I was pleased to read this article in the Harvard Business Review: Hire the Best People, and Let Them Work from Wherever They Are.
Cassandra Frangos of Cisco points out that everybody benefits from remote work (assuming it's done properly):
- Companies benefit by being able to access a diverse pool of talent from all over the world.
- Employees benefit by being able to live where they want, and perhaps where their hard-earned dollars go further.
We've had exactly this experience here at HPC. Last year we shut the doors to our office and haven't looked back. Now, we're a virtual team with employees in eleven states who all work from home or coworking spaces such as WeWork or Regus. We’re much happier as a result.
Here's an example: Last year two of our remote team members relocated from Massachusetts to North Carolina, where they bought a house in a beautiful rural community. They'd had enough of harsh northern winters. They also would have had a hard time settling down in an area where housing costs are much higher than the national average. Now they get to enjoy warm winters and the same salaries in a much less expensive part of the country.
What about clients?
One thing that Ms. Frangos doesn’t mention in her article is how remote work affects clients. For a service business such as ours, it’s very important that our accounting and bookkeeping services clients are happy.
While you might expect clients to be less satisfied with an outsourced accounting firm, we’ve found the opposite to be true. Clients love collaborating with us online using Xero accounting software. Once they give it a try, they realize just how much more efficient it is to work remotely with your accountant or bookkeeper. And with excellent video conferencing software such as Zoom, we still get that all-important face time with our clients.
How to avoid problems with remote work
All of this isn’t to say that remote work doesn’t present its own challenges. Working remotely isn’t for everyone. It takes employees who are highly motivated and self-managing. And it means designing new ways of measuring employee performance that don’t rely on how long someone is sitting in their cubicle or how many hours they are billing.
As an employer you also have to make sure that employees are tech savvy and have technical support available to them quickly when things go wrong. You don’t want an employee stuck and unable to do work because their laptop died and they have to wait a week for a replacement. Planning for technical difficulties will go a long way to making remote work a success in your own company.