Remote is the New Normal

A preview of independent and remote staffing expert Anika Lehde’s 2019 Global HR Conference presentation by guest blogger, Dominique Rodgers, SPHR an Expert in Progressive, Strategic HR.

There are many reasons an employee may want to work remotely. Perhaps he or she is caring for an ailing family member, married to a military spouse and moving frequently or simply works better in their own environment. As a savvy employer, perhaps you found the absolute best fit for a role and that person lives in London while you’re in New York. Whatever the circumstances, Anika Lehde understands and wants to help facilitate this remote work.

She is president of Projectline Services, a staffing agency and consultancy focused on contingent workers, remote workers and diversity. “I personally didn’t fit well with traditional employee arrangements,” she said. “I wanted more control over my time.”

Lehde was working as an independent consultant in the early 2000s for a tech company. She and her two business partners decided to start a collective of those independent workers to help match them with opportunities. Today, she has a large network of talent and relationships with many big companies who need remote or independent workers. She says she really did best as an independent employee. “It’s about finding what you need in life to be successful. I’m passionate about giving people that choice and I love helping companies figure out that it helps them, too.”

Lehde will be on a panel discussing the rise of independent global workers at the 2019 Global HR Conference on March 28 at Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington.

Remote work benefits employer and employee

For employees, the value of remote work is easy to see. There are cost savings from cutting out the commute, dry cleaning and restaurant lunches. There’s better work-life balance and flexibility. And productivity can be increased with fewer distractions from co-workers.

On the employer side, you can usually get more talent for the same budget with remote employees, Lehde says, or the same level of talent for an even smaller budget. You’ll also likely get talent that’s “stickier.” They need or value the remote relationship, so they’re very committed to doing high quality work. And it’s harder for companies with no remote options to poach your talent.

“People are throwing money to Seattle and San Francisco because the demand is huge, but there are great universities elsewhere turning out good talent who may not want to move to big cities,” she says. “Once companies tap into that, they can get great talent very quickly because there’s less competition.”

Potential issues with global independent work

It can be hard enough to schedule a conference call from Pacific time to Mountain, let alone between Denver, Paris, Los Angeles, Auckland and Shanghai. It’s very possible some issues will crop up if you’re beginning a remote work program in a global organization.

It can take people a while to get used to the flow of remote work if it’s new to them, Lehde says. They should be told to ask a lot of questions in the beginning. What reports are needed? How often do we check in? How is work demonstrated? It takes a while to build trust and rhythm.

Also, if there’s a primary headquarters of the organization, people will make assumptions about where people work. Be sure to ask where others are and alert them where you are. Basecamp lists time zones and gives alert parameters so pings won’t show outside someone’s work hours. Outlook can show multiple time zones. She’ll talk more about tech tools to help remote workers at the conference.

“You may not find any time of day where everyone is there. You’ll have to hold a meeting twice or it will have to be held very early or late for some people. If it’s a reporting meeting to communicate out, hold it twice. If people need to collaborate, someone’s workday will be stretched. If that person has a flexible workday and starts or finishes later, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Lehde says.

Alone together

“People’s desire to be independent is not because they want to be alone. They are not searching for isolation,” Lehde says. They simply want choice and flexibility. If you have communities of isolated workers: freelance, contingent staff or full time employees, how do you make them feel the same values and culture? How do you reflect diversity and inclusion? You’re not allowed to do a lot of team-building with everyone because you risk compliance and legal issues treating contractors the same as employees.

Lehde’s recommendation is to have orientation for freelancers and contingent staff, similar to but slightly different from, that given to employees. “This gets people to understand your organization’s values and long term vision. You want them to have buy-in even if the relationship is simply financial and transactional,” she says.

Want to learn more about how independent workers can benefit global companies? Sign up now!