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The Executive’s Guide to Remote Staffing Options

Written by: Katie Hill

Remote work was already on an upward trend, but the pandemic gave that trend a hard shove forward. What might have taken many years to normalize was done in a few months.

The result? 

Companies adapted to using remote workers. Staff adapted to working remotely. Both parties faced challenges during this process but soon found that the benefits were tremendous. For companies, the opportunity to access a broader talent base and lower overhead costs made remote hiring particularly attractive.

Now, remote staffing services are championing the advantages of remote work, while also making it possible to scale and adapt as economic and labor forces require—particularly when it comes to administrative talent. They also offer one final and necessary piece in the puzzle: reduced hiring time and costs. 

Now that executives know that remote work “works,” the remote staffing services sector is booming.

Now, here’s everything you need to know about remote staffing options.

Table of Contents

What Is Remote Staffing?

Remote staffing means working with skilled employees, often fractional, who work off-site for long-term assignments.

This is often facilitated by a remote staffing agency that specializes in hiring remote team members and connecting you to the talent you need faster than you can hire on your own.

These remote staffing agencies specialize in executive assistants, often with related skills like customer service, CRM administration, social media management, project management, and bookkeeping. These agencies have expertise in hiring and managing these roles, freeing their clients to focus their staff on the core mission of the company. 

It’s important to note that remote staffing is not the same as bringing on temporary help, hiring a freelance or contract worker, or outsourcing. Remote staff are true, bonafide members of your team, working alongside your in-house staff.

The right remote staffing agency’s strong suit is efficient, seamless integration into your company culture, technology systems, and procedures.

With virtual assistant hiring up 41% since 2020, remote staffing is becoming a top choice for support staff for Fortune-500 companies to small business owners.

Benefits Of Remote Staffing Agencies

Traditional hiring can be challenging, particularly when you need to bring someone on staff quickly; not to mention the added difficulty that comes with a labor shortage and hesitancy to hire in an uncertain economy. It can also be difficult to hire employees for roles that are less than full-time.

1. Bring on additional support, fast.

Using a remote staffing service puts most of the work, expense, and time in the agency’s lap. You can quickly access great support and add more executive assistants as you need them. 

Time-to-hire drops—from an average of 42 days to less than a week.

2. Fractional staff, so you only pay for the time you need.

With fractional roles, execs can get steady part-time support. Remote staff are skilled at supporting multiple executives whether they are supporting several leaders at the same company or switching from one client to another during the workday.

3. Saves money on hiring and retention.

Direct hiring is expensive. On average, it costs about $7K to hire someone new. That includes the hiring process cost, plus onboarding, training, and overhead expenses like equipment.

Retaining new hires isn’t easy, either. 28% of new hires will consider quitting in the first three months. That means the time and cost are rebooted each time this happens, and you must start again from square one. 

4. Lowers your commitment risk.

Finding the right executive assistant hire can be a challenge. Someone can seem great in an interview, but once they start, it’s obvious it’s not working. What next?

A good staffing agency will assume the risk by offering a satisfaction guarantee. If for whatever reason, your staff member isn’t the right person, they’ll take on the cost and work of replacing them.

5. Coverage at all times.

Furthermore, if your staff member is away for any reason (vacation, illness, etc.), most staffing agencies will be able to provide you with a backup, ensuring that you’re always covered for key tasks and responsibilities.

6. Alleviate compliance issues. 

When working with non-W2 employees, you must stay in compliance with laws that restrict how you can interact with freelancers and independent contractors. 

Additionally, if you decide to hire a remote employee that doesn’t live in your city or state, you must be in compliance with the employment laws where they are located. 

If you choose a remote staffing agency that offers subscription staffing, the compliance burdens are on the agency, not you. We’ll dive deeper into this shortly.

7. Flexibility to add or reduce support quickly.

If your business grows, you can easily add additional staff hours. On the other hand, if you need to scale back, a quick phone call to your agency can deliver the right number of hours that you need.

8. Remote staffing agencies manage support staff so you don’t have to. 

Recruiting, onboarding, training, and management of support staff take expertise and processes that many Human Resources teams lack. Remote staffing agencies manage and train the staff that work with you. Everything from professional development to planning for vacation coverage is off of your plate.

Essentially, you’re able to strengthen your workforce instead of weakening it, which can happen with other forms of supplemental staffing that don’t integrate well with your current team, culture, or procedures. (Think temp workers, freelance, or gig workers.)

Remote Staffing Agency Options Compared

Hiring remote staff is different than hiring someone for your in-house team, and you have a few options.

The key to knowing which remote staffing option to use is to be aware of what you are looking for. Is it temporary access to talent for a specific project? Or do you want to supplement your team with a true new staff member?

There are three agency models: subscription, managed contractors, and pool. All of them oversee the staff assigned to you:

  • Subscription staffing agencies reflect the broader “subscription economy” trend, in which we’ve begun subscribing to everything from music and software to clothing, rather than suffering the hassles of traditional asset management. You pay a monthly fee for the support hours that you need, and you are matched with remote staff that are employees of the agency. Retention is high with this model, so it is ideal for businesses seeking a long-term relationship with the remote staff that embed in their business. Companies that demand legal compliance choose this model. Example: Boldly
  • Managed contractor agencies will match you with a freelancer. The agency screens contractors so you don’t have to wade through profiles and reviews on a freelancer platform. The trade-off is often more variability in talent and more turnover than subscription staffing. Low hourly rates (agencies don’t provide contractors with benefits) makes this a popular choice for small businesses but can leave you open to compliance liabilities. ExampleBelay
  • Pool agencies are a good choice for iterative tasks or assignments that don’t require extensive experience (such as data entry). You may or may not work with the same person next time, as your work is assigned to whoever is next available when the request comes through. Example: Fancy Hands

