There’s been something of a sea change in the way we work in recent years. Even a decade ago, if you started a small business, the majority of your work would be completed in-house.
By Xenios Thrasyvoulou
While you might have to outsource your accounting or hire a PR agency, the day-to-day tasks would be handled by employees. Although many companies still work that way, it’s no longer the only way. Advancing technology, paired with the booming freelance marketplace, has opened an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to operate in ways that would have once seemed unduly risky – or simply unimaginable.
A new working model
63 per cent of businesses are now utilizing a remote and freelance workforce. These independent experts are working alongside core employees, enhancing the traditional model from a distance. And in some cases, they make up the entire staff, creating a whole new business paradigm where there is no longer any need for a fixed office, staff room, toilets and holiday pay. Instead, companies are shaped in an entirely virtual workspace, which stretches – sometimes – across the globe.
It sounds extraordinary. And it is. It also sounds unworkable. In some cases, it is that too! But that’s only because the groundwork was never put in place. A flexible or hybrid workforce has the potential to bring agility to a company. It can reduce overheads and allow for the acquisition of niche skills for as long or short a time as you need them. It can get you the best person for the job, rather than just the best person in your neighborhood. And, perhaps counterintuitively, it can increase the productivity of your business. You might believe that a captive workforce puts in more hours and effort because they have you watching over them. But a freelance professional only gets paid when the job is done. So, ask yourself, which is the greater incentive to work?
The opportunities brought by a more flexible workforce are enormous. But the trick is in knowing how to manage remote employees for the best possible results.
How to make a flexible workforce work for your business
Have a plan
One of the most common errors people make when taking on a remote workforce is that they have no idea what to do with them. Of course, there’s the job at hand. But that can only be completed to a high standard if all of your team – including the freelancers – understand what the importance of the project to the business. By writing a plan, you’re not only clarifying the job in your own mind, but you’re laying out your expectation for everyone who works on it. Who does what, how and by when? It’s far easier to complete a job successfully if you have a target to aim for.
Freelance workers want your success as much as you do. If you’re happy with their work, you may give them more, which means that they can eat another day. But they can only really succeed if you tell them what you want. If you have a vision, share it – they’ll be happy to sign an NDA if the information is sensitive. If their work impacts upon your long-term goals, then let them know. They may have ideas that could help. If you’re outsourcing work that will affect your in-house team, make introductions so that all parties can collaborate.
Manage all team members
The more remote workers you take on, the more important it is to manage them. And the harder it can be. It’s easy for deadlines to be missed simply because you’ve been spinning too many freelance plates. Using a management platform can help make sure that all work is tracked, and all payments are made. This keeps your business moving forward, and your remote workers happy.
Create a culture and encourage connections
Freelancers are used to working alone. They don’t necessarily need to feel part of a team. But if you’re introducing a remote worker to an established group of colleagues, it’s easy for problems to arise. Your team may feel threatened by the introduction of an outsider. They may feel that the freelancer is a less valid project member. They may just forget about them, opening endless opportunities for errors. Creating a culture of collaboration and encouraging informal communication between all parties will work to your benefit. So, make introductions. Use video calls and leave time for pleasantries. If you can get the team together in person, even better.
A flexible workforce is a happier workforce. Remote workers feel less stressed. Home workers are generally more productive. And a happy, productive workforce makes the perfect foundation for a successful business.
Xenios Thrasyvoulou is the Founder & CEO of PeoplePerHour.com (PPH) an online platform, now the largest in Europe and one of the largest in the world – connecting businesses with an on-demand freelance workforce now 2 million strong, covering thousands of fields of expertise.