Even with the right tools and adequate planning, virtual teams in the workplace can pose unique challenges for global companies of all sizes. An experienced talent development firm can help companies navigate the trials that come with virtual collaboration across cultural boundaries. Choose to work with a firm with a validated inventory in the market and a proven record for success.
There’s an obvious appeal that comes to mind when you first think about telecommuting. Many global companies — including Aperian Global — allow employees to telecommute. The benefits of a remote workforce stem from allowing employees to spend more time in their comfort zones, but does it always lead to increased productivity? Most recent studies point to “yes,” but there are many considerations to make when deciding if telecommuting is right for you or your company.
“Face-to-face interaction is generally lost, and there’s no substitute for this during some activities, especially those more collaborative in nature. Video conferencing can sometimes offset this, but it’s not a perfect replacement. Feeling like a cohesive team is more difficult, and some people can never get past that. (Manifesting both with those in the office feeling like remote workers aren’t being part of the team, and remote workers feeling like they aren’t treated like they are real teammates.)” (source)
At one of my first companies, we grew a remote team to more than 100 people. Often the members of this team would perform better than the people who came into the office every day because they weren't distracted by meetings and other interruptions common to a shared office. Collaboration occurred over video, chat and project management software. People focused on work, followed established processes and were held accountable for their productivity. - Danilo Stern-Sapad, FabFitFun
Many strategies that worked for managers in the past will be impossible with a remote team. No more getting the team together after lunch for a project post-mortem, no more doing walkarounds to make sure everyone is working, and no more being able to visit someone’s desk and demand their attention. Remote work could make much of traditional management practices useless.
I doubt many companies like or prefer that employees work from home. We allow the policy in order to be able to attract employees who would otherwise go elsewhere. We are heavy users of Slack, Confluence and other collaboration tools that make working at home more productive, but they cannot replace the serendipitous interactions that occur while hanging out by the nitro-coffee keg. - Manuel Vellon, Level 11
Employee engagement and motivation. Consider giving remote and office workers surveys to see who is more engaged and motivated overall. Ask questions about how they feel coming to work every day, find out whether they’re inspired at work and ask if they think their role within the company is important. Ask specific questions about whether or not they feel included in group decisions and ask if they feel as though their needs and concerns are considered and addressed.
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Working independently with just a computer screen to keep you company is vastly different from the hustle and bustle of an office. When you hire remote workers, you can’t just pull them into a quick meeting (which some would argue is a good thing, since meetings waste time), or stop by their desks to see how work is going. There’s going to be some loss in camaraderie since you won’t see your team face-to-face every day.
Typically there are no overhead costs like computers, office and parking spaces, benefits, utilities etc. According to a study from Sanford University, a company can save about $2,000 per year, per employee who works from home. Even if you provide funds for the employee to set up a home office, costs remain significantly lower than renting an office space.
Saving on Hiring a Full-Time Employee – A key benefit to using a virtual assistant for your business is the saving aspect. By working with a virtual assistant, you will save on the expense of hiring a full-time employee. This includes the amount of time and money spent on interviewing and training a new employee. This also includes the cost of employee benefits such as health insurance, employee-related benefits, and tax savings. As independent contractors, virtual assistants are responsible for their own bookkeeping and taxes. You will not have to worry about incurring such costs.
For employees, having the ability to telecommute thanks to having a virtual work place provides them with savings on commuting costs such as fuel. A paper from The Mobility Choice Coalition found that if 10 million employees who have the option to telecommute do so just twice a month, 21 million barrels of oil would be saved a year. With gas prices close to $4.00 a gallon, this would amount to $1.7 billion of fuel cost savings a year.1
Web Site Designer/Administrator – You will find a pool of virtual assistants who specialize in website design and management. You will find a lot of virtual assistants in this arena who are experts in web creation using software such as WordPress and others like it. Specifically, you can easily find virtual assistants who promote WordPress as their niche. If your company needs assistance with its website, which includes a blog, using this type of virtual assistant would be great for your business.
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Some employers offer limited or full benefits to a personal assistant. These benefits can include medical and dental insurance, paid vacation and sick leave. The addition of benefits, even limited ones, can help to bolster a lower salary amount, helping to attract more candidates to the position. The cost of any added benefits should be calculated into the salary package offered.
One of the problems I have come across with remote employees is communication. Being able to discuss ideas on a common whiteboard or screen is more effective in person, as you can gauge reactions and tailor the discussion when you are able to see the whole person. Also, remote employees often have flexible hours that can lead to scheduling issues and make spontaneous communications problematic. - Chris Kirby, Voices.com
If I ask Eric to perform research, I give him all the tools and instructions he needs to do a great job. Yes, that takes time, but it’s minimal compared to the amount of time he saves me. What’s more, it’s unreasonable to expect someone to “do this” if you don’t at least tell them how you want it done. It’s like sending someone for coffee and not telling them what you want in it. (Note: I’ve never once sent a personal assistant for coffee, though I’ll get coffee for him. It reinforces the humility aspect of things.)
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While I completely agree that co-location can lead to a better collaboration, if not serendipity, in a global world with scarcity in best-in-class talent, organizations should retune themselves to have a distributed workplace. A well-designed distributed workplace enabled by the right technology can make a virtual playground for innovation, if not for highly productive work. - Madhavan Satagopan, Altimetrik Corp
The cost of a personal assistant will be more than a virtual assistant and you will be responsible for employing them. But you will be receiving 100% of their time and whilst this requires a certain amount of administration on your part there are companies such as Staff Tax in the UK for private staff who can help with payroll, employment contracts and pensions. For an idea of how much a PA would expect to be paid you can read more here.
Having worked remotely for my whole career (25 years) I found this to be a great read. I certainly agree with the elements as provided. It does take a certain personality to be able to stay focused and committed without the boss watching. wink wink. The biggest challenge I find is actually separating from work. With the advent of PDA this is really the norm rather then the exception.
Employees who have virtual offices or telecommute work more hours than their office counterparts. People who work in a virtual office can often blur the difference between home life and work life. Unlike employees who can leave work at the office, employees with virtual offices tend to continue to work outside of "normal" work hours. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 50% to 67% of telecommuting hours push the employee’s over 40 hours a week.4 Some reasons for these additional hours could be the employees’ desire to justify their telecommuting by being more productive and continuing to work beyond business hours or a result of companies maximizing their salaried employees by providing them with virtual offices to be able to continue work outside the office.