The past year saw an unexpected rise in remote work as workplaces closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While remote work was already on the rise within the contingent workforce before Covid-19, the pandemic accelerated this trend.

In fact, a recent report from Staffing Industry Analysts showed that 61% of temporary workers in North America reported working an assignment remotely at least some of the time in 2020.

The report, “North America Temporary Worker Survey 2021: Remote Work Experience and Advice on How to Make it Better,” was based on a survey conducted in late 2020 and offers advice for buyers of workforce solutions on what they can do to make the remote work experience better for their contingent staff.

Jon Osborne, SIA’s VP of strategic research and author of the report, says, “Remote work is a tremendous opportunity for hiring companies, because it opens up the field of potential recruits enormously – you no longer need to hire locally but can tap into the wider world of talent. There are really just a few improvements needed to get this operating smoothly, mostly better communication and onboarding.”

With such enormous benefits to buyers such as access to greater talent — including homebound workers (stay-at-home parents) and disabled workers — and potentially increased productivity and cost savings, it seems remote working is here to stay.

“There is every indication that remote work is here to stay because many hard-to-recruit contingents have now experienced it and prefer it,” Osborne says. “It’s not going to take over in every skill set, but I expect that it will become increasingly common in office and technology skills.”

Here are some ways to get the most out of remote work:

Communication. CW program managers should keep communication lines open and give frequent updates on projects.

When polling temporary workers on how hiring companies can make their remote work experience better, the report showed that respondents believed they should communicate more frequently and give more direction.

“More direction the better. Working from home puts new employees, especially contractors, at a disadvantage,” was one of the responses.

Doing a better job at communicating changes and requiring more “structured leadership meetings via Zoom” were also cited as areas that needed improvement.

Temp workers also pointed to a lack of meetings, which can lead to a feeling of isolation while remote working. One survey respondent also criticized the lack of opportunities to participate in client town halls and other events.

SIA’s report for staffing providers, “Best Practices in Remote Work for Staffing Firms,” also brings up the issue of communication, which can apply to CW program managers. Communicating expectations was a key best practice highlighted in the report.

Onboarding. Getting the onboarding process right is key when it comes to providing a smooth remote work experience.

Providing a checklist of the onboarding process, along with training and expectations, having access set up prior to the start date and informational meetings were all cited in the survey as key things that hiring companies can do to improve temp workers’ remote work experience.

In fact, two of the responses quoted in the report discussed a lack of support and how the workers either never had an onboarding process or were thrown into tasks right away without any information.

Equipment. Providing the necessary equipment and resources for temporary workers to thrive in their remote work environment is fundamental for improving their overall experience.

While providing the equipment to work efficiently is important, so is the need to make sure the equipment continues to work and the need for resolving technical and other issues quickly.

CW program managers should also consider providing a stipend for additional equipment, as well access to effective IT support.