HR struggled with keeping classes on track, up to date and in compliance with business needs. After all, to update a training program meant reprinting all training materials and retraining the person conducting the session. A simple change could not be made efficiently, forcing HR to wait until a major overhaul of a training program was permissible.
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.
Increased productivity. Virtual collaboration tools allow remote employees to collaborate as if they’re in the same conference room. Employees can use forms of virtual communication in the workplace, such as video conferencing, as well as email, instant messages, and the telephone. Workers are more likely to work in excess of 40 hours a week if they’re working from home, and they also take fewer sick days. Employees working together across various time zones are more likely to achieve success if they’re able to collaborate from home. Business hours increase with more flexibility. Furthermore, business will continue as usual regardless of weather conditions that could limit productivity due to hazardous driving conditions.
Over the past decade, a rising number of young professionals, primarily from the United States and Europe, have leveraged the use of technology to work remotely and live a nomadic lifestyle. A forecast of employment trends by the World Economic Forum called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace, while a Gallup poll found that 37% of respondents have already worked virtually.
A collaboration and community platform. Virtual workers need a virtual office — a place where they can meet online and hold conversations. It’s easy for virtual workers to become isolated, so a central hub to communicate with colleagues is a benefit. Skype, Slap, HipChat, and Pie are all popular choices. The best collaboration and community platforms connect employees, give them a place to chat and discuss projects, leave feedback and suggestions, and more.
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
While one advantage of virtual offices is the creation of a larger pool of resources, this can also be a disadvantage because this means resources can also be obtained offshores or jobs can be outsourced to a different company. If positions can be filled by employees in a different city, what would keep companies from extending those positions to candidates in a different country?
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.
Employer Trust - Another main factor that can negatively affect working remotely is the trust employers have in employees to get jobs done from home. For both parties to get the most benefit from a virtual work environment, there must be mutual trust between employer and employee. A worker must continue to complete assignments as required. You should be able to monitor this fairly easily based on the productivity of each employee working from home.
In a 2008 interview with American Society of Association Executives, Deb Keary, human resources director for the Society for Human Resource Management, cited two potential problems with telecommuting. One is if a telecommuter isn't suited to working outside the office, and the work suffers. The other is if the manager isn't suited to it or isn't comfortable with it. In that case, it won't work. "Not all managers are cut out to supervise telecommuters," she said. In addition, there are some occupations that obviously are unsuitable for telework arrangements, such as laborers and clinicians; however, positions that require minimal personal interaction may be very well suited to telecommuting from virtual offices.
Level of interaction and communication. Analytics make it easy to determine which employees are interacting and communicating. Managers can track whether or not remote workers are engaging, and use that information to determine whether remote work is right for their company. Besides time tracking software to monitor employees’ time spent working, managers can use project management software to ask for updates and view communication between team members. Intelligent software offers employers a way to digitally monitor employees’ behavior and discover patterns about their progress, or lack thereof. For example, sociometric analysis measures how social relationships affect productivity.
Increase cross-cultural awareness. People involved in global teams should know and understand the challenges that come with communicating across cultures. For example, an American multinational oil and gas corporation wanted to ensure their non-Iraqi employees were equipped with the cultural knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the Iraqi context. Aperian Global worked with corporation leaders and local Iraqis to design a workshop for multinational employees assigned to Iraq, and it was offered in the US and the Middle East. A pre-departure workshop was also created for employees traveling to Iraq. It addressed issues such as safety, security, and health, as well as business and cultural topics. The workshops gave leaders and employees the information, skills and confidence needed to successfully collaborate and conduct business across cultural boundaries.
The conversation is twofold: Employees who work from home help companies reduce overhead costs, experience greater satisfaction in their jobs, and they’re more productive, but companies ultimately have the discretion to not offer work from home policies — or revoke them — if company leaders believe that managing a virtual workplace decreases speed or hinders collaboration.
From my experience, remote team members have allowed my company to recruit from a larger talent pool worldwide versus being limited to the geographic location where our offices are located. From an employer's perspective, by going the contractor route (versus just remote), you pay for only the work being done, instead of a full payroll, while allowing flexibility and freedom within the position. - Shane Hurley, RedFynn Technologies
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.