More Cost Effective and Efficient - Companies with many employees working from virtual environments usually have lower operating costs. With fewer people actually in the office, your business only needs a small leased space with less computer and workspace equipment. This equates to greater overall profitability. Virtual offices are more environmentally friendly, with fewer people commuting and less energy use.
Having a flexible schedule increases the morale of employees and gives them a sense of freedom and agency in their lives that going into a physical office often does not permit. The sense of boosted morale also increases productivity in virtual employees. Responsibility for the work that must be accomplished changes hands from the supervisors who watch over the office to make sure employees are doing their job and arriving on time to the employees, who must meet goals and expectations on their own.
One option is to look at remote work as a benefit, not a policy. In today’s (and tomorrow’s) economy, there are going to be vast opportunities both online and locally. Opening or closing the door on remote work and distributed teams can be a great decision if it aligns with your strategy, goals, and what you’re trying to accomplish. Also, that decision doesn’t have to be final. Co-located teams can successfully go remote, and teams that started out remotely can decide to get an office space.
Often expanding the employee count also means expanding the office space to hold more employees. The cost of upgrading and expanding a space is saved by delegating some of the work to online employees. This allows the employers to save time and money searching for a new space and also gives them the access to many talented employees who may not be available to work the typical 9-5 hours.
Virtual collaboration offers a profound way to cater to employees with diverse working styles. For example, detailed-driven workers tend to excel in virtual environments. They typically have no trouble planning their workday and accomplishing daily tasks. Emotionally driven individuals may prefer to speak directly over the phone or face-to-face in a video conference, because they typically read social cues very well and prefer verbal communication. Idea-driven workers thrive when facilitating change and usually prefer a lead role in brainstorming solutions, so you should consider giving them more responsibility when strategizing in the virtual setting. Data-driven workers are highly adept at solving complex problems. They don’t typically need an extra push to stay on topic or on budget, but they may prefer to work alone quietly rather than lead a virtual group discussion.
Another great perk about this profession is that according to some of the most high-earning personal assistants in the world, you don’t even need a college education to excel in it. Apparently, all you really need is thick skin, discretion, dependability, resourcefulness and the ability to use your initiative. Being naturally empathic, flexible and having some administrative skills won't hurt either.
Have you ever wished there were more time in a day? (I know, more than once, right? 😉 ) Well, while you can’t add hours to the day, you can hire the help that will make it feel like you have. The secret is in hiring a personal assistant to help. A personal assistant or PA is also known as an executive secretary, a personal secretary, or a private assistant. Whatever you choose to call this person, after hiring one, you will wonder how you ever did without them.
Have a culture of transparency. This allows everyone to get a good grasp of each other’s tasks and responsibilities, which encourages good expectations accountability. It could be as simple as sending a weekly report to a shared channel, or keeping all of the projects in your PM tool viewable for all employees, so they can see what’s going on within the company. If you want to take it a step further, consider revenue transparency or public salaries.
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.
Invest in communication structures. Despite added expenses of PM fees, software, virtual insurance, VPNs, etc., companies can stand to save a lot on the overhead costs of running an office. No rentals, no electricity bills, and no more perpetually purchasing office supplies. Use those savings to invest in online communication ecosystems. Teleport has a few great blog posts for communication in remote teams.
Often, the challenge for startups and other small companies is having the resources to hire an employee with as much of this expertise as possible at the lowest possible investment. Finding all of this in one individual at the experience level required can be daunting. The virtual team can provide the answer in fields such as human resources, finance and marketing.
Administrative Services – Most businesses need a good administrative assistant. A virtual assistant can handle all types of administrative services, which include managing company email, scheduling and confirming appointments, managing business correspondence, entering data, and assisting with bookkeeping. They can also take on additional administrative projects that you don’t wish to handle. Thankfully, you will find that many virtual assistants are Microsoft Excel experts.
About the author: Jennifer comes from corporate America… and a four-hour daily commute! Now, as a Career Writer for FlexJobs , she commutes to the corner office (in her house, that is) in under 60 seconds! Says Jennifer: “I’ve always been a writer, and love offering readers great service stories and ideas to improve their lives. Writing for FlexJobs allows me to be an example and show people that you can indeed have a healthy work life balance.
Engaging Virtual Meetings: If you’re interested in learning the skills needed to host and facilitate successful virtual meetings, you will find this program useful. It covers the four fundamental skills of virtual facilitation, information on how to properly prepare for meetings, and how to properly prepare for future meetings. The program was created for business professionals of any level.
To sum it up, there are a lot of valid reasons managers and agencies shy away from remote workers. It’s hard to blame them. However, for those who want to give a distributed team a shot, there are avenues and tools for you to try. I encourage anyone on the fence about remote work to try it out by starting small. Hire a freelancer or independent contractor, or give your team one or two days a week to work remotely. See how it goes (and share in the comments).
If you are developing a business that is online, you should check out http://www.odesk.com. You can hire talented assistants for most types of tasks. I hired world-class designers and programmers to build my iTunes app business at low cost. oDesk takes care of the tax forms and payments to your assistants. Pretty nifty and you only pay for work that gets done. You could likely set up a local virtual assistant through their system if you need help at your office.
Routine: Just like any other work, one of the main enemies of motivation is routine, and this poses a major risk especially in the virtual medium. Putting in long hours in front of a computer can lead to exhaustion, stress and a bunch of unmotivated employees. The team needs to have a constant source of positive motivation to keep this aspect from affecting its work.