Why should you hire virtual employees for your business?

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Earlier this year, tech giant IBM made the bold and surprising decision of calling all its virtual employees back to the office. The company, which was one of the pioneers of the remote work culture, said its decision was an attempt to “improve collaboration.” But even as we debate whether this move is going to mean gloom and doom for the organization, we’re seeing companies with all-remote teams flourish and thrive.

Take Buffer, for example, the popular social media analytics tool, which had over 1,000,000 users as of September 2013. At the time, their team comprised 12 members based in four different continents! Today, Buffer’s team consists of 75 people working in 50 cities. The Wikimedia Foundation, the organization behind Wikipedia, regularly hires remote workers for various roles, as does Github – both head-quartered in San Francisco. Flexjobs, which helps job seekers find telecommute jobs, is a 100% remote team and is spread across six different time zones.

As a company spread across three time zones, at Kolabtree, we have experienced for ourselves the benefits of having virtual employees. Our job is to help businesses and academia consult scientists from all over the world – and we’ve been witness to some really surprising collaborations across borders. Here’s why we think hiring virtual employees can work wonders for your organization.

1. Access to talent 
Undoubtedly, the biggest advantage of hiring virtual employees is being able to hire the best talent, independent of location. Hiring remote workers allows you to choose your employees and build a robust team without having to compromise. By encouraging remote work, your business is opening its doors to a global pool of talent, allowing you to work with developers from San Francisco, designers from India, artists from Italy, or communication experts from the UK.

At Kolabtree, we’ve helped businesses around the world consult scientists and academia. We’ve seen an Amazon reseller in the USA get help predicting his sales from a data scientist in the UK. We’ve helped a world-renowned speaker consult a scientist for scientific information to back his TEDx talk. There are thousands of businesses out there, who need to access a specific skill or specialization, but are bound by geographical restrictions. Hiring remote workers gives you the ability to access exactly what you’re looking for, with all those job description parameters checked. Hiring virtual employees can also help you access low cost offshore workers, without compromising on quality—here‘s how TimeDoctor does it.

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Hiring virtual employees allows you to access far-flung talent. Destination no bar!

2. Increased productivity 
A 2014 study published in the Harvard Business Review suggested that employees who worked from home were more productive than those who worked in an office. As remote work offers greater flexibility and better work-life balance, this is not a surprising conclusion. Of course, one of the biggest perks of working from home for most people is saying goodbye to the long and painful commute, saving time and energy. Away from the distraction of office gossip, endless interruptions, annoying co-workers and ringing phones, virtual workers feel more at peace when allowed to work from home, which increases their capacity to focus.
In a recent survey, 91% of remote workers felt they were more productive and happier working from home than at an office.  Having the ability to work remotely is also based on one key factor: trust. Knowing your employer trusts you boosts the employee’s confidence, and that translates to productivity directly.
Jeff Boss, a former Navy SEAL, writes  about how the SEAL team members were deployed across the globe and had to sometimes work on their own, yet had to stay connected and updated. He summarizes the essence of efficient remote work in one sentence,
“The point is, it wasn’t where we worked that fostered collaboration, it was how.” 

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3. Virtual employees are well-connected 
Hubstaff Talent, a marketplace for remote workers, lists five companies that are doing remote work right, along with their secrets to success. Almost all of them use tools like Slack, Zoom, Google Docs and Asana to stay connected as a team. At Kolabtree, we take to JIRA to manage tasks, Slack for topic-specific team discussions, and Zoom and Hangouts for meetings. Working in shifts with overlaps in time zones allows us to collaborate seamlessly and attend to any crisis or customer without delay.

But let’s remember that remote work does not mean all work and no play. Working remotely is does not have to mean working alone. It’s essential for virtual employees to feel connected and have water cooler conversations as well. Remote teams do many of the things that in-office teams do: celebrate birthdays, festivals and even have (virtual) holiday parties!

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Virtual employees need to be well-connected and have water cooler conversations

Have you experienced the benefits of hiring virtual employees? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Write to us in the comments below or Tweet to us!

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About Author

Ramya Sriram manages digital content and communications at Kolabtree. She's had about 8 years of experience in publishing, advertising, and digital content creation. She loves all things science and tech, and moonlights as a cartoonist and travel writer.

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