Our guest today is Barbara Krecak, an entrepreneur passionate about operations and business development. She is Director of Remote Bob – a  company connecting busy London leaders with a high-quality, affordable remote workforce from Croatia. Barbara was the youngest columnist in Croatian magazine “Entrepreneur“ and the youngest Cotrugli Business School Executive MBA graduate.

Barbara, what do you think about remote work? Is adopting a remote working concept a viable alternative to the traditional office-centered corporate culture?

With technology becoming closer and closer to your fingertips, people, in turn, start looking into remote work more and more often. This especially accounts for those people who work office jobs that require only a laptop, a desk and a peace of mind. The latter is sometimes hard to get when you have to drive to work a couple of miles each day, spend gas, money and time to get there, only to quietly sit in a room (often, even with other people in it) and type for eight hours a day – a task that would be more comfortable, convenient and less costly to do from the privacy of your own home. We also have to take into consideration that fixed working hours that require a physical presence of the employee may not be complementary to the amount of work needed to be done – there are days when there aren’t more than two hours of going through paperwork, and the employees have to either take on other tasks and overwork themselves or sit around and try not to fall asleep for the rest of the day. On the other hand, there are days where the office hours aren’t enough, so people either have to stay at work longer, or continue working from home that day (after the long commute) anyway.

All of the aforementioned reasons explain why large, successful companies around the world, like Amazon, Dell and Philips, allow online working – the work efficiency is greater, as the employees have a wider approach to their work with being able to arrange their workspace and time all by themselves. This is, in turn, also the reason as to why outsourcing of a remote workforce has become a large-scale trend, particularly in the UK – where 66% percent of companies now allow remote work due to the proven benefits that come with hiring people online.

You mentioned efficiency, but to many companies cost savings come first. Is the shift to remote working primarily cost-driven?

Cost is one of those benefits. Whether we want to admit it or not – everyone wants and needs money, either to save up more or to earn more. This is where the idea of founding Remote Bob has risen. One of the co-founders of the company is originally from Croatia, and through many years of experience and research, we have found that the statistics regarding payment of office workers between Croatia and the United Kingdom differ greatly: A total cost for an average-paid manager with four employees and an office space with gadgets costs close to 280.000GBP per year. On the other hand, the above-average price for the same deal in Croatia is 127.000GBP. Startup companies in London would have to go heavily into debt to make their entry into the business world a success, either that or hire under-qualified workers in order to meet their budget... unless, of course, they turn to outsourcing, and hire top-quality workers from somewhere else (in our case, from Croatia), and save up money without cutting on efficiency.

The numbers speak, but hiring people online is still seen as risky by lots of hiring managers. In your opinion, is this risk overrated?

Regardless of the whole “66%-statistic”, many people are still not comfortable with the idea of hiring someone online, especially if that someone is living overseas and you might not even have met them yet. The whole business concept of Remote Bob is to minimize these prejudices by providing a good example. To be realistic, with the pace at which the trend of outsourcing is rising – it is inevitably going to become more and more frequent in the future, so we want to become part of that integration starting today, as the saying goes – adapt, improvise, overcome.

Managing remote teams is not easy, especially if the team members are in different time zones. What is the impact on work efficiency?

Through our personal experience, we have noticed that employees are much more efficient and satisfied with their job when they can arrange their schedule all by themselves in an environment close and familiar to them rather than enforcing long, dull and stressful office hours. They appreciate the flexibility and opportunities given to them, which in return gives a better outcome to the company – as happy and satisfied employees always deliver more genuine hard-working results than those who do the work just to fill a norm. When employees are happy and satisfied with their work environment and atmosphere, they are also more dedicated to their work, so even if they do get other job opportunities – they often choose to stay working at our company due to the fact that they feel comfortable and fulfilled when working with us.

Do you use time tracking software? Often, remote workers clock more hours than actually worked if given a chance to do so. Is loyalty a problem?

Truthfully speaking, without a proper method of supervising your remote workforce – you might risk employees lying about their progress and not getting work delivered on time. Even with all the flexibility that comes with remote work, discipline and responsibility should be something that is continuously encouraged in the company, which is exactly why work progress is monitored via CRM. We overcome the challenge of our employees not taking their job seriously enough by asking them to track and report everything they do. This way, both we and our customers have a good insight into how far along the work is, all whilst this becomes more comfortable with the employee himself – as they get a feeling of satisfaction when marking their tasks as “in progress” or “completed” and when uploading their work. They also track their working hours by themselves and get paid accordingly to their claims. We tend to reward and compliment employees with good working habits to encourage them to keep up this tempo and motivate them for future tasks.

Do you encourage diversity of thought? As a remote company, Remote Bob has access to a global diverse talent pool.

You can always have a problem with freelancers who lie about details regarding their work; their expertise, experience, hours, and much more. This is why at Remote Bob; all our employees are carefully selected from a large and diverse pool of experts (a very large one, in fact, as many more people have the ability to apply for a certain job position with online applications than when they physically have to go to the company or take into account whether or not they can work for that company due to the commute). We check the background on all the claims of our new workers, interview them, and then assign test tasks to see if their skills are what we and our customers are looking for. All new employees are guided by senior managers, who also ease up the process of onboarding of the new employee into the current staff crew. All of the things that I have just mentioned do not apply only to remote workers – a thorough selection of employees, smooth integration and controlled supervision is something every company should have and do. The only difference is that we do not need to physically sit face to face with our employees every day in order to make that happen, which is more convenient for all parties involved.