The future lies in finding talent wherever he or she lives. Telecommuters and virtual employees can bring dynamic energy, valuable skills, affordable labor, and innovative thinking to any company. This article will discuss the benefits of employing telecommuters and provide a few tips on managing virtual employees.

The benefits of hiring telecommuters

Flexibility – For both management and employees. Virtual employees provide management flexibility, since telecommuters provide their own hardware and software. Telecommuter employees are also able to work when they are most efficient; if someone works better in 2-hour increments, he or she will be able to work in 2-hour increments.

Productivity and job satisfaction – A Stanford study found that “telecommuters ramped up their performance by 13%.” According to a survey from Staples Advantage, 88 percent of telecommuters said they are more productive out of their home office. In fact, the survey respondents said that they would rather give up their favorite TV show, an hour of sleep, a favorite food or take a pay cut instead of stop telecommuting.

Dependability – A majority of the respondents from the Staples Advantage survey said they “are more willing to put in extra time on work and say they are more loyal to their company since telecommuting.” Since telecommuters have more flexibility and no defined work hours, there is a higher chance that they will be there when you need them at odd times. A regular employee shouldn’t be asked to help out on a Sunday event without compensation, but a virtual employee can provide support on that Sunday as long as it’s within their realm of responsibility.

Minimal device investment – Personal devices are typically more advanced than company-provided devices. Allowing employees to use their own technology also allows them to work more efficiently with hardware and software they are familiar with.

Innovation and creativity – Hiring telecommuters shows employer innovation, and brings extra creativity on board. Telecommuters aren’t necessarily more innovative than their 9 to 5 counterparts, but there is evidence that supports the creativity of “distant telecommuters” compared to employees in a central office. Telecommuters also have more opportunities to combat writer’s block. Telecommuters can easily take a break, go to the park, then get back to work after making dinner when a burst of inspiration comes.

Some tips for employing telecommuters

Set goals – If you have virtual employees, it is important to give them goals to accomplish. You can give daily, weekly or monthly goals that you can use to evaluate their efficiency.

Data is greater than the device – Protect your data. Make sure everything is saved and secured in multiple locations, and focus on the infrastructure of your virtual team before focusing on their devices.

Trust your employeesTelecommuting raises ethics. A study titled How to make your team more ethical: Let them telecommute shows how an employee who gets “the privilege of working from home see[s] it as a valuable perk and avoid[s] doing things that might see them hauled back to their cubicle.”

Focus on communication – Aside from a good Internet connection, communication skills are the most important non-tangible asset of a virtual team. Be sure to invest in solid communication channels and find what works for everyone.

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