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Guide to Hiring Remote Employees

This guide is designed to help startups through their hiring process for remote employees.

Pre pandemic, the majority of businesses operated from corporate offices, requiring their white collar workers to commute in every day. The pandemic forced workplaces that could operate remotely to do so, and this included most office-based companies. Two years on, the pandemic is drawing to a close and many businesses have recognised the benefits that come with working from home, meaning many employers are now looking at hiring remote employees.

When it comes to hiring remote workers, it’s not quite the same as the traditional recruitment process. First of all, it’s unlikely you’ll meet prospective candidates in person, making it harder to get a feel for how they are and if they’ll gel with your existing team. On top of this, if you’ve given up your office and are a fully remote business, you’ll need to onboard a new hire in a completely different way from how you have done in the past.

There are different protocols to hiring remotely, meaning you need to do your research and be prepared for a different approach if this is something you’re going to be looking at doing. We’ve put together this guide to help companies hire remote employees, detailing everything you need to know about every step of the process.

Advantages of hiring remote employees

Firstly, let’s look at the advantages of hiring remote employees.

1. Bigger candidate pool

The first benefit to hiring remote workers is that you’re not limited to job seekers who live close to your business. Instead, you can consider candidates from every corner of the country. Not only do you have more choice, but you also have direct access to top talent across the board. This allows you to find people with niche and high-value skills who you might otherwise not have had a chance to recruit. The benefits of this include a more diverse team with a stronger suit of skills, and it’s less likely you’ll have a skills gap to fill.

2. Higher levels of productivity

Initially, the thought of letting employees operate remotely was daunting for employers because of the fear of distractions and people not working. On the contrary, most businesses report their employees being more engaged and productive from home, therefore, if you hire remote employees, there’s an expectation that you’ll see a higher quality of work and a greater output from your staff.

3. Reduced overheads

Whether your entire workforce is remote or just a portion of it, you can reduce your business overheads by hiring remote employees. This is because you can work from a smaller office or, in the case of a completely remote workforce, eliminate the need for an office altogether. Commercial rent prices are steep and often account for a big portion of business overheads, but through remote employees, you can either rent smaller premises for a lower price or terminate your contract altogether, helping to save you money.

4. Higher staff retention

With many employees enjoying the lower outgoings and increased flexibility of remote working, it’s something many are keen to retain. In fact, Stanford University estimated that offering remote work could reduce employee turnover by as much as 50%. This means if you hire remote workers, there’s a good chance they’ll stick with you for a long time – provided you nail the onboarding process and offer a competitive salary, job progression, and other benefits.

Disadvantages of hiring remote employees

Whilst there are lots of advantages to hiring remote employees, there are some potential disadvantages you need to be aware of.

1. Communication issues

One of the biggest issues with remote working is the possibility of communication issues. Someone’s internet might drop out, or construction/maintenance work could knock out their electricity for a period of time. In terms of new employees, it can be somewhat more difficult to build a positive rapport online instead of face to face. You will need to learn to adapt and overcome these obstacles and enhance your onboarding and team-building practices to ensure new remote employees can settle in well and feel supported.

2. Hindered collaboration

Depending on your industry, collaboration could be the key to success, but it can be harder to freely share and collaborate online. Not knowing if someone is at their desk or on another call can stall progress, so you need to make sure any remote workers you hire are flexible enough to overcome this and able to communicate effectively to prevent an issue in the work funnel.

Finding remote employees

Finding remote workers can actually be a lot easier than close proximity recruitment because you have a wider talent pool, and this means you can shorten the overall recruitment time; however, this does come with its drawbacks.

Firstly, you’ll need to make sure you have a rigid screening process in place because the wider your scope, the more applications you’re going to get. Whilst this is good in terms of allowing you to assess a more diverse range of candidates, it does mean you’re going to be dealing with a higher number of unsuitable applicants. Filtering through these can be incredibly time consuming, so it’s a good idea to implement a rigid screening process before you start.

This could be in the form of using an external recruitment agency, or it could be by firstly opening up opportunities to candidates who have been referred by current employees. Both of these options are efficient and can drastically reduce the time it takes for you to fill your open vacancy, so depending on the urgency of your position, could be a good way to go. It has also been cited that referred employees stay at companies longer, again adding to those all-important retention rates.

