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Skills to assess when hiring remote labor.


Meredith Stack


There have been recent reports that organizations are ending remote work. Theories about why this is happening cite lack of training about how to work remotely, as well as how to successfully monitor and manage remote workers, as key issues organizations face.

However, taking away remote work after it’s been an option doesn’t pay off. According to the New York Times, companies that ban remote work after allowing it have seen up to a 60 percent increase in absenteeism.

Capture the benefits of remote work.

In spite of a shift by some large organizations (e.g., IBM and Yahoo) to call workers back into the office, remote work remains a viable and productive option for many companies. One study found that 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, and 53 percent of professional work remotely half of the week.

The high rate of remote work isn’t surprising when considering Gallup’s data regarding some of the benefits of remote work:

  • Remote workers can be 20 to 25 percent more productive than colleagues who work onsite.
  • Each onsite worker costs an average of $10,000 per year in real estate alone.
  • Millennials and Gen X employees are more likely to join companies that make remote work an option.

Additionally, the New York Times reports that employees who spend 60 percent to 80 percent of their time outside the office have the highest rates of engagement.

With these benefits of remote work in mind, it's essential to consider ways to improve remote work, rather than rejecting it. To start, recruiters can assess if a candidate has the required traits to work remotely.

Assess internal motivations.

As part of the recruiting process, determine how well a candidate’s personality aligns with the requirements of working on their own—even if it’s just for a few days each week.

In order to measure someone’s ability to work remotely, assess their internal motivations by focusing on three personality traits:

  1. Adaptability
    Candidates who score higher in adaptability are more attuned and sensitive to the needs of others. Highly adaptable people don't want to let people down. They are more proactive in asking people what they need rather than assuming. Someone who has a high score for this trait will feel the responsibility to deliver and meet requirements, regardless of their work location. Individuals with lower adaptability will have a harder time succeeding with the social pressures that come from working in an office.
  2. Task-orientation
    Being more task-oriented means someone doesn’t require or gain energy from working alongside others. High scores in this area tend to produce lower scores on the Berke sociability dimension, which means a candidate may prefer to focus more on tasks rather than engage in social interactions. Less social interactions and more opportunities to focus on tasks can create an ideal work experience for someone working remotely.
  3. Assertiveness
    Middle to high-level assertiveness means someone is “in it to win it.” They want to get things done. They are proactive about asking for resources and asking questions. They will not wait for someone to ask them to do something. A healthy dose of assertiveness will help remote workers succeed because they won’t let distance get in their way. They’re willing to request what they need from their manager or team members.

If a candidate doesn’t demonstrate these internal motivations, they’re less likely to be a good fit for remote work. In these situations, it will be harder to succeed without the structure, and social interactions found when working onsite.

Taking the time to recruit talent that will be successful working remotely is important for long-term growth as more and more employees expect the option to work remotely. With valuable information about candidates internal motivators, they can accelerate the hiring process and increase the chances that remote work will be successful for employees as well as the organization.

Remote worker on a phone call

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