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The very nature of work is changing, and in some cases, it’s happening right before our eyes. If you need proof, look no further than the explosion in remote work opportunities over the last few years. Both established corporations and fresh new startups are giving employees more freedom than ever to work where it’s most convenient for them, including from home. Some companies opt for a mixture of on-site and remote employees, while others jumped in feet-first and built 100 percent remote work teams.
Recent surveys indicate that remote work (or telecommuting) has exploded by 400 percent since 1995, and by 30 percent since the last decade. The transition is inevitable, but how we deal with it can make or break even the best-intentioned companies.
Here are four things every CEO or startup owner should know about working with remote employees:
Hold remote employees accountable for privacy
Sending sensitive company documents (and trade secrets, potentially) to private homes can be tricky. You’re making a big show of trust, so it’s natural to want to feel it’s not misplaced.
If you own an established company, require employees to work on-site for a period of time, probably not less than a year. It will establish a much-needed sense of trust and will help to bring to light any potential problems before employees transition to remote work.
You should consider producing some kind of confidentiality agreement, as well. Don’t worry about coming across as mistrustful, as this type of agreement is fairly standard across modern businesses that work with technology. It will be a welcome stipulation if it means the opportunity to work from a home office.
Keep your information-sharing secure
Along the same lines as privacy concerns, less purposeful information leaks can sometimes happen, which is why it’s important to invest in cybersecurity.
One security measure that’s highly recommended for remote work purposes is the VPN, or virtual private network. For personal as well as corporate computing, VPNs serve a variety of purposes, from general security and privacy to ensuring secure access to sensitive company documents.
Ksenia Votinova, Chief Marketing Officer of Le VPN, notes that the advent of cloud computing has brought forth a variety of privacy concerns, many of which VPNs can help with: “[O]ff-site employees often connect to unprotected open Wi-Fi networks and can have their activities, logins and communication intercepted,” she says.
“VPNs ensure a secure internet connection with top-secret standard encryption algorithms, and can be used on a majority of devices, including smartphones and tablets.”
VPN services are generally inexpensive and subscription-based, and they come in a range of configurations to suit most business needs.
Look for specialized remote employees
One of the greatest things about hiring remote workers (assuming you’re not merely relocating your workers from their on-site cubicles to their homes) is that you gain access to a worldwide pool of talent. You can seek professionals with distinct specialties who can lend their particular talents to your company. These moonlighters may not always have the fully rounded skillset you’d demand of a full-time employee, and that can be a good thing. When you’re building your remote team, it makes sense to target people with specific skillsets, rather than looking for people with a catch-all resume.
In other words, you’re not bound by your particular area’s pool of talent. Instead, you have the freedom to locate specialists in even the wonkiest and most niche-specific trades out there: perfect for the growing startup that wants to think differently.
Give them tools for success
You take care of your on-campus employees. Standing desks? Check. Periodic visits from the local taco truck? Check. State-of-the-art computer workstations? Double-check.
It can be easy for remote workers to feel left out, and that’s why we’re closing with this final piece of wisdom: Make sure your telecommuting taskforce has everything they need to do the best work possible.
One of the early leaders in telecommuting was Automattic, now valued at $1 billion. To help remote workers succeed, the company made sure they had complete autonomy to make their own schedules and work with the best equipment available. They were also offered a stipend to improve the working conditions in their home offices.
Buffer has also joined the growing revolution and, like Automattic, the company offers regular retreats to beautiful locations where on-site and remote workers can commune, catch up and generally feel like a family.
Telecommuting is uncharted territory — the possibilities are wide open when it comes to hiring or transitioning remote workers. The above points are the fundamentals, brought to us by some of the early pioneers. Don’t be afraid to think both outside the box and outside the cubicle.