You can use job boards to advertise positions as normal, but make sure you specify the work is remote as this will help candidates when filtering through suitable job posts. This tends to work well with advertising remote positions on your website’s careers page and advertising vacancies on social media.

If you’re going to be looking at remote employees in other countries where tax/employment laws are different, you will need to get the infrastructure in place to accommodate this before you begin the hiring process.

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Essential qualities of remote employees

When hiring remote employees, you’ll need to look for candidates who do not just the job at hand but also have the skills to work from home effectively. With this in mind, here are some of the essential qualities you’ll want to look for in remote employees.

1. Communication

Communication should be a quality you look for anyway, but even more so in a working from home context. This is because without being able to talk face-to-face freely, you’re relying on your employees to be able to take initiative and take charge of their communication.

Remote employees need to be able to convey themselves confidently and directly over the internet and internal messaging systems. This is a quality you should be able to gauge during the interview process if it’s remote, but to get a better idea, present different scenarios and ask them how they’d deal with them. This will help you understand their communication style and whether it’s compatible with the job at hand.

2. Self-discipline

Working from home enables employees to have a greater work-life balance, but they must have an element of self-discipline so that they’re able to complete their work without being prompted to. This can be a hard balance to strike, especially for those who are new to remote working, so depending on the role, you may choose to hire someone who has experience working remotely.

That being said, you must allow your employees an element of autonomy and trust them. Working from home generally improves employee retention, but if you don’t trust your workers and leave them feeling like they’re being micromanaged, you could find yourself losing staff. The easiest way to avoid this is to hire remote workers who have a confessed sense of self-discipline and who have demonstrable experience.

3. Organisation

In the same way self-discipline is important, so is organisation. Before you hire remote employees, you need to ensure they have the relevant provisions to work from home effectively in an organised manner. A large part of this will come down to the candidate having systems and protocols in place for effective time management, but there are several things you can do to help candidates who haven’t worked from home before.

This may include sending them an ergonomic desk, chair, and generalised desk storage to help them get their workplace in order, but It’s important to note that any person who works from home needs to be organised in nature to work efficiently as they would be expected to in a traditional office environment.

4. Adaptability

Whilst working from home sounds easy enough, to those who haven’t done it before, it can be an adjustment. Even for those who have, your company might work differently and use different software, highlighting the need for remote employees to be adaptable.

They will likely need to get comfortable using a range of different software and will need to be able to learn your processes, procedures, and operating systems without having someone over their shoulder teaching them how to do so. This means they need to be adaptable and show initiative. If it’s their first time working from home, they will also need to be able to adapt to a different way of working. With this in mind, make sure you’re looking at candidates who have a proven track record in adapting to new situations.

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Hiring and onboarding remote employees

Now you’re clear on the types of qualities you should be looking for in remote employees, it’s time to look at the actual hiring process and the onboarding process. Ideally, the hiring process will be as short as possible – you don’t want to turn away top talent by operating a lengthy process consisting of multiple interview stages, long tests, and endless emails back and forth.

Instead, try and make the process as streamlined as possible and focus your efforts on onboarding. This is essential for any hiring decision because the quality of the onboarding process can have a direct impact on whether or not an employee stays with you long-term, but it’s even more important when you’re hiring remote employees.

You’ll need to carry out HR discussions as normal and provide adequate training, albeit online. The main difference will be how you introduce and integrate your new team members with your existing employees – especially if you weren’t always remote and most of your team already has a strong bond that was established in person.

Lots of calls, messages, and shadowing in the first few weeks is a good way to tackle this. Provided you invest in the remote onboarding process and change your existing procedures to suit, you should find it relatively easy to find remote workers for your company.

In summary

Hiring remote employees isn’t drastically different to hiring in-office workers, though you will need to make some changes. At Accountancy Cloud, we can help you streamline your finances through award winning online accounting, CFO and R&D tax services. Meaning you can spend more time recruiting new employees and growing your business. Get in touch to find out how we can help you on your growth journey.

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