Even before the pandemic, many employees were choosing to work virtually. Now, in the wake of COVID-19, some people who were forced to work from home have learned that they actually prefer it, and virtual employee availability is on the rise. More than 80% of employees believe that working remotely has been successful, and fewer than 1 in 5 employers plan to return the office to “normal” after the pandemic.
Allowing a portion of your team to work from home can have a number of benefits. But at some point, you’ll have to hire new employees, as well. In this guide, we’ll walk you step-by-step through the virtual hiring process.
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Choosing to hire virtual employees
Before you hire virtual employees, you first have to decide whether virtual employees would benefit your company. In many cases, having a percentage — or even all — of your employees working remotely can be beneficial. Here’s why.
Virtual employees can save you money
Virtual employees reduce your overhead costs. You’re not paying for the electricity to run their computer station, paying for their water, or paying the other costs associated with having an employee in the traditional office environment. In fact, if you hire a freelance employee, you won’t need to pay a full-time salary or provide benefits. One study showed that if you let your employees work from home just half of the time, you could save an average of $11,000 per employee per year.
Other benefits of virtual employees
Allowing workers to spend part or all of their time working remotely can improve their work-life balance. This can make them feel more loyal to your company and improve employee retention.
Research also showed that during lockdown, employees spent more time on tasks that really mattered and less time trying to offload tasks on other people. Having charge of their own schedule tends to encourage remote workers to be more careful with their time, which can help with their productivity. Employees who work from home may even work longer hours and take less time off than they did while working traditional office hours.
Choosing the right type of virtual employee
When you’re hiring virtual employees, there are different options to consider. You can choose to start small or create a completely virtual team for your office. Before you decide which type of virtual employee to hire, you’ll want to learn the pros and cons of each. Then, you can brainstorm the tasks you need them to complete and decide which type of worker is best for your team.
Hybrid employees alternate working from home and working from the office. These partially virtual employees would still need an office space or cubicle. They may also need a work-supplied computer so they can get into your network.
Typically, hybrid employees are salaried, just like your office-based employees. You may choose this option if you still want a team member to be able to collaborate in the office and attend meetings in person but are looking to save money and offer someone a more flexible schedule.
Remote workers work exclusively from home or another flexible workplace, but generally still have a salary and benefits, and work specifically for your company. They may work during your normal office hours, or they may work more flexible hours, depending on the needs of your company.
Remote workers are ideal if you don’t need someone in your office, but still have regular hours to offer and want some level of exclusivity with your employee.
Freelancers are self-employed contract workers. Generally, you are not the only client they are working for, and they may not keep the same office hours as you.
Freelancers can be less expensive than hybrid or remote workers because you pay for work produced rather than for a fixed position. You also aren’t expected to pay for benefits for freelance workers. However, they are considered at-will. They can stop working for you at any time and without giving notice.
Locate your employee
Once you’ve made the decision to try virtual hiring, the next step is learning how to reach out to candidates and let them know that you have virtual positions available.
Hiring remote and hybrid workers
Hiring remote or hybrid workers isn’t that different from hiring on-site employees. You can look to promote internally, post job ads on your website, or list them on job boards.
One of the biggest differences you’ll find with hiring these types of remote workers is not where to find them, but how to hire them.
Employees who aren’t expected to work in your office on a regular basis may not live locally. This means that you may not be able to bring them into your office for an in-person interview unless you’re willing to pay for them to fly out to meet you. Instead, you may need to conduct a series of phone or video interviews to determine if a candidate is a good fit for your position.
Hiring a freelance or independent worker may seem intimidating, but with a little bit of preparation, you’ll be up to the task.
You have three main options when it comes to hiring freelancers:
- Find a team who will help you find independent workers
- Use a freelance board to find independent workers
- Find independent workers through recommendations from your network
Finding a Team
Using a team is one of the easiest ways to hire freelance workers. In this case, you search on Google for the type of freelancer you’re looking for. For example, if you need someone to do your search engine optimization, you might search for a “search engine optimization company” or “SEO expert companies.”
These companies hire freelancers to do the work and match workers with clients. Working with a contracted company like this is a bit like hiring temporary workers: you don’t have to worry about interviewing the individual employees, and if one isn’t working out, you can request someone different without worrying about lapses in your turnover time. However, with this option, you don’t have the ability to personally train the employees and may end up paying more money because you are paying both for the individual worker and for the service.
