How to Achieve a Smooth Virtual Office Transition – PART II: Get Ready – Know the Challenges
January 12, 2015 by Mike Certoma
Transitioning from having a physical office to adopting a virtual setup is comparable to setting up a new business as there are many aspects to look into and challenges to face and solve. Possibly the biggest challenge associated with virtual offices is establishing and maintaining a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among the staff. Firms and executives must be able to develop strategies and systems to ensure that teams and members stay connected to one another, and eventually, stay committed to the fulfillment of the organization’s goals, mission, and values.
However, that is just one issue that you must prepare for. To achieve a smooth transition, you must not be caught off guard by these challenges.
Primary Staff Issues That You Are Most Likely to Address
Below are some of the staff and management practices and issues that you must carefully handle:
Communication – This is practically the backbone of any organization, may it be traditional or virtual. And when it comes to the latter, it becomes more challenging as the employees and team members can be miles apart from each other.
Aside from securing technologies that allow for effective remote communication, managers also need to develop strategies or systems such as:
- Regular short meetings via audio or video conference
- Requiring personal check-ins just to know where an employee is working from
- Allot a time where staff just chat about anything (non-work related)
- Use chat or IM status to indicate the time that the employee started and ended working, and what he or she is working on
Staff Management – Managers may fear that their staff may not get as much work done as when they are working in an office. If that is a concern, upper management may ask: if the managers are worrying about their staff’s productivity, they might be under-performing already. Fortunately though, working remotely may even spark the staff’s performance and commitment as they appreciate the opportunity of having more flexibility.
True enough, managers need to be firm in holding their staff accountable to results and deliverables. In a virtual setup, the number of hours worked is not tantamount to getting things done. Managers need to:
- Know your staff — understand how they operate individually as well as the challenges and distractions they might face working remotely, and think of ways how to better provide assistance and support
- Learn to spot signs of stress, distress, and tension to be able to help solve and stop issues
- Train and encourage staff to always communicate and relate both successes and challenges
- Focus on giving feedback and spare time for coaching
- Understand that it is the manager’s responsibility to reach out to their staff, raise issues proactively, and help solve issues and figure out complex tasks
Social isolation – This can be a disturbing issue especially for natural extroverts as they place a huge importance on being able to interact with others regularly. The thought of not traveling or commuting every weekday or going to an office filled with their co-workers and friends can make some employees anxious and skeptical about working remotely. While it is not an employer’s responsibility to offer a social life, this anxiety and skepticism can affect productivity.
To combat this, executives and managers can:
- Suggest working at different places every once in a while such as coffee shops and shared office space
- Initiate (and participate in) friendly chats among team members
- Invite team members to go out for coffee, lunch, or dinner when the workload is not as heavy or when everyone is free
In the next post, we will examine the changes that someone transitioning from a physical to a virtual office must initially deal with, and how they can do so effectively and easily.