In the age of memes and Instagram, the switch to a virtual workforce is becoming more prevalent and appears to be the future for many companies. There are many benefits to this style of a workplace for both employees and employers. There are also some points to consider, such as collaboration, data sharing and security, as well as the possibility of a blended company of virtual and in-person employees.
Since remote work is such a new trend, there are plenty arguments for it and not as many arguments against it from companies who have tried and failed. This article is my attempt to dig out the most common concerns that agency owners, project managers, startup CEOs and business founders have about hiring remote workers, as well as the biggest disadvantages of working from home.
Use time zones to your advantage. Timezones are a great and terrible thing. On one hand, I know what it’s like to wake up at 6 a.m. for a meeting. Or sleep at 3 a.m. waiting for an update from the team. I’ve also seen the benefits of having a person online at all times for our customers. This is especially powerful in customer support. It allows for 24/7 support with just a few strategically placed (literally) people. Time.is is a great way to compare what time it is (and will be) in other places and can help you keep track of the time where your other team members are. And don’t fret, because you’ll get the hang of it. I often forget what time it is where I am. But after working on a remote team for 3 years, I’ve learned how to do timezone calculations almost subconsciously. Just be sure to set an alarm for Daylight Savings.
Newer Opportunities - If we see at larger societal level, virtual teams have created newer opportunities for people who are less mobile and hesitant to relocate due to either family requirement or physical challenge. Now any task that does not require the physical presence of a person and which can be supported by communication technology throws an opportunity for many deserving candidates.
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Trouble separating work from home. When you work from home, it’s easy to become distracted by your children, neighbors, friends, or home responsibilities. Because you’re home, you’ll be more aware of things that need to be done around the house. In addition, those who work from home often have a hard time transitioning from work life to home life. With constant access to their work while at home, it can be hard to stop working for the day, especially when there’s a lot to accomplish.
In short, if you use the right tools, you can enjoy the best of both worlds: Your employees can interact with one another as if they’re in the same room, and they can experience all of the benefits that come with working from home. It’s possible to reap the benefits of personal interaction, successful collaboration, and a productive work from home environment. This is possible with the right tools and knowledge for virtual collaboration.
A recent study on “the state of remote work” by TINYpulse and Owl Labs found that remote employees have “slightly higher levels of investment in their work,” and benefit from “clearer boundaries and work habits” needed to be successful. The data, based on responses from 1,097 workers across the U.S., reinforces findings from previous research showing that people who work from home are fully engaged with fellow team members, and often are more productive.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, Americans over the age of 64 are working more than any other time since the turn of the century. According to a survey by the AARP, 74% of older Americans would want work flexibility and 34% would like to work from home. Steadily increasing life expectancies and inadequate retirement savings have forced many Americans in this age group to delay retirement. Others choose to work into their 70s and beyond to stay active and engaged in their communities.
According to a Gallup poll in 2007, the average commute time is 48.1 minutes round trip. While the commute by itself may not sound like a long time, there are other factors that can increase this. For example, the time to do things to get ready for work (such as taking a shower, getting dressed and having breakfast) can take another 30 minutes to an hour so adding these activities to the commute time can bring up the "non-work time" to 90 to 120 minutes. An employee can get so much more work done in that time if they did not have to travel into an office. According to the Telework Research Network, companies such as JD Edwards, AT&T and Compaq reported that their telecommuting employees are more productive than their office counterparts.2
Try to get together in person at least once a year. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert brings his team together annually for a strategic planning meeting. They spend two days working and two days hanging out and getting to know each other. Zapier brings their distributed team together for regular team retreats where cooking, games, and lots of other team-building activities are involved.
One is the jealousy aspect. I’ve been in semi-remote teams wherein only a few people (or even just me) were allowed to work from home. What has worked for me in the past is to clarify responsibilities between my manager and colleagues. Then deliver unfailingly. Once a team learns to appreciate your work, it shouldn’t matter whether you do it beside them or from somewhere else.
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Customer Service Representative – For a busy entrepreneur, customer service is a great task to outsource to a virtual assistant. You can forward calls to your virtual assistant, and they can become a virtual call center designated specifically for your business. With the enhancement of technology, there are companies such as Ring Central that make this an easy option for small businesses. Additionally, the virtual assistant can handle any follow-up calls as needed.