Using a freelance board
Some sites allow you to post what work you need to be done, and freelancers will apply for the position. This is similar to using a job board. The difference is that many experienced freelancers rely on references rather than using freelance job boards, so you may see a higher percentage of new freelancers when you use this method. However, some experienced workers will still use these sites. And while new workers may need more direction, they can be quite loyal if you’re willing to put in the time to train them.
Another way to find freelance workers is to ask other people in your network if they are using anyone. Word of mouth is powerful in the freelancing industry. Reach out for recommendations, either from others in your field or on social media, and you may be surprised by what comes your way.
Settling on a price
Virtual hiring is very different from in-person hiring. One reason is the pay. While hiring in-person often means offering a definitive salary and benefits, when you hire virtual employees, these expectations may look a little different.
Even when hiring virtually, you can choose to use a standard salary. This is most common for hybrid workers or remote workers, who are employees for your specific company. In these instances, you can set a reasonable price by looking for similar jobs on job boards and seeing what other companies are paying.
“Per task” price
When you hire a freelancer, pricing can be more difficult. Generally, you pay per task completed rather than paying a fixed salary. This can be tricky, because you may not know how much you should pay for a task. Use the internet to search how much you should pay a freelance writer, for example, and you’ll see estimates that range from pennies per word to dollars per word.
You may be tempted to price-shop and then choose the person who is willing to do the job for the lowest price. But if you go this route, you may end up with lower quality work from someone with less experience.
A better option is to set a budget for what you can afford to pay for that task. Then, look for employees who meet your needs, come with recommendations, and seem to jive well with the rest of your team. Once you’ve narrowed down your list to only your top candidates, you can negotiate prices and find the one who fits best into your budget.
Working with virtual employees
Virtual hiring requires you to be able to manage expectations, stick to deadlines, and keep your relationships strong even when your employees aren’t in the office.
Keep in mind that there are many reasons professionals may choose to work remotely. Some may be looking to travel, or to improve their work/life balance. Others may be working remotely because medical conditions make it impossible to hold down a traditional office job. A flexible schedule allows them to work when they feel healthiest. For these reasons, many remote workers — especially freelancers — may not keep traditional hours.
Here’s what you need to know about working with virtual employees:
When an employee works in the office, you can give them tasks as they come up. It’s not necessary to have a complete task list for them on the first day you hire them. But when you hire virtual employees, you have to know exactly which tasks you’re hiring them to do when you list the job.
Virtual employees don’t necessarily work normal 9 to 5 hours. These positions are about tasks completed, not hours worked.
In many ways, this is a benefit — you know you’re not wasting money on busywork. But it also means that if you change your expectations after hiring a remote worker, they may expect their pay to change as well.
Some things to consider when hiring a virtual employee include:
- How often do you need tasks submitted?
- How quickly do you expect them to respond to emails or phone calls?
- Do you expect them to keep regular office hours?
- Can you be counted on to respond to questions on a regular basis? If not, who can they rely on?
Open communication about when you can expect projects back, how often you expect to communicate, and how quickly you need them to respond to questions can help you hire the right virtual employee for your company’s needs.
Managing relationships with virtual employees
If you have remote employees, it can be easy to forget to include them in your office environment. Depending on your specific relationship with a virtual employee, there are different steps you can take to maintain your relationship and keep them in the loop.
For remote or hybrid workers, include them in big team meetings and group training, and offer to bring them in for company parties and team-building exercises. These can be good opportunities for them to interact with other members of your team and feel included in office decisions.
Managing relationships with freelancers can be a little more difficult, but it’s still important. Always be cordial when you communicate with them, and respond to inquiries in a reasonable timeframe.
Another way to keep your relationships with freelancers strong is to recommend them to others in your field if they do a good job, or give them good recommendations on their business page.
Hire your best team today
The goal of any hiring process is to get the best worker for the job. Virtual hiring is no different. Keep these simple guidelines in mind, and you can build a great team.
If you’re thinking about hiring remote employees, the first thing you should do is brainstorm all the tasks you want them to be able to do. Once you have a comprehensive list, it will be easier to decide if you should look for a hybrid worker, remote worker, or freelancer. Having clear expectations will help you put together the best remote team for your company.