Naturally, businesses are adopting these innovations to make daily tasks more manageable. It has become increasingly easy for employees to work from the comfort of their own homes. Currently, more than 60% of U.S. companies already have at least a portion of their employees working remotely. The miles between home and office are no longer an impediment to achieving results. It has become entirely feasible for a whole company to be managed virtually, with no physical central office.
The numerous benefits of running a virtual company include:
- No commuting: Employees are able to work from the luxury of their own homes, a coffee shop, or wherever else they may please. This individually saves them on gas money or public transportation costs.
- No building or maintenance costs: Not having to pay rent and utilities or a cleaning staff.
- Focus on digital processes: You don’t get tied up with paperwork that can easily slow down processes in a lot of offices. Moreover, it forces us to take advantage of all online methods of execution and stay as far ahead of the game as possible.
- Recruit without geographical restrictions: Simply hire the best. Managing a virtual workforce means that you are not limited to your local talent pool from which to recruit.
- A focus on results: Rather than monitoring a 9-5 schedule and assuming things are being done, managing a virtual workforce means you have to actively monitor output, not input. Keeping people in an office for 8 hours a day doesn’t guarantee that they are producing results. Instead of giving significant attention to specific hours being logged, that attention goes to what developments and breakthroughs are being made.
On the other hand, the challenges of managing employees who are not within eyesight include:
- More effort for oversight: Great results are the core importance of all this, but it can easily be unsettling when you aren’t able to keep a close eye on whether or not progress is being made. You certainly want to make sure this machine is running smoothly at all times and being remote does in fact make that more difficult.
- Constant communication: Email threads and phone calls help to close the communication gap, but assembling a whole-team meeting for Thursdays is not possible. It is crucial to identify other ways to get messages across to the entire team in an effective manner.
- Coordination: Who is going to cover what? Virtual staffs have the extra obstacle of needing to make sure multiple team members are not working on the same tasks, or else projects will be duplicated and time will be wasted. This is clearly much easier to manage in person, so working remotely involves working harder at keeping each other informed and updated.
- Making personal connections: Not seeing your co-workers in-person can lead to a sense of detachment from the company as a whole. We at Varsity Tutors hold an annual summit for employees to connect names to faces. It is a fantastic way to remind our team that they are working with real people and are a part of something bigger. Occasions like this can truly keep remote employees motivated. Of more importance, though, is connecting face-to-face via Skype.
The core communication issues are possibly what scare off brick-and- mortar businesses the most from going virtual, but we have found there are a number of tools that minimize those issues significantly. E-mail is the biggest one, but along with that comes features like Google Chat and Google Docs. These are wonderful ways to share information with each other in a timely manner and be able to stay on the same page as efficiently as if you were sharing the same office-space. Additionally, Skype is an incredibly useful tool that allows for video chat, as well as instant messaging, file sharing, and easy-to-create conference calls. Lastly, cell phones are obvious, but still worth mentioning. A great way to reinforce the necessity of all of these technological tools is by offering a technology allowance for employees. Giving such access to an iPhone or iPad makes these means of communication a built-in part of an employee’s job, which is exactly what we feel is pertinent to keeping a virtual company successful.
Managing a virtual company may come with some obstacles, but not without making room for great rewards.
Author bio: Chuck Cohn is the founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, a national tutoring company with over 1200 tutors across 14 markets.