Flexible vs Remote Work Part 3 (keys to making Remote Work work)

By Kristen Harris

In Flexible vs Remote Work Part 1 we talked about these two workforce trends and dug deeper into Remote Work in Part 2.

So, depending on what needs to be done, Remote Work can be a great option for both the company and worker. But we don’t see a lot of companies embracing this trend, or even considering it. They may think about it in a traditional sense, where they outsource a project to another business or freelancer, but there are other situations where it works just as well.

For example:

  • a retailer needs someone to manage their social media for 10-15 hours per week.
  • a non-profit organization needs someone fulltime to handle a variety of marketing work, including press releases, an e-newsletter, and an online events calendar.
  • a corporate internal communications department needs someone to edit and proofread all of their materials; workload varies so this can take anywhere from 25-40 hours per week.

In all of these situations, once the person gets to know the business and brand voice, their work can easily be done remotely. There may be the need for the occasional meeting or project review, but most of the work and communication will be online whether they’re sitting in the company’s office or not.

One problem we’re seeing right now is a mismatch between business needs and expectations for these type of projects. The company may be trying to hire someone on a part-time, flexible or on-call basis to do these types of work, while also requiring that all the work be done onsite in the company’s office.

We’re in a hiring market where talented people have lots of options, and most want to know approximately how many hours they’ll be working each week. Unfortunately, a candidate may accept this part-time type of scenario but will leave for a full-time role as soon as they can. These companies are looking for a unicorn, or maybe a four-leaf clover...what they want might exist but there are very few of them.

Often someone who is set up to do Remote Work would be a better fit for these type of needs, but businesses often don’t take advantage of this option. Why? I think it comes down to trust.

Companies and managers have concerns about Remote Work. The idea of working with people they don’t see every day makes them very uncomfortable. And their concerns are legitimate.

They have questions like...

  • how do I know when the person is working?

  • can I be sure they’ll get the project done on time?

  • will the work be high-quality, to my expectations?

  • won’t people feel disconnected from each other?

  • how will we communicate?

  • can they collaborate with other team members?

  • what about attending meetings?

  • how will they absorb our culture and what we’re all about?

First, it’s important to select someone who has the right skill set and self-management ability. Then, the rest of these concerns come down to the ability to build a high-level of trust and communication on both sides.

If you’re working with someone you trust and they trust you, then you know they’ll do what they say, hit their deadlines, do quality work, and let you know if they run into an issue. Aren’t these the same expectations you’d have of someone, whether they’re in your office or not?

One thing that can significantly help build that trust and keep projects on-track is an abundance of communication. Utilize all the tools at your disposal to find what works for the two of you: email, chat, phone calls, video calls, and in-person meetings if it’s feasible. Be sure to include conference calls with teams or collaborators; video calls can be great for this because everyone can see each other and body language so the conversation tends to flow more naturally.

Create a schedule for communication so expectations are clear on both sides. For example, you could email and chat anytime, have a phone call every afternoon, and a group video call weekly. Communicate as much as possible...if it’s feeling like a lot, maybe verging on too much, that’s probably just about right for a remote relationship.

There are a lot of benefits of tapping into Remote Work for your business. Explore the options and find ways to build the trust that makes it work.