There are multiple benefits of a virtual company over a traditional office environment. These include: reduced overhead, improved productivity, and an ability to attract motivated talent, all of which are inevitably appealing to start-up companies operating on a minuscule budget with minimal support staff.
Telecommuting has increased by 80% since 2005, and shows no signs of slowing down. It’s same to assume that the number of virtual start-ups will only continue to increase at the same breathtaking pace. With the continued integration of technology deep in our personal and home lives, the ability to switch off when leaving the office is becoming increasingly more difficult, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing.
This integration has encouraged the idea of eliminating the typical office and creating a flexible work environment for your employees, empowering them to choose their own location and hours when working. This is a perfect solution for those that dread the typical 9-5 model that the current business environment submits to. But with your staff working on a flexible schedule from the comfort of their homes or from beaches on their holidays, how do you ensure that projects stay organized and productivity is flourishing?
Unmotivated and unreliable staff
As with any company, the people you hire will determine the success of your entire business. There are lots of people that think working remotely is a dream come true. People that picture lazy days in bed, silently snickering when they think about others stuck in rush hour after a long day at the office. But unless these pajama-clad people are unbelievably motivated, reliable and trustworthy, then make sure that you keep them far away from your company.
Being able to clock hours while you’re working on the beach is a part of the dream, but unless you have the discipline to ensure you have replied to every single email and completed your entire to-do list before putting on your sunscreen, then you might as well leave your laptop at home.
Not having an organized hierarchy
Each company must have a clearly defined chain of command--especially virtual companies. No matter how independent and motivated your employees are, there needs to be a management hierarchy that can be trusted with providing approval and direction. Just like in a traditional office, projects need approval and people need to know who to go to for that approval. This ensures the continuity of work and that there are no hold ups in the progress of work. Which leads us to our next point…
Not responding to emails
There was a time when email was the be all and end all of communication; it was a shining beacon in the growing wasteland of faxes and letters. Now there are many that cringe when they think about the time required to reply to emails on a daily basis.
Regardless of the relentless amount of emails we receive daily, each and every single email needs to be responded to and responded to in no longer than 48 hours (and we’re not just talking about client emails here, this includes internal emails!).
That’s right, there is no ambiguity about what is an appropriate length of time to reply to an email. That timeframe is officially 48 hours maximum. That’s it. Ideally a response within 24hrs would be the best-case scenario, but realistically 48hrs is the limit. After this, emails start piling up and people start thinking that you do not take your business or their time seriously. If someone spent the time typing an email, then you need to respect that and reply to that email.
Not utilizing Project Management Software
In order to halt the onslaught of emails, which if not addressed can lead to a massive failure in communication and breakdown in project productivity, the use of project management software has become the holy grail of the Virtual Office.
In place of the office, PM Software such as Basecamp, Trello, Bitrix24, are meant to supplement the virtual office by creating a space to discuss projects, ask the questions typically reserved for email, set timelines, and tasks for each employee, measure the response and participation of team members, and get instant feedback on documents and designs.
The ability for a virtual office to understand the importance of PM software and to implement it with their staff is a key factor in the quality of communication that will unfold.
While there are many factors that affect the success or failure of a Virtual Company, organization is a major player in contributing to the success of your company. You need to keep an eye on how your team is staying organized and how committed they are to staying motivated and holding themselves accountable for their work.
Every member of the team needs to be aware of these productivity killers of a virtual office and ensure that they’re not failing at being the best remote workers they can be!