Communication on a distributed team is a whole other ballgame. I never realized how much I took co-located colleagues for granted until there was no one beside me I could ask a quick question. Every question, every answer, every approval will be documented on a remote team. This makes for great records, but bulky loads of information to sort through.
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
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.
“Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.”
Employers can also realize saving by allowing virtual workplaces. Among these are real estate or office costs. By allowing more workers to telecommute, companies can reduce the amount of works space they need and it also reduces the resources needed to support these employees in the office (such as office supplies and electricity). According to the Telework Research network, the average real estate savings realized from a full-time teleworker is $10,000 a year. Companies that have implemented several virtual workplaces have seen large cost savings in real-estate cost. For example, IBM has reduced its real estate costs by $50 million and Sun Microsystems saves $68 million per year. 2
Make building trust a priority. Trust is the foundation of a successful team, but trust is usually built over time. When working in a virtual team, there isn’t always time to build a rapport with team members. You might be part of a group and have no idea about the other people’s work ethics or anything about their personal lives. It’s important to promote team bonding in order to build trust. You can approach this in a few ways, such as setting aside time for small talk before or after meetings, and allowing participants to share photographs and information about their personal lives. Virtual events such as a baby shower, birthday, or job anniversary celebration make for great informal activities to promote trust and teamwork. Consistency in updates and reports also helps to build trust with and among remote employees.
Employees from the younger generations of workers--Generation X and Generation Y, in particular--find virtual work a tremendous benefit. Virtual offices and telecommuting offer flexibility, and the comfort of being able to work independently without conforming to work rules, such as a dress code and traditional work hours. Telecommuting is appealing to some workers because it prevents the often unnecessary and unwelcome interruptions by co-workers and managers that can impede productivity and attentiveness.
By way of technology, the training platform needs to provide power for both audio and visual needs. Look for state of the art high-definition, two-way capabilities that will work for the most demanding virtual learning labs. Unless you are high-tech savvy, you will want to choose a company that offers unlimited tech support from startup to routine maintenance. Also, search for a virtual training program that requires low levels of training for the students and the facilitators.
GlobeSmart ProfileSM Debrief: Aperian Global offers GlobeSmart, the industry’s leading online cultural intelligence resource for improved cross-cultural understanding. This program will help business professionals leverage the GlobeSmart online learning tool and use cultural intelligence to work globally. Learning objectives include gaining knowledge into common behaviors influenced by culture, learning to overcome cultural gaps, and more. The GlobeSmart Profile is an online cultural inventory that allows users to learn about their own unique working styles, while also providing them with advice about working successfully with colleagues and people from other cultures. The profile is available in 13 languages.
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.
Your business is growing, and you are busier now more than ever. You could use an extra set of hands, so someone suggested that you should use a virtual assistant. However, you have no idea what a virtual assistant is or for that matter, how they can help you. If that is the case, small business owner, it is time for you step into 2014 and become virtual. You will add your business to the growing trend of those utilizing virtual assistants.
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

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