Lessons From The Experts

There are lots of lessons that we’ve all learnt about how to maximise productivity in a conventional office space. Staff in a traditional office need clean well designed offices. But even when the office space is functional, there is still the necessity of the daily commute that tires out the employees. It’s hard to expect immediate productivity when an employee arrives for work after commuting on crowded trains for more than an hour. Add in the noisy chatter and gossip and social interruptions of a normal office morning and it can be hard to produce productive outcomes before lunch.

To get their work done people need space and time to themselves, and that’s often a challenge in the traditional office model where usually only the CEO has a calm private alcove.

A virtual office, with everyone working remotely, also has it’s own challenges that are quite different - but at least the remote workers don’t have to waste their precious time physically commuting back and forth each day - they stay fresh and just cyber commute.

Here are a few considerations to help make sure your virtual office reaches a high level of efficient productivity:

Good Communication is Essential for Virtual Workplaces

In a virtual business environment ,quality communication is crucial. Virtual workplace leaders need to figure out the application software they’ll use from the get-go. A clear communication policy is a must, how often teams need to catch up on an official basis, how regularly project stakeholders need to talk during the day – all the expectations for virtual office reporting and messaging – and then it’s ok to let a natural comms process take shape across the team – as long as there are guardrails.

Zoom or Skype or Microsoft video conferencing is also important – people need to see each other’s faces, it fosters a certain regular level of visibility and accountability for appearance and presentation and ensures unity across the virtual office team. Message boards and shared project documents are also part of the mix but leaders need to ensure that any newly introduced messaging software that’s favoured by some of the team is signed off as secure before its implemented.

Communication always need to be regular and respectful - without frequent communication some of the remote workers can become insular and self-absorbed, so its good to stay on the ball and keep everyone united.

Smart and Reliable Tech Tools are Vital for Remote Working

Investing in robust scalable applications is paramount for operating effectively in a virtual environment. Utilising the appropriate project management software to track tasks and deadlines, accessing cloud-based solutions for file sharing, enabling real-time access to essential documents from anywhere (with levels of permissions)is essential. The software you choose should be stable, well supported and very user friendly. It’s important to also take into account the level of technical expertise across your virtual teams and ensure that thorough training processes are put in place so even the most tech challenged member of staff feels confident to use the software.

Also, don’t expect every one of your remote team workforce will always raise problems of interface usage with their manager – sometimes staff will be reluctant to admit they haven’t understood an instruction – that’s when you need to manage the uncertainty and be sure your virtual office is using really user friendly applications instead of powerful but overly complex technology.

Create a Strong Work Culture for Your Virtual Office

Building a strong virtual company culture is essential for employee retention, staff engagement and meeting /exceeding the company revenue forecasts. Encourage team building activities like virtual coffee breaks, sharing something about themselves – their sports , hobbies, travels. Celebrate success when it happens and recognize team members' efforts in a transparent and fair manner. Creating a positive virtual culture will grow the business and cultivate internal strength, so that if there are challenges with outages or illness or other impacts to revenue , the team stays solid and strong and weathers the passing storm.

Virtual Workplaces Need to Nurture a Work/Life Balance

Another one of the challenges of working in a virtual environment is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Without a clear disciplined separation of responsibilities, employees can face difficulties in balancing personal and professional life when working from home. Virtual businesses can promote work-life balance by offering flexible working hours, encouraging breaks, and discouraging after-hours work and comms. Providing group discussions for mental well-being and offering helpful work-life balance seminars can also help contribute to a happier productive team.

Remote working is definitely a different reality to the daily commute from home to office in the conventional office model – but there is a huge benefit for employees when they can now be present with family at home before work and after work, instead of travelling and wasting time long hours every week in a daily commute.

Keep Training and Developing Your Remote Work Team

Continuous learning is crucial for every business. Virtual Businesses should invest in tailored development programs to keep equipping their remote employees with the skillsets that help them grow and stay current with the latest models of remote team management technology and cybersecurity best practice. Remote workers can tap into a much richer and wider breath of knowledge when they access training via thew internet as compared to a physical trainer in a physical office space.

Your cyber workers will really appreciate this ongoing commitment to their training and development, and the more skilled they are, the more your business will benefit.

Don’t forget to be Cyber Safe in the Virtual Workspace

Operating in a virtual environment can expose some businesses to increased cyber threats when staff are working remotely and they are not following cyber safety guidelines. Strengthening cybersecurity measures is essential to protect the company from potential data breaches and malware attacks. Business managers leading remote teams always need to ensure secure network protocols, enforce strong password policies, conduct regular cybersecurity updates for employees – and onboard new staff will all the right security set-ups Regular security audits and system monitoring will ensure the company's virtual infrastructure remains robust and protected.

No business can afford to be complacent.

Track and Monitor the Performance of your Virtual Operations

To assess the effectiveness and efficiency of your virtual operations, it’s smart to develop some simple KPI dashboards and regularly analyze virtual team performance. Find some objective methodology to monitor productivity, communication effectiveness, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. Analysing data from your virtual team in a transparent way can provide insights for the team into areas that need improvement and highlight opportunities to focus the team resources.

This data-driven approach will be accepted by your virtual workforce because it is transparent and fair and objective. Most virtual employees appreciate a clear data-driven objective appraisal, rather than a subjective opinion about their performance.

Working Effectively in a Virtual Environment. The Dividend.

  • Virtual business environments enable employees to work from any location with a fast internet connection – offering incredible flexibility.
  • With the removal of geographical restrictions, Australian virtual businesses can tap into a global talent pool, allowing them to recruit the very best individuals for the job regardless of their physical location.
  • Your virtual office can leverage the virtual work methodology by recruiting talent attracted by the option of a work / life balance and no physical commuting.

Eliminating the ‘daily commute’ means your remote workers save all those travel expenses and the cost of business attire and sourcing lunch and coffees from expensive city cafes and shops. The saving is considerable and it’s a real enticement for people who are tired of paying out their salary for the cost of working at a physical office space.

Operating a virtual business environment significantly reduces operational costs for companies by eliminating expensive office leases, utility costs, and all the sundry overheads like cleaning and consumables.

A virtual office can scale up services by simply employing more staff remotely – there is no delay waiting to lease more physical office space and there is no cost burden because your team is virtual – they don’t need to sit all cramped together in a physical office!

The Effective Virtual Office

If you’ve taken into account all the considerations we’ve mentioned then your virtual office business is well-prepared for success. Obviously it is a wise decision to arrange regular face to face physical catch-ups between your remote workers.

Quarterly or half-yearly meetings will really help to build relationships and strengthen the foundations of your virtual business world.

It takes a few months to tune the operations of a virtual workplace and there will be opportunities for constant improvement. Last tips:

  • Recruit wisely, especially your leadership, and employ people that like to challenge themselves.
  • Build the company culture from the get-go with clear direction.
  • Make sure your trainers and teachers are mature and smart and able to nurture an employee’s skills from thousands of miles away.
  • Is a virtual office the same as a virtual address

Keep on the path of change, it’s the only secure destination.

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