It seems like hiring remote workers continues to be a hot topic, at least in online marketing circles. Why do I say this? Well for starters, there has been a flurry of posts in recent weeks (one positive, two negative) from fairly high profile industry bloggers.
Interestingly, the two negative stances both come from folks that:
a) working in an agency environment
b) Have a somewhat primary focus on organic channels like SEO
Having spent half a decade in a similar situation, and seeing the good, bad, and very ugly sides of remote work arrangements (both domestic and overseas) I can totally relate to John and Wil’s points of view. Further still, I have direct experience dealing with very ineffective (and downright ugly) employee/employer conflicts that were the direct result of a remote work arrangement.
The lone positive stance comes from someone with more of a design and development background, and based on my experience with that particular neck of the digital woods, I can definitely appreciate his plea for a more open-minded and accepting viewpoint on remote work. Moreover, having had a three-year stint with a fairly successful startup that boasted a strong culture and operational efficiency despite having over 90 percent of their workers operate on a completely remote basis (I think that at it’s peak, there were like 15 remote employees/contributors) there’s a certain part of me that wants to completely dismiss John and Wil’s arguments.
So gun to my head, what would I recommend to someone weighing their options with regards to remote work?
I’d say go for it.
But before you do, please keep a few things in mind:
- Culture is always paramount. It leads to improved employee morale and employee retention, both of which can have a very real impact on operational efficiency and ROI. So figure out ways to include/indoctrinate your remote worker(s) into the company culture even if they’re not physically in the office (P.S. Sometimes, just encouraging funny, edgy mass email strings can do the trick in my experience)
- Preferably, only offer remote work arrangements to employees that have proven their ability to be self-directed, entrepreneurial, and organized while working in the physical office environment. This is doubly beneficial because a) there’s a much better chance that said individual will continue to produce at a high level outside of the office b) said individual has a chance to truly absorb the company culture and is therefore more likely to retain it and reflect it even after they’ve departed from the physical office environment
- If you do have to bring someone in on a remote basis from the get go, consider bringing them on as a contractor at first. This will give you some wiggle room in terms of compensation structure and incentives (and I find that folks open to this arrangement are usually very entrepreneurial in nature, which is almost always a good thing in my experience). Once they’ve proven that they are a good long-term fit, you can bring them on as an official employee.
- Consider going the outsource route (including overseas). In other words, if remote is the best fit for whatever reason (cost efficiency, lack of local talent, etc.) you might be better served to find an agency or freelancer that can do the work. If you find the right partner, it could prove to be a real boost for your business, since said outsource partner will be able to leverage learnings and expertise garnered from having worked in different business verticals outside of your niche.
Note: More often than not, when it comes to U.S. based SEO, outsourcing overseas will result in a mixture of heart break and frustration. The only exception that I’ve come across is when you find a U.S. or Canadian expatriot living overseas. SEO requires a high degree of English proficiency and a strong understanding of Western cultural idioms. If your remote/outsource resource doesn’t have these things, you’ll end up doing a ridiculous amount of proofreading and cultural education.
One final thing that I feel is worth pointing out is that remote work has benefits that expand beyond the marketing and business realm. When you allow someone to work remotely, you often accomplish the following things:
-help that individual save money (less gas, less eating out for lunch, etc.)
-help that individual cultivate a better home life (this is especially true for folks with spouses and kids)
-help ease traffic in places that are not walkable and have crappy public transportation (one less car on the road)
-help the environment (one less car emitting crap into the air)
Please remember to weigh these facets as well. They matter too, even if they don’t impact the bottom line.