Which Employees Will Make Great Remote Workers?

In professions like computer programming, writing, web design, graphic design, and many others, working remotely is rapidly becoming more common. It’s an arrangement that benefits both the employer and the employee: employees get to work from home, so they can enjoy a more relaxed schedule and can often spend more time working since they no longer have to commute. In addition, employers can move to a smaller office and spend less money on rent.

Remote work sounds great on paper, but it’s not a good fit for everyone. Some employees who perform well in an office setting stagnate when working remotely, or find that they can’t manage their time well. If you have employees who would like to transition to working remotely, how do you know if they’ll continue to be effective? Well, there are a few traits that you should look for.

For remote work, you want an employee who:

Focuses on Results

One of the big differences between having your employees in an office with you and having those same employees working remotely is that when they’re remote, you won’t have any idea what they’re actually doing during a given workday. That’s why you’ll need to evaluate your employee’s performance based on results – not on the actual amount of work that they put in.

Your employees could be working twelve-hour days, but they could also be spending their days watching movies and then working like madmen for five hours. For this reason, it’s important that you get comfortable with setting goals and timeframes, and then holding your employees accountable. They’ll manage their time in their own ways, but as long as you can rely on them to meet your goals on time, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Values Learning and Progress

An office where everyone works closely together is a great environment for learning. There is competition between one employee and another, and nobody wants to be left behind when other employees are learning new things and developing new job-related skills. Many employees stagnate when they are removed from that environment, since they don’t have any immediate competition.

For this reason, you’ll find that employees who have a natural desire to constantly learn and improve will perform more effectively in a remote position than other employees might. On a related note, you will want your remote employees to be the sort of people that are receptive to feedback. Anyone who is too hard-headed to accept useful feedback or advice will likely become even more obstinate and less likely to improve if they are given the opportunity to work remotely.

Is Self-Motivated

In an office setting, there are plenty of strategies and techniques that you can use to help keep your employees motivated. You can help motivate remote workers too, but you may find that since you’re not communicating face-to-face, you might be less in tune with your employee’s needs. That’s why the ability to self-motivate is so important for a remote worker. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to tell how much motivation an individual really has. Anyone can put “self-motivated” on a resume, and if they interview well, they may convince you that they’re more reliable than they really are.

You may find that a worker’s passion for the job he or she does is a good indicator – if they genuinely care about the work they’re doing, they will undoubtedly be more motivated. If you aren’t sure about moving an employee to a remote position, try giving them a shorter assignment that they can work on during a brief trial period.

Communicates Effectively

Communication is always important in work environments, and it becomes even more crucial when you have an employee working remotely. You may choose to communicate with your remote workers via a phone or video call, but that usually requires you to schedule a meeting ahead of time. So, you will likely be communicating with your remote worker primarily through email, Slack or other asyncronous means.

Written communication is a bit trickier than in-person communication. 55% of all communication is nonverbal. Without facial expressions, inflection, and body language, you’re communicating with only 45% of the tools you’d be able to use in a normal face-to-face conversation.

If you’re looking at an employee that already works for you and deciding if they’ll be a good fit for remote work, pay close attention to the way they communicate via email. Are they clear and precise in their communications to you? Do they ask the questions they need to in order to understand what you’re asking of them, and to stay on-target? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, your employee may be a good fit for remote work.

Is Self-Sufficient

You want a remote worker to ask enough questions that they won’t get lost and waste time doing a job wrong… but on the other hand, you also want a worker who is self-sufficient enough that they won’t be bothering you with questions constantly. Remote workers should be people with imagination and vision: resourceful people who, once you’ve pointed them in the right direction, can find the way toward the end goal on their own, without much hand-holding or encouragement from you or anyone else.

Consider the employee that you are thinking about moving to a remote position. When a problem arises, is their first move to look for a solution, or to ask for help? If they are the latter type of worker, they might not be cut out for remote work.

Is Proactive

Good employees meet deadlines and do what you ask them to do, when you ask them to do it… but, once it’s done, they may spend some time waiting around for you to give them their next assignment. Great employees don’t waste time – yours or theirs. Do you have an employee who always moves on to another task when he or she finishes another one? Do they set and meet goals, and communicate with you to ensure that they don’t end up outrunning their workload and having nothing to do? Proactive employees like that are often a good fit for remote work.

Is Dependable

No matter how well employees perform when they’re in the zone, consistency is key. An employee who earns employee of the month in July and then misses deadlines left and right in August won’t be much help in the long run. This is another area where being result-oriented and self-motivated is crucial for an employee – it doesn’t matter how much work goes into a project, or whether your employee is feeling motivated on a given day. What matters is that your employee meets the deadlines.

If you have an employee who you can depend on, and they want to start working remotely, they’ll probably be a good fit if they meet the other criteria on this list. New employees, though, are harder to evaluate – once again, they could be in the zone and on top of their workload on one week, but fall behind the next. If you end up hiring a new remote employee, it’s wise to hire them on a trial basis until you’re sure you can count on them.

Checklist

Obviously, there are more traits than just these that go into making an employee a great remote worker. No single employee is perfect, obviously – but if they check most of the boxes on this list, you’ll know that they have great potential as a remote worker. Your employee should:

  • Be focused on results, not just on working for the sake of working.
  • Value learning and progress, and be open to feedback.
  • Be self-motivated.
  • Communicate effectively.
  • Be tech-savvy.
  • Be self-sufficient.
  • Have a driven personality.
  • Be a problem solver.
  • Be proactive.
  • Be dependable.
  • Be passionate about his or her work.

Finally, when you are considering moving an employee to a remote position, don’t ignore your gut feelings. The guidelines laid out in this article are a good starting point, but work relationships (like all relationships) are complex. Figure out what sort of remote worker is a good fit for you, personally, and look for someone that can work with you effectively and efficiently.