First Yahoo, then Best Buy and now HP. As some of the more recognizable brands in the tech industry have banned employees from working at home, business owners may be questioning their flexible work policies. But one size does not fit all and the work environment in your small business is probably drastically different from HP. Bottom line: don’t let this trend scare you off from the benefits of having a remote workforce.
“We now need to build a stronger culture of engagement and collaboration and the more employees we get into the office the better the company will be.” That’s a quote from an HP’s document that fell into the hands of AllThingsD on the decision. Do you agree with that statement?
Companies have proven over and over again that operating as a remote workforce can be very successful. Just take a look at this list from Scott Berkun; not only has Automattic made it successful, but so has Buffer, 37Signals, and Assembla, just to name a few. Anyone who has been part of a remote workforce knows that strong engagement and collaboration can indeed be achieved even while you are miles apart. It just takes the right type of people, processes, and remote collaboration tools. Maybe HP just doesn’t have that in place.
If you are a business that works as a remote workforce 100% of the time, like we do, don’t let this trend scare you. People are adapting more and more to working outside the office on mobile phones and tablets. Reeling them back into the office when you’ve traditionally had a flexible policy may end with an unhappy workforce.
So what are some perks of a remote workforce?
Here are 5 advantages for startups and small businesses hiring remote employees.
- Cost Effective – Using websites like Elance, oDesk, and Freelancer, startups and small businesses can find remote employees at a much cheaper rate than hiring full-time. It alleviates the overhead cost of office space. Using this method of hiring a remote workforce saves you money and allows you to screen workers more diligently to see who might be right for a full-time position later.
- Talent Pool – Online marketplaces like those mentioned above give you the opportunity to hire great talent from anywhere. No longer are you constrained to your local area when looking for new employees. With millions of freelancers available and the number growing quickly, the talent pool is very deep and you can be much pickier when hiring. Now you can hire exactly the type of remote workforce that fits your business goals.
- Work Anytime, Anywhere – Startup and small business owners are on the go constantly. Hiring a remote workforce that operates entirely online allows you to keep in touch with your team from anywhere, any time, and on any device. Using a tool like Spotlight, you can instantly see when your employees are online and what they are working on.
- Work/Life Balance – Employees love flexibility in their work schedules. New technology and collaboration tools allow virtual teams to be flexible by connecting from anywhere so you could stay up-to-date on a project while sitting on the beach with your family. Greater flexibility for employees leads to better work/life balance, which leads to a more productive workforce.
- Improved Collaboration – This one is probably a bit surprising. Improved collaboration when you are thousands of miles apart? How can that be? New communication and collaboration technology today offer this opportunity. And it’s going to get better all the time. Siemens Enterprise Communications just rebranded to Unify, which is focused on unified communications for the anywhere workforce. Social collaboration tools like Spotlight make it so easy for your remote employees to see what everyone else is working on and when. If you have a question on a certain task of a project, it’s as simple as seeing who is online and asking. So yes, collaboration can improve – if your team is willing to use the technology available.
As a startup business owner who is already working with a remote workforce, don’t let this recent trend alter your strategy. With the right people and processes in place, it can be very economical and successful for your business. There are probably many other things going on in these larger companies to drive them towards the decision to bring everyone back into the office. But saying “the more people we get into the office, the better the company engagement and collaboration will be” isn’t an entirely true assessment.
What’s your opinion on HP joining Yahoo and Best Buy on the list of reducing the number of employees working remote? Right move or inability to see the bigger picture of the ‘future of work’?
Seth Weedin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.