The COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed how we live and work. One of the most remarkable transformations was how it pushed many businesses to develop a virtual workforce. This evolution to remote working is likely to be permanent for many companies.
The pandemic merely exacerbated an existing trend toward remote work. Several organizations had already made work from home a part of their business model before the pandemic. And now, more are set to follow.
A recent Gartner survey revealed that three in four CEOs planned to shift at least some of their employees to permanent remote positions. There are several reasons to consider here.
In order to survive and thrive in today’s business world, organizations must be able to adapt quickly to changing conditions.
From a management perspective:
Employers can save on overheads by downsizing or giving up their offices. Reducing rent, utilities, and business taxes can save significant money.
Additionally, you can reduce payroll costs because, according to a GoodHire survey, 61% of employees would be prepared to take a pay cut in exchange for the flexibility of remote working.
Remote working gives access to a large, international talent pool. This shift can help your business increase specialization, compete for workers, and even reduce costs.
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The pandemic exposed many organizations’ lack of business continuity plans. A virtual workplace offers excellent flexibility by designing workflows that can function in any scenario.
Fostering an agile and flexible culture means your organization becomes more resilient. External events and economic changes can become easier to manage with losing competitiveness in the market. Additionally, flexible companies can scale far easier.
Some studies have shown that workers are more productive in remote settings. Research by Airtasker suggests that remote workers worked 1.4 days more per month. Additionally, they suggest the same workers are less distracted by other employees and spend 15% less time avoiding work.
From the employee perspective
Staff can reduce working costs because they no longer need to commute. Additionally, a virtual workplace puts less pressure on where employees need to live, which means they can lower their rent or mortgages.
Commuting takes up a significant amount of time for employees. The average one-way commute is just under 30 minutes. Over a five-day working week, this adds up to 5 hours.6
Many employees became more productive during COVID-19 because they were prepared to account for at least some of this “saved” time by working longer hours.
Study after study has shown that employees love remote working.8 While it’s not the first choice for everyone, offering virtual work as an option is an essential consideration for many employees.
Any business move requires careful planning. And shifting to a virtual workplace is no different. Here is a step-by-step plan for making the transition.
How to Shift Towards a Virtual Workplace
Employees need a clear understanding of your virtual workplace policy. Establish your expectations, and then define what your remote working plan will look like.
Your virtual workplace policy should include:
- What communication tools you will use
- What equipment do your workers need to do their job
- How you will measure productivity
- How available will your staff be
Additionally, evaluate if your staff can perform all their positions remotely.
When everyone is on the same page and understands what is expected from them, transitioning to remote work becomes far easier.
Shifting from office to remote work requires adjustments from everyone. It’s essential to define how your team will stay in touch with each other.
There are three main areas that you will need to define:
- How frequently do employees need to communicate
- When they should communicate
- The time frame they need to reply to communications
But remember, too many Zoom meetings can be counterproductive. Stanford researchers outlined some of the main problems — and solutions — to these issues. Best practice dictates that video meetings should be clear and purposeful to reduce burnout.
One of the biggest challenges for remote-first workplaces is onboarding new hires. Without working face-to-face in the office, it can be difficult for your staff to become immersed in your workplace culture.
Onboarding new users is vital for several reasons.
- Each employee needs to understand what is required of them
- Onboarding helps each employee become productive more quickly, as measured by ELTV11
- Good onboarding increases employee retention rates
- Onboarding helps build morale and strengthen company culture
A truly remote-first organization doesn’t prioritize office workers over remote staff. Communication tools can go a long way to bridging the gap. Both remote and office staff should be able to connect virtually for meetings no matter when they are.
One of the most considerable advantages of virtual work is that it allows you to draw from a larger talent pool. Of course, there are things to consider here, for example, different time zones, language, and cultural differences.
Seeing staff each day helps you monitor their wellbeing. However, virtual work, especially in mid to large-size organizations, can reduce insights into how your team is faring. While you can easily monitor productivity and other metrics, mood and morale can be a little harder to discern over short video conferencing interactions.
Ensure that you have regular check-ins to establish how your staff feels about transitioning into a virtual workplace. Additionally, provide them with tips and tricks to help them make the change.
For example, encourage your staff to:
- Create barriers between their work and private life
- Establish a dedicated workspace (where possible)
- Establish a schedule
Virtual workplaces increase the chance of some employees falling through the gaps. Regular check-ins and support will help your employees flourish in this new setup.
Moving Towards the Virtual Workplace
Transitioning into a virtual workplace requires answering some questions, such as:
- How can we replicate or improve our current workflows through virtual working?
- How can we maintain our workplace culture out of the office?
- How can we ensure that new employees can be onboarded so that they feel integral and part of the team?
- How will we ensure that communication between all team members
Are you prepared for transitioning to a virtual workplace? Contact us to discuss the considerations and strategies that can help your business make the adjustment.