With more and more companies offering remote and flexible work options, it would seem like any potential employee would jump at the opportunity to work from home. Thing is, however, not every job candidate might initially be suited for remote work—but could learn to be, with a little help from remote employers.
In a Baylor University study, researchers found that it takes a whole lot more than an applicant having the necessary job requirements in order to successfully work from home. The study, which polled 403 working adults, looked at each worker’s emotional stability (how they would handle stressful work-related situations), strain (i.e., if they were exhausted, stressed, disengaged from their jobs, or unhappy in their roles), as well as their autonomy levels.
According to lead author Sara Perry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, the research found that an employee’s ability to be autonomous was crucial in helping them avoid strain and improve their overall well-being. However, employees who had high levels of autonomy but decreased levels of emotional stability were prone to becoming stressed-out while working.
Interestingly enough, the study found that while past research seemed to suggest that autonomy was something that all workers wanted, that’s not always true. For workers who have lower emotional stability (and therefore are more susceptible to stress), it didn’t matter if their job carried a higher level of autonomy or not. The study’s authors concluded that people who have high levels of autonomy and high emotional stability are better equipped for telecommuting and remote work.
But how do employers know ahead of time if a job candidate has the emotional stamina to work remotely? That’s where identifying key employee behaviors—rather than personality types—when interviewing job candidates comes into play.
Here are some tips for hiring good remote workers:
Look for prior remote work experience.
While it isn’t always an indicator of future job success, it’s a good sign if an applicant has previous remote work experience. It shows that not only have they worked remotely before, but more importantly, that they liked it. After all, if a job candidate telecommuted in the past and then discovered that they felt overwhelmed and stressed-out working from home, the chances are slim that they would apply for yet another remote job. So if you have a candidate who has worked from home before, the likelihood is high that they enjoyed it and were probably good at it, too.
After the first round of job interviews, you might have narrowed down the applicants to a few front-runners. During the next round of interviews, focus on those soft skills that make working remotely a cinch. Put job candidates in various remote work scenario snafus to see how they would react—i.e., their WiFi goes out or their computer suddenly stops working. Determine how they would handle themselves in each potential situation to see if they would be someone who would panic, or if they are someone who would have the emotional stability to handle any remote work situation.
Let’s say that you have a candidate who you really want to hire, but you’re unsure of how well they’re going to fare once they start working from home. That’s where the company needs to come in and offer its support. While remote workers do need to have a strong sense of autonomy, management still needs to provide the tools and guidance in order to help its remote workforce function successfully. Your company should strive to foster good working relationships among team members so that they feel a strong sense of collegial camaraderie. And showing that managers are available to help with any questions or concerns can help reduce employee stress and bring out the best in all of your remote workers.
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