Navigating the coronavirus pandemic is uncharted territory for most, sending businesses down a path of unprecedented uncertainty. Recent stay-at-home directives and closure mandates are especially concerning to the traditional business owner providing nonessential services.
However, recent events, though potentially crippling, also present an opportunity of empowerment for business owners to ramp up on how to effectively lead remotely. The virtual work model is the new normal, so if you’ve made even small steps toward digital transformation in your company, now is the time to complete the journey.
For those accustomed to conducting business in a traditional, physical office environment, having employees suddenly working from their homes might arouse anxiety and fear of chaos, disorganization and loss of control. In truth, technology has for years been able to support a fully virtual work model, when implemented with the right culture, people, preparation and management oversight. In fact, virtual workers can be more productive and engaged than those in a traditional office environment.
Going virtual increases efficiency
Traditional businesses slow to adopt modern, digital and virtual work management processes might be surprised by these eye-opening efficiencies:
- Virtual workers gain time by not commuting to their place of work or traveling for lunch or breaks.
- Virtual, digital work environments by nature promote seamless context switching, multitasking and transitioning between phone calls, virtual meetings and projects.
- Virtual meetings are shorter, with firm agendas and less idle discussion, and don’t require that participants traverse a corporate campus or multiple-story office buildings to meet.
- Meetings are mostly paperless via virtual screen sharing and the viewing of digital documents.
- Virtual work models provide better support for multiple time zones for businesses that engage globally.
- High levels of security and compliance as well as lower operational risk are achieved through digital cloud technology and secure system access.
- Conducting business virtually allows for higher-grade talent and the ability to onboard desired skills without limitations for where talent is located.
- Modern collaboration technology allows co-workers to chat with each other from anywhere, anytime and on any device. With modern video conferencing software, workers can meet face to face with co-workers or clients in the same way.
- Social distancing necessitated by unprecedented occurrences is already built in.
Your people make your business
Investing in highly performant talent is essential to succeeding at operating virtually. When hiring team members to work remotely, here’s what to look for:
- Ability to self discipline and manage their time and priorities
- Passion for and enjoyment of their work and skill
- Access to a quiet workspace and desire to work in multiple physical locations
- Willingness to dress professionally, as if going into an office
- Cloud computing and digital technology competence and capabilities
- Consistency in manner at both work and home
Certain accountability measures need to be in place in a virtual business model, such as tracking employee time and how it’s spent. For example, in my digital business consulting firm, we exercise what’s called “burn planning,” where we walk through the course of project flow with our team members to determine how they will spend, or burn, their time. It is very important to plan your work and work your plan when working virtually.
Team building can be challenging in virtual settings, as well as the potential for harmful background conversations unbeknownst to senior staff. That’s why preserving company culture ─ and only inviting those who fit your culture into your virtual network ─ is crucial. This includes employees and those you engage as clientele. We like to host annual get-togethers with our team members and their families to preserve our company culture and get to know their work associates, aka the friends and families they hang out with every workday.
How to quickly transition to a virtual work model
- Conduct a digital, virtual work management health assessment to determine your virtual staffing capability and readiness. This is not rocket science, but it should be done by an unbiased, neutral third party.
- Acquire or enable specific digital technologies to address capability gaps, focusing on work management, collaboration, cloud productivity tools and video conferencing.
- Seek advice from someone already using digital, virtual technology or engage a professional consultancy that specializes in digital, virtual work management.
Glenn Coward is founder and president of CapabilitySource, a modern, virtual digital business consulting firm that focuses on the work management needs of marketing operations teams in U.S.-based Fortune 1000 companies. Contact him at email@example.com.