Cloud-based technologies have advanced rapidly over the past decade and have enabled businesses of all shapes and sizes to leverage virtual workforces where some or all of the team members live and work remotely. These virtual workforces are enabling businesses to be more productive and adapt more rapidly to an ever-changing world.
While at first a virtual work model might seem intimidating, it has been proven to promote many advantages, including access to a larger talent pool, lower business operating costs and enhanced personal lifestyle benefits. Remote teams are an especially big draw for small businesses, because remote working offers the kind of flexibility that many big firms may not provide.
Virtual teams aren’t a passing trend. Today’s millennial workforce and the ever increasing demands of a 24/7 world require businesses to be more responsive and flexible than ever. We have been utilizing a virtual workforce for more than a decade and during that time we have learned a few valuable lessons.
Success starts by promoting a culture that places a premium on both accountability and work-life integration. Our virtual employees work hard while embracing the flexibility that our company provides. While face-to-face management of employees can be difficult, managing remote workers introduces a whole new level of complexity. Not only is it harder to keep up with what remote workers are doing, but motivating them can present a leadership challenge. From training to quality control and performance management, a greater level of planning is required when employing remote workers.
Businesses who elect to employ virtual workers need to leverage today’s technology to enable their workforce to communicate efficiently, conduct productive online meetings, share documents, manage projects, track work progress and gain access to higher levels of expertise. There are a variety of cost-effective, cloud-based voice and data technologies that businesses can use to modernize their operations and support a remote workforce. The key is to provide a remote work environment that feels like an in-office work environment and allows the remote worker to have fast access to coworkers and information.
Remote workers can at times feel isolated and disconnected, and they can have problems managing the appropriate level of work-life balance. Remote workers typically require more interaction and coaching to ensure that morale stays high and cultural differences are overcome. When possible, in-office interaction with coworkers a few times per year can help a remote worker to feel more engaged. An engaged employee wants to have a say in the business, they want to feel like they’re part of a team that’s working toward a common goal, and they want to feel that they are a valued member of the company.
Whether your people work at home for just one day a month, a week at a time, or even on a full-time basis, virtual workforce enablement and leadership are fundamental requirements in today’s world of business.
Robert Hogg Jr. is managing partner at Ancero.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 6, Issue 12 (December, 2016).
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