Whether you’re considering a staff member’s request to work remotely (some or all of the time) or you need to hire a new team member who will work off-site, it’s key to know how to tell if someone is well suited for remote work or not. Many people assume they’ll thrive working remotely but then encounter problems with motivation and productivity. And managers are sometimes too quick to assume that if teleworking works for the team, anyone on the team will be able to do it successfully.
But in reality, some people excel when they’re working remotely, and others crash and burn. Here’s what to think about when you’re contemplating whether someone is the right fit for remote work.
Has the person ever worked remotely before? People with experience telecommuting are more likely to have a good understanding of its difficulties and demands, and of whether they do well in that context. That doesn’t mean first-timers can’t do it, but it does mean that you should spend extra time talking about challenges and expectations with a remote newbie.
Does the person have realistic ideas about remote work? Do they understand that they can’t regularly care for young children while working remotely, or do they see it as a child care plan? Have they thought about how they’ll remain connected to the team, and what work habits or processes they might need to modify? Or do they just imagine themselves getting laundry done while they work and figure the rest of the details will work themselves out?
Does the person thrive when working autonomously or have a high need for interaction? Remote employees can certainly collaborate virtually, but someone who draws energy from being able to grab a few coworkers and bounce ideas around may go stir-crazy working from home. Make sure you have a realistic view of what conditions help the person operate at their best, and that being physically isolated won’t make them feel isolated, or dry up their creativity and energy.
How’s the person’s reliability and drive? Obviously, you want anyone on your team to be conscientious, reliable, self-motivated, and accountable. But these things are absolutely crucial when someone is working remotely – or you’re likely to find yourself having trouble tracking them down during the day, not hearing back in a timely fashion, and eventually doubting how they’re actually spending their time during the day.
How would you rate the person’s communication skills? Do they seek out input, relay their thoughts clearly and reasonably concisely in writing, understand instructions and nuance without a lot of hand-holding, and reach out proactively when something needs to be hashed out? You’re also going to need to rely on all this when someone isn’t working down the hall from you.
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