Alternatives To Remote Staffing Agencies

  • Recruitment firms, like Robert Half, help you find and recruit employees (or contractors) using the job description and requirements you’ve provided.
    They often have a network of prospective employees and will work a process to whittle them down to your top candidates. Here, you will either pay a search fee or a percentage of the employee’s first-year salary. This is a great option if your main challenge is recruiting. However, if your new employee doesn’t work out, it’s back to day one and your search begins anew.
  • Gig Platforms. While not remote staffing agencies per se, platforms like Fiverr and Upwork give access to thousands of freelancers—from virtual assistants to bookkeepers. You can find dozens of potential matches in seconds. However, you must rely on the gig site’s rating system and your ability to evaluate if they’re a good fit. You can find some gems, but services like these are usually best for those with budget limitations or one-off projects.

What Does Remote Staffing Cost?

In general, you’ll pay an agency between $6 – $60/hour for a support staff role. That’s quite a range.

Of course, there is a huge difference in the skill, education, and experience among executive assistants. You pay more for quality and consistency.

If you want someone with native-English communication skills who is a proactive problem-solver with the discernment and tact to represent you with clients, handle sensitive emails, be in your bank account, and field projects without supervision, well, you are looking for premium staff!

You will also pay more for assurance that your staff will be with you for the long term. A US-based career executive assistant employed by a subscription staffing agency can support you for years.  A contractor at an agency may only be with you until they can find a better-paying gig. 

What is right for you? Here are some considerations to help you assess who is the right fit for your company.

How To Choose The Right Remote Staffing Agency For You

Not all remote staffing companies are the same, and it’s important to find the agency that is right for you. These six points will guide your evaluation:

1. Assess the quality of the agency’s staff.

Some operate as a pool of workers where you are assigned whoever is available next. This is more like a remote temp agency, and it makes it difficult to form a lasting connection within your team as well as have successful project continuity.

At the other end of the scale, some senior executives require top-notch US-based Fortune 500 talent to become a true partner and meet their needs. If this is what you are looking for, ask the remote staffing company about their process for screening applicants. It should be a system that ensures they hire only highly experienced talent and then carefully match them with clients for a successful fit. 

For example, as a premium agency, Boldly hires less than 1% of the more than 100,000 applications we receive each year for just that reason. 

2. Ask about tenure.

How long has the talent pool been with the agency? On average how long do they work with a client? This is an indicator of the agency’s ability to retain talent. It also is a reflection of client satisfaction.

If you are looking for long-term support, this is important. You don’t want to invest in building a working relationship with your staff only to start all over with someone new when they leave for a better opportunity.

For example, Boldly’s team members typically work with clients for 2-3 years and have been on staff for 3+ years — more than double the industry average.

3. Ask if remote staff are W2 employees or 1099 contractors.

When you work with a remote staffing company, you are contracting with an agency. You would think that it is the agency’s responsibility to ensure that all of the necessary compliance is in place for the person they are supplying you with, right?

Unfortunately, not. In some states, it is illegal to fill a long-term role with a US-based contractor. And it can cost you more than you realize.

Subscription staffing agencies employ their staff. You get a single monthly invoice for hours you’ve subscribed – no 1099 forms or legal headaches at the end of the year.

And, when your remote staff is employed by a subscription staffing company, they are less likely to move on to a better opportunity.

You may pay a bit more, but you will benefit from the employee retention these companies enjoy. For example, Boldly retains its W2 employees with competitive pay, benefits, PTO, career development, and a thriving company culture so its clients can count on a long-term relationship with their remote staff.

This is why the subscription staffing model has become popular, especially with larger, enterprise organizations.

4. Meet your remote staff before committing.

The right remote staff will have the skills you are looking for and be a great fit with the personality of the leader they support. Ask to meet the person you are matched with—before you commit.

This will give you the confidence to move forward and to invest your time and resources in the relationship. A good agency will also lower your risk by offering a satisfaction guarantee in the event it just doesn’t work out.

5. Ensure your remote staff will be available every day, when you need them.

Unlike freelancers that set their own hours for project-based work, remote staff are fully integrated into your business day-in and day-out.

Be sure your fractional remote staff will be available to respond to the needs of the business at certain hours Monday through Friday. This way, nothing falls through the cracks.

6. Ability to hire your remote staff down the line.

As your business grows, you may find that you want to bring your part-time remote staff member on as a full-time employee of your company. See if the agency offers a buy-out program that enables their people to take the next step in their career with you.

Ultimately, the remote staffing agency should care about your success. They’ll want to match someone with your team so well that they’ll be with you a long time.

Remote Staffing Agencies And The Future Of Work

Staffing agencies can now be expected to pick up the tab of both time and monetary costs when it comes to hiring. They are also the experts in knowing who to hire for remote work.

Remote work is not the same as working in-person; it takes a person who is self-motivated, proactive, a good communicator, and trustworthy, among other traits.

You might know how to hire for in-house staff, but do you know what to look for in remote administrative staff?

A remote staffing agency’s expertise is in finding people who are skilled at working remotely, people who have the qualities necessary to successfully work remotely away from a team.

Having team members who work remotely might not be unusual but using remote staffing as the new approach for building your team certainly is.

Remote staffing agencies have flipped the model on its head. Remote staffing is no longer a mere fallback option. It’s often the best solution available.

Updated on July 11th, 2022

About the author: Katie Hill is a Content Writer at Boldly, which offers Premium Subscription Staffing for demanding executives and founders. When she isn't writing about remote work or productivity, she can be found adventuring in Colorado's backcountry.