Is a Remote Workforce Your Ideal Future?Jul 15, 2020
As human beings, most of what we think, feel, and do is conditioned by the past. Breakthroughs and innovations that have impacted the world happened because of a shift from past conditioning. Modern computers, the internet, and smartphones are examples of what can happen when old limiting beliefs about what’s possible and practical change. In reality, everyone has a large number of limiting beliefs. We’re usually unaware of them until we either challenge them or learn about others who broke through these limitations and are thriving. How many examples of these imagined limitations negatively impact your firm?
One of the common limiting beliefs of placement firm owners is that success requires physical office space for people to interact. This is based on two basic beliefs:
- An office setting is needed to have a high level of motivation and collaboration
- Most people will drift into non-work-related activities if left alone at home
However, several pre-Covid studies have demonstrated that people who work from home are generally more productive than those in the office! I’m not saying that all workers in all occupations would have the same result. I am saying that if done right with people who have the necessary maturity and desire, it can work extremely well.
In our current Covid-19 environment, most staffing & recruiting firms have been forced to have people work from home, just as many of their clients. This requirement may continue for the foreseeable future. Also, it has reset many people's expectations, so they may prefer to continue to work from home either entirely or partially when it is no longer necessary. Given this reality, what should placement firm owners do? I believe that there are two basic options:
- Wish things were different and learn to accept your current status with an eye on returning to the “old ways” when everyone worked together in the office.
- Capitalize on the numerous opportunities and advantages that a remote workforce provides
The remainder of this article is for those who either prefer or are open to option 2. This is an option that I experimented with and benefited from starting in 2014…before videoconferencing technologies such as Zoom existed. I now have people working for me in different parts of the US and the world. They’re as effective (and sometimes more) than if we were sitting face to face.
Advantages of a remote workforce model
As a coach and advisor to owners of small/mid-sized staffing & recruiting firms, I’ve noticed an ongoing trend…highly-successful firms without an office COVID-19. Owners using this business model considered their “work at home” strategy a competitive advantage and did not want to work from a “common office space.” They acknowledged the benefits of working in an office but believed that the advantages of remote work far outweighed the disadvantages. Below are some of the advantages of building your company through a remote workforce:
- More time in the day is available for productive work. This is mainly due to eliminating the preparation and driving involved in the daily commute. For example, if your commute averages 60 minutes per day and an extra 15 minutes to prepare, you will save 25/hours per month. That’s an extra three workdays per month to be productive or use personally!
- Access to workers throughout the world. With an office model, you limit yourself to workers who live within commuting distance of your office. With a remote workforce, you can be far more selective due to a greatly expanded pool of candidates. You can also keep great workers when they relocate outside of your office proximity.
- Access to the growing population of candidates who expect greater flexibility. Our rapidly changing, complex world creates demands that don’t fit neatly into normal work hours. Family care, outside interests, and commitments are some of the realities for a sizeable percentage of the workforce. If you require people to work in your office, you can easily lose them to more flexible and adaptive competitors.
- Most candidates prefer to avoid traveling to meet recruiters, especially when the inconvenience of time away to interview with employers is added. With videoconferencing, you can honestly say that you met the candidates “face-to-face.” I’ve never been asked if we met “body-to-body.”
- The cost of maintaining an office. Rent and other office costs are significant business expenses. What if you can invest the money you spent in office space into a higher return on investment resources? Examples of higher RIO investments may include increased compensation to your staff, enhanced marketing efforts, additional workers, and professional advisors. You can also choose to give this money to yourself instead of your landlord!
- COVID-19 and other circumstances that can occur. For most staffing & recruiting firm owners, working in your previous office is not viable right now. When will you be able to resume normal office activities? Nobody knows. Some of your people may love the work-from-home arrangement, while others wish they could return to the office yesterday. Regardless of your people’s opinions, you’re likely to face critical long-term decisions regarding if and how to utilize a physical office as your business evolves.
Disadvantages of a remote workforce model
Almost nothing in life has advantages without some disadvantages. Let’s consider the disadvantage of everybody in your firm working remotely. I’ll add my insights on minimizing the disadvantages so that remote work can be a viable long-term option for your firm.
- Disadvantage: Humans are social creatures who are wired to interact face-to-face rather than work alone. To minimize the disadvantage: Have regular videoconference meetings with the entire team and one on one. Make a habit of replacing phone conversations with video conversations when practical.
- Disadvantage: People at home may be tempted to do their normal “at home” activities instead of work. To minimize the disadvantage: Emphasize the importance of having a place at home that’s specifically used for work (ideally a separate room) with all of the equipment and tools they have in the office. Have clearly communicated activity metrics that they regularly report and consider brief regular check-ins such as an early morning “what are you committed to doing today” and a midday “how’s it going” check-in
For most recruiting firm owners, turning remote work into a positive is important now and in the foreseeable future. The big question is whether or not this is the catalyst for a more permanent shift to give you a competitive edge.