IT Staff and the Value of Remote Work

As some IT staff bemoan the move to a freelance-based tech workforce, the CEO of a work-for-hire Web site points out the advantages of this approach.
"A difficult economic environment argues for the need to innovate more, not to pull back." - Ken Chenault, American Express CEO

By all indicators, we are in a “difficult economic environment” – so the time to innovate is now. But given shrinking budgets and limited resources, where will this innovation come from?

How can employees keep progressing in their careers when jobs are scarce? How should companies ride the budget rollercoaster while bringing in the right talent to afford innovation?

There has been a lot of debate over freelancers within IT departments (and their role in other fields, as well) – but there’s a lot of value to be gained in remote work, both as a resource and as a career choice.

Remote Opportunity for Workers

The current economic climate can be terrifying for those supporting themselves and their families. Additionally, the local area may not provide enough opportunities to sustain the talent available in that region.

For example, with the closing of U.S. automakers’ plants throughout the country, there are workers with invaluable experience in places where those skills are no longer a prized asset. Think about it – if you were laid off tomorrow, is there enough demand for your skills in your neighborhood to ensure that you’ll be able to continue your career? Can you afford to relocate to where those jobs are?

Remote online work can mitigate these challenges of location. By offering skills to organizations looking for remote workers, a former autoworker and CAD specialist in the Midwest can land meaningful work at a competitive rate for a company based in California – without the expense or risk of relocation.

Additionally, those who find themselves out of work can use freelance experience to bridge the gap in employment history with activity that not only generates income but that also builds an accessible, credible reputation for their abilities.

Remote contractors who manage their online resumes by providing extensive job histories, complete portfolios, and well-earned reputation can command top dollar and create a steady pipeline of work.

Remote Flexibility for Organizations

The current economy certainly has taken its toll on IT organizations – many companies are struggling to maintain the balance between cost-effective IT management and making the necessary progress in their technology investments. By rethinking processes and exploring opportunities, companies can give themselves the necessary resources to keep innovating through troubling times.

Remote workers provide an answer to many of the challenges teams face during troubling times. Building remote teams provides IT managers a flexible answer to maintaining cost-effective IT staffing. By controlling the size and skill level of the work force based on the ebb and flow of assignment needs, managers trim costs and remove the HR-related issues of in-house employees.

Remote freelancers bring a wealth of experience and knowledge that may not be available in the immediate local area. It’s folly to believe that the five people brought in for an in-person interview at your office location represent the best talent out there – they’re just the best talent that is willing and able to come to work on-site today. By opening the position to remote workers, talent worldwide gains the opportunity to bring skills to your organization.

Concerned about quality? Part of the reason freelancers get a bad rap is that there is limited effort put into the hiring process. Often, companies rely on staffing agencies to assign freelancers work – leaving them with no visibility into the skill level and experience of the person working for the company!

But, for local team members, you wouldn’t hire someone to work in the cubicle next to you without an extensive interview process, right? Spend some time vetting your remote candidates to ensure that you are gaining valuable remote team members who can help your organization innovate.

By selecting freelancers wisely, companies gain flexible access to qualified, specialized talent located anywhere in the world and a reprieve from tightening budgets and ever-constrained resources – while providing workers the ability to work from anywhere in the world and build valuable work experience.

Gary Swart, a veteran of multiple startups, is CEO of oDesk.

Tags: management, IT, IT Jobs/Salary, economy, startups

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