5 Traits to Look for When You Hire a Remote Worker

5 Traits to Look for When You Hire a Remote Worker

Remote work has increased in popularity over the years, rising 140% since 2005. It has thrived even more in the past several months—as many people have transitioned to working from their homes due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions. Hiring independent professionals to work alongside full-time team members has also gained traction, and is now increasingly embraced as a highly effective talent strategy.

There are many advantages to being a company that chooses to hire independent professionals in addition to its regular roster of full-time workers—a major one being that by removing geographic and other traditional constraints on hiring, you gain the competitive advantage of being able to hire the best available specialized talent.

It’s crucial to know what traits you want and need in each of the independent professionals you hire before you begin interviewing. Here are five key traits to look for as you hire remote workers:

  • Self-reliance
  • Ability to structure a routine
  • Environmentally adaptive
  • Effective communication skills
  • Honesty


Successful remote work takes more than just being self-motivated. Remote workers have greater accountability to ensure that their work gets done—and done correctly.

Sure, there are guidelines to follow, but there is no physical presence of people on site checking to make sure things are running smoothly, efficiently, and on time. Remote workers need to take full responsibility for themselves and their actions, and they must understand this from the get-go.

As as a leader responsible for engaging a remote team, you should feel confident that individual workers are getting the job done without you having to check in more than needed.  

During the interview process, ask questions to gauge their dependability when meeting deadlines, problem-solving, and taking the initiative on projects. The answers will likely give you insight into how much of a self-starter the potential worker is and how well they will do as part of your remote team.

Ability to structure a routine

Working remotely is a huge time-saver for many people. Since they don’t need to report to an office or be at their desk at a specific time, they aren’t bound by a traditional routine.

However, this can result in blurred work/life boundaries which could affect the relationship between the remote worker and the rest of the team.

The ideal remote worker should have a morning or evening routine that helps to set the tone for a productive workday. It also gives you a clear idea of when that worker starts and finishes their day, which can help if you need to hop on a conference call with them, send an email that requires an immediate response, or have a task that needs tending to.

When hiring remote workers, you want to make sure you are putting together a team of people who demonstrate the ability to structure and consistently follow a routine, so you know you can rely on them to complete your projects and assignments.

To determine whether someone has this trait, ask them to describe how they usually start and finish their day. A good contender will have a daily regimen, which suggests it could easily continue should they join your team.

Environmentally adaptive

Working remotely allows for a lot of flexibility in a person’s schedule regarding where and when they work. Things can come up unexpectedly for a remote worker that might interrupt or change the course of their day’s work. Independent professionals who are working remotely need to adjust accordingly, whether this means changing the place they are working from, rearranging their to-do list due to project deadline changes, and so forth.

This also refers to adapting to time changes, as in a remote worker should be well-aware of the time zones other team members are in and be mindful of that when communicating. Occasionally, this could mean completing a task earlier than usual to meet a project deadline or complete a task for someone in a different time zone.

On that same note, a remote worker should demonstrate the ability to leave constructive information for their team members who are on different schedules, should they not interact directly during the workday. This ensures work is getting done even with asynchronous schedules.

While interviewing your potential remote worker, present them with scenarios to gauge whether they are comfortable and willing to adopt an asynchronistic approach to work.

Effective communication skills

Communication is key, but it’s especially important for remote workers. It’s critical to have a team with good writing and verbal skills because there will be much more communication done via email or phone call than face-to-face meetings. Mannerisms and facial expressions can be very telling in certain situations when you are sitting in front of someone discussing an important matter. However, when you are just emailing or talking on the phone, these things become obsolete. Leveraging video conferencing as a core communication method for your team will also help ensure smooth communication among your team members.

Good communication skills also include being responsive in a timely manner. When dealing with a remote worker, you often have to rely on email, text messages, and phone calls. There is no getting up and walking over to that worker’s desk to ask for whatever you need. Come to an understanding of an acceptable and reasonable time frame in which virtual communications should be answered during the workday.

It’s also important to have remote team members who understand the importance of communication so that everyone is on the same page as far as what’s needed, what’s important, and why.

You’ll be able to gauge workers’ verbal communication skills during an interview, whether that is done over the phone or via video conferencing. It’s also encouraged to engage in an email discussion to see how they fare in that communication scenario.


Honesty is as important as communication when it comes to teamwork. Honesty lays the groundwork for trust, and trust is imperative if you want to succeed as a team.  As the team leader, you must trust all team members to do their due diligence and work hard to get the job done. When your team is composed of independent professionals and full-time team members working from various locations, you have to rely on those interpersonal relationships, and trust should be at the forefront.

Remote workers need to be honest with themselves and their team leader if a problem arises. If they don’t feel they’ll perform adequately or complete the task they’ve been assigned in a timely manner, they need to communicate that to their leader, who can help or reassign to another team member if necessary. If a worker is not honest in a situation like this, it could waste time and cause setbacks.

Find the right remote talent today

It’s becoming much more common for companies to put together a hybrid team of independent or part-time talent and full-time workers, and many are doing their jobs remotely. By searching for workers who portray these five traits, you will be well on your way to building a successful team of remote talent.

However, before you can assess whether remote talent is right for your team, you need to know where to look for them. At Upwork, we make it easy for businesses to connect with independent professionals with expertise in everything from developing apps and designing websites to social media marketing and content writing, and much more. It’s a reliable and cost-effective way to find the top remote workers to fit all of your company’s needs.


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5 Traits to Look for When You Hire a Remote Worker
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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