Hiring Remote Employees: Pros and Cons

November 11, 2014

It seems like the topic of remote employees is coming up more recently in the startup world. We can all recall Marissa Mayer’s decision to eliminate the remote employee workforce at Yahoo, and the waves that caused. Meanwhile, many tech startups are continuing to see remote employees as an opportunity rather than a liability. It gives them the chance to hire the best talent for their teams without location restrictions.
Before you decide whether hiring remote employees is right for you, let’s consider the potential benefits and difficulties of having them in the mix.

3 Benefits of Hiring Remote Employees

  1. You don’t need to pay for relocation, office, or transportation costs! At the top of the list is the benefit of having a talented candidate join your team for a portion of the price. On the plus side for them, not only will you be offering them the chance to advance their career, but you’ll also be presenting them the opportunity to work from home and to manage a healthy work-life balance.
  2. You will attract and — even more importantly — retain your staff. The employees who like working remotely will be able to thrive in this team structure. The ability to structure and prioritize their day will be a huge draw to your team. They will also benefit from the trust you put in them knowing that being a remote employee means expectations are just as high as anyone in the office.
  3. Productivity levels will be consistent, if not improved. Without the usual office distractions and the “water cooler chit-chat” remote employees can check off everything on their to-do lists even more effectively. They will be able to hop on conference calls and conduct daily stand-ups easily and then get right to work.

3 Challenges Remote Employees Pose

  1. The life of a remote employee can be isolating. You might be familiar with the term “FOMO,” also known as “fear of missing out.” While it might sound trivial, remote employees are cut off from all of the spur-of-the-moment office happy hours and other events. Making sure to engage with them socially on a consistent basis can be difficult.
  2. Mayer may have had a point: collaboration wanes when there are remote employees. For those times when random brainstorming sessions occur, the remote employee usually misses out on the conversation. Sharing ideas and projects throughout the course of the day will naturally slow when incorporating remote employees.
  3. Remote employees in different time zones can present scheduling issues. Logistically speaking, trying to coordinate meetings and calls while factoring in different time zones is certainly a challenge. Again, this further limits the ability to have a constant flow of communication amongst the team.

Remote employees can absolutely be valuable assets to any growing startup. It is important to map out the structure of each team and how remote employees fit into the mold before the hiring begins, a topic I’ll discuss in Part 2 of this series.
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Technical Recruiter

<strong>Rose O'Connell</strong> is a technical recruiter at <a href="http://www.athenahealth.com/">AthenaHealth</a>. She was previously a Talent Specialist with OpenView.