How to Transition from a Regular Office to a Virtual Office
More and more businesses recognize that virtual work is a workplace reality that must be embraced. In addition to helping to ease traffic congestion, reduce the amount of carbon gases being emitted into the atmosphere (remote workers save 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually), and improve the quality of their worker’s lives, businesses understand the economic value. This speaks volumes in a job market with near zero unemployment and for industries where higher worker productivity and longer retention rates translate into measurable economic impact.
Why Businesses Are Adopting Virtual Office Models
A few of the notable data points that validate the business outcomes of virtual workers include:
• Businesses that allow remote work experience 25% less turnover than those that do not permit remote work
• 69% of Millennial workers would be willing to trade other work benefits in exchange for flexible workspace options
• Recruiting cycles for businesses that have adopted virtual work models is 33% faster than those that adhere to permanent workspace requirements
• Remote workers with managers who work on site have 25% fewer career growth conversations than those with on-site managers
• For small businesses, nearly 10% of expenditures are on office space; reducing or eliminating office space can reap significant savings
Most workers prefer virtual work approaches, and it is not because they want to work fewer hours (research shows they work more hours). Factors they most often cite in favor of virtual office approaches include:
• 51% say work-life balance
• 47% indicate shorter commutes or elimination of commutes
• 42% list the ability to focus better
• 39% say family
• 25% cite financial reasons
Ensuring a Successful Transition to Virtual Offices
The transition from a permanent workspace to a hybrid model (where the worker works some of the time from a remote location) or a 100% virtual office scenario can be met with difficulty. Without the right structure and processes, the transition can result in lost productivity, worker attrition, or even missed revenues.
To ensure successful transition from permanent offices to virtual offices, small businesses need to follow a few guiding principles:
1. Communicate reasons for and policies governing.
Before moving employees to virtual offices, organizations must clearly communicate the reasons for the transition, virtual office work policies, new technology tools that will be available and how to use them, and more.
2. Hybrid virtual offices.
Working from a home office is infeasible for some workers (e.g., some live with roommates or have households with kids and pets that are too disruptive). In other instances, businesses and/or employees may not want to work virtually from their home office every day. Thus, businesses may want for their employees to have social and professional interactions some of the time—or even all the time—and arrange to have them work from coworking spaces or day offices from providers such as Davinci Meeting Rooms.
3. Video conferencing services.
The emergence of video and audio conferencing services has shrunk the gap between permanent and virtual office workers. While these tools largely have many of the same capabilities, there are unique differences between them as well. Thus, businesses need to carefully vet technology options to ensure they select the one that meets their needs best—corporate culture, project teams, etc.
4. Shared, collaborative workspace.
Virtual workers need to create, collaborate, and keep all their work in one place. They also need to communicate with each member of the team and to ensure projects remain on time and budget. Shared workspace tools like Confluence or Slack are a virtual must here.
5. Codify virtual office policies.
Businesses need to develop and document virtual office policies and moreover educate workers on what is and is not acceptable behavior and practices (should go into the employee handbook). It should go without saying that these should include role expectations for both individual contributors as well as managers. Codification of these policies will help prevent misunderstandings and gaps that might arise between virtual office workers and their managers and virtual office workers and their on-site counterparts.
6. Project management and file sharing.
Project teams collaborate on a lot of different tasks and documents. Putting these in email or even in one of the cloud services such as Google Cloud Platform can quickly become a huge hairball. Businesses need to find and implement a project management solution that has integrated file sharing capabilities that provide their virtual—and on-site for that matter—workers with the ability to track projects to completion using tasks and to store an aggregate of document files and versions in one central repository.
7. Test before jumping in head first.
Businesses need to ensure all the technology tools and operational processes are in place and work before beginning the transition to a virtual office configuration. Pick a small test group and have them go through the process, which will pinpoint gaps and issues that can be rectified before the entire organization embarks on the transition.
8. Allocate time off-site, face-to-face meetings.
The time teams spend together becomes even more important for teams that are comprised of virtual office workers. Planning and executing great off-site meetings should receive significant time and attention—from finding a location (think about rented meeting space with Davinci Meeting Rooms), to planning the agenda, to engaging the participants beforehand, during, and after the meeting.