one will work harder and for longer hours. Pair that extra motivation with the fact that they can work from anywhere with an internet connection and (without necessarily being asked to) you have a workforce than will be more productive a typical office would allow.

So, now that we’ve covered the basics of why you should hire a remote worker, let’s move onto the difficult stuff; what kind of employee onboarding process you need to run to get them on board.

Tips For A Team With Existing Members

Although it’s generally easier to integrate your first remote worker into an existing location-based team, there are several unique challenges which must be overcome. For example, although your company culture (should be) firmly established and all-inclusive, you need to make an extra effort to include the remote hire in that culture. Not only that, but the potential disconnect between a team in-office and one or two remote members can be massive, not just in culture but in basic transfer of information.

As such, use the following tips if your existing team is looking to expand with their first remote hire.

Culture

As said previously, culture is a little easier to convey to your new remote worker due to the fact that it should already exist. However, because said culture is (in all likelihood) going to be based on those inside it being in the same building, you need to make that extra effort to get the newbie involved.

If a competition is being held, get them to join in via voice or video call. Got a set time for your employees to chill out and chat about whatever takes their fancy? Try setting up everyone in a shared video call across their cubicles so that the remote hire can join in with no disconnect.

Essentially, although your existing culture should be a massive boon for getting the new remote worker up to speed and solidly on board with the rest of the team, it may need a little adaptation in order to keep going.

Communication

This is a big one – until now your employees could just lean around their office doors or chat across the water cooler, but this is no longer possible with your newest hire. The solution? Make your own virtual water cooler.

Make sure that everyone is introduced to each other at the earliest moment and encourage your existing team to reach out to say hello of their own accord. Help the hire to see that every name on their company chat app is a real person, rather than an unknown, imposing, unapproachable line of text.

You also need to make sure that your communication loop is fully documented. For example, conversations relating to team activities should be undertaken on the group Slack channel, project ideas and progress need to be noted on their respective Trello boards; everything needs to be documented and visible for someone who isn’t in the room, or potentially isn’t even in the same time zone.

Tips For A Brand New Remote Team

Everything said about hiring a new remote employee with an existing office team is also true here; you still need to make extra effort to document conversations and encourage communication between team members. However, you now have the added challenge of creating a company culture.

Thankfully, the fact that you’re starting the culture with these employees will work in your favor – since they’re there from the beginning and are helping to build it from the ground up, they will naturally feel more involved with the culture and company as a whole. Nevertheless, here are some tips to get your started.

Plan Some Downtime

Culture cannot be forced, no matter how much easier a shortcut would be. It grows naturally over time as your team interacts with each other, cracks a few jokes and overcomes their respective challenges. Having said that, you can help things along by organizing some shared downtime amongst your team; that is, something like a happy hour once a week where your remote team can chat over a Google Hangouts session and take part in a little friendly banter, or blow off steam.

Alternatively, you can have regular sessions during breaks (if your time zones match up) in which everyone can join the channel and kick back for a little while until work calls again. No matter what you do, do something to help ensure that your startup isn’t all work and no play – your remote workforce will respond much better to the tasks you assign them if they feel that they can bring their problems to the team and have a rational conversation without pressure.

Get Competitive

Competitions are a great way to get everyone talking and encourage some friendly banter, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t get ugly. Nobody likes to lose, especially when there’s something highly desirable (such as a paycheck bonus) on the line, so make it a friendly competition for the fun of joining in.

We’ve found that Hearthstone (and, more recently, Overwatch) is a great way to kick back and have some friendly competition without any negative consequences. Alternatively, if games aren’t your cup of tea, once a week we enter the group Slack channel specifically to recommend and talk about a terrible movie; think Sharknado – so bad that they’re good.

Whatever you do, make sure that your whole team is included and informed. Communication is king amongst remote teams, and although the future is bright for remote workers, without that careful consideration (and a healthy dash of networking) there is a very real danger that isolation and alienation will set in.

 

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