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HR Insights: Working with Remote Employees

This is the third in a series of interviews with Gail Rolls on critical HR topics. The first and second interviews may be viewed here and here respectively.

We live in a digital world in which working remotely is becoming more and more common. In an interview I conducted with Gail Rolls, Senior IT Recruiter and Career Development Consultant for Computer Aid, I sought to learn how remote employees impact Computer Aid. Here are her thoughts on CAI remote employees:

AITS: In your experience, have you found that employees who are given the option to work remotely are still productive? Is their productivity affected at all?

Gail Rolls: A lot of the time, productivity is not affected. Sometimes it is, however. More often than not, it’s the employee who decides what their threshold is. I just talked to a candidate who thought working from home was a dream come true. Not so much! He desires to get back into an office for the camaraderie.

AITS: Do you believe working remotely truly aids in the work-life balance? Are employees who work remotely happier and overall healthier people?

Rolls: I personally believe that. But I believe that is up to an individual. It is nice when an employer has that option for when it is necessary for the employee. I also believe an employee needs to be trustworthy to get that ‘benefit.’

AITS: Have you found it difficult to integrate remote employees into Computer Aid culture? Is there still a “team” feeling with employees working in such diverse locations?

Rolls: As long as the relationship and trust are there, working remotely or in the office does not matter. But—it cannot be abused.

AITS: How much has technology played a role in advancing work-from-home style positions? Do you see these opportunities growing further?

Rolls: I am not sure. Technology does not have a boundary; I am sure there will be technology created—in the future—to aid in this area. The question will be: Do we want it?

AITS: Is it easier to hire a person to immediately work remotely, or to allow an established employee to phase out of working in the office environment?

Rolls: I personally believe that a relationship and trust must be developed before the person works remotely. There are exceptions though. There are technologies/skills that people have that will dictate a 100% working-from-home situation.

AITS: How does training or onboarding employees virtually compare with training employees on-site?

Rolls: We do a lot of new hire paperwork remotely.

AITS: Have you found that you need to put forth a greater effort to communicate with employees who work remotely? What is the best means of communication?

Rolls: A good, old-fashioned phone conversation or an in-person meeting sometimes is necessary and is best. Communication and feelings can get lost if you communicate electronically. You almost have to accentuate your feelings if you communicate only via email or text. I think the experts say 90% of communication comes from nonverbal cues. We have to remember that.  If we want people to feel welcomed and if we want to fully understand them, we need to talk with them and engage with them.

AITS: What type of person makes for an exceptional remote employee? Do you believe certain personalities types do better with working remotely?

Rolls: You also have to be an independent worker and a self-motivated worker. You need to have the drive to get a job done without the stimulation of others. The measurement: work output!

AITS: Are there any tips you would give to an employee who is seeking to transition their career to one they can do remotely?

Rolls: I think the person must take a step back and do a self-assessment. He/she should ask the following questions: Can I work without people? Can I be self-motivated to get the job done? Can I be disciplined? Not everyone has those skills working remotely!

200GailRolls

Gail Rolls also maintains The IT Entrepreneur LinkedIn group.

About Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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