As the world accelerates with the relentless advancements in technology, all spheres of how we live our lives have been impacted. Inevitably, this includes the way we work.
Distancing ourselves further away from the days where paperwork is literally done with paper and manually, the introduction of computers, gadgets, software and automated processes has transformed how we work.
Apart from that, the power of technology has also done something we wouldn’t think possible decades ago. It has enabled us to not only work from home, but from any part of the world, as long as we stay connected with Internet access.
In short, we not longer need to be physically present at a fixed location, an office workspace, but we are still able to connect, communicate and collaborate with our co-workers virtually.
But it is still a relatively new concept that requires some getting used to. After all, we are so in tuned with interacting face-to-face, turning to our co-workers immediately, or accustomed to reporting to a fixed location before starting work.
Many workers who have been playing catch up with their tech-savvy counterparts may find this move trying. Especially when companies these days find virtual workspaces enticing because it benefits both the company and their workers in various ways – which includes cutting costs to maintain a fixed office space.
But change is imminent and workers have to stay relevant to keep up with the needs of the workforce, especially when many companies are heading towards, or if not open to, the idea of working virtually.
While it certainly takes some getting used to even for anyone proficient and comfortable with technology, it might take more effort for those already struggling to get used to computerized and automated work processes, or even those resistant to change.
To assist employees with adapting to such a drastic change, the role that managers play is not only pivotal but also vital.
So, how do we adapt to virtual work then?
1) Preparation, Testing & Trials
Before even starting any employee on working remotely, practical and comprehensive preparations are necessary as it impacts the lifeline of the company.
For instance, managers should consider and decide what job positions best suit virtual work, as well as ensure the right people are hired to be in these remote positions. Interviewing, screening, personality tests are just a few examples of how managers can prepare themselves, their employees, and their entire team for working virtually.
Leaders need look out for character traits in employees that indicate their suitability, such as self-motivation, self-discipline, skilled and effective communicators via various virtual communication methods, “tech-savvyness”, independent worker, etc.
Even after starting the virtual working phase, leaders and managers should continue checking on their staff’s progress, look in their challenges and obstacles, and fine-tune the process to promote a conducive and effective remote working experience.
It is crucial that the management keep track and take note as many outcomes, both positive and negative, as much as possible to monitor whether working virtually benefits the company more. Hence, the act of testing, tracking and trials prove to be immensely important before introducing and during the course of remote work.
2) Providing Constant Support
Managers need to play an active role in helping their employees adapt and transition. Apart from managing tasks, they need to step up and lead their employees, even though they may not be working in the same, shared physical space.
Virtual employees need to feel connected and supported even though they are working remotely. This is because long hours of working alone can result in a feeling of disconnection from a bigger entity; the entire company and immediate working colleagues and team.
Not only should leaders give consistent and constructive feedback as well as acknowledge each team member’s effort and achievements, they should also explicitly indicate that they are available for regular communication. This prevents team members from feeling isolated and hapless.
Increasing daily interactions and interdependent tasks with co-workers also helps the team to feel connected, united, and supported.
In short, leaders and managers need to stay involved and engaged in every virtual employee’s well-being, work and progress.
3) Standards, Processes & Ground Rules
Apart from support, standards, processes and ground rules set in place can help minimize roadblocks or frustrations especially when working remotely.
The management needs to ensure that all employees working remotely comprehend and follow a straight forward and easily understood process or system that empowers them instead of getting in their way for work.
Things like ensuring that all virtual workers are on the same platform, using the same communicator, sharing the same folders, applications and software, or adhering to the same rules. Comprehensive guidelines should be set in place to allow employees to work with ease.
Establish a formal virtual work or working from home policy, invite input on the policy, and communicate it clearly, using examples and stating exceptions (if any).
Every company is unique and has differing needs, hence managers and leaders should follow at least these 3 steps to start a positive and productive virtual working culture.