Many small businesses may not have any other choice but to work virtually, at least for the time being. Thankfully, technology has allowed for the virtual workspace to be an option, which allows for greater flexibility for workers as well as decreases company costs. This is a huge positive for small businesses and startups, but there are many differences between working in an office space and working virtually. Because of these differences, each must be approached in a slightly different manner in order to produce similar, high quality results.
Here are three keys to reaching the full potential of your virtual workforce:
1. Assign Responsibilities
Every employee should have responsibilities that they are in charge of and own, but there can be no responsibility without management. At first this task may be simple if you only have 2 or 3 employees working for the company. But as the company grows it is time to get serious about project management and assigning responsibilities.
No one can do it all, and no one can read minds. Finding a way to assign responsibilities in such a way that it is accessible by everyone involved is key. A Google Spreadsheet may work fine for now, but as your company grows you will need to look into using some sort of project management tool, like Basecamp, that will allow you to create projects, and within those projects, assign tasks and hold discussions. If used correctly, all documents and conversations about the project can be contained in one place and allows for easy access for anyone who is on the project.
2. Have Accountability
Every company will need to decide on this differently, based on what it values. But for most employees there needs to be some sense of accountability that will allow your business to be successful and keep on track. Whether each employee keeps a time journal of what they did all day, or you choose to have a weekly meeting and review accomplishments, that is up to your company’s particular culture. Some companies choose to do video conferences and discuss the challenges each day, while some prefer a phone conference weekly that highlights important events that week.
Coming up with a strategy for how to handle accountability is key to keeping the business running smoothly and the employees feeling connected to the other employees in the company.
3. Communicate Thoroughly
When you are working virtually, communication can be more difficult but also far more important. Clear communication through email or IM is a skill not many have, and it can become a problem if the right information is not reaching the correct person.
Email threads can be great, but if a large project needs to be tackled with multiple hands on deck, having a virtual meeting that uses video and screen sharing can help clarify questions and provide a space for better communication, resulting in a more productive meeting.
Communication can be so varied in the virtual world, so find a way that works best for your company's culture and dynamics with one another. Experiment with different mediums to find just the right way to clearly pass on information.
Virtual workspaces can work well and provide employees with flexibility and a better work/life balance. But they also require a dedication to communication and accountability that might not be quite as intense in a physical work environment. Whether your team is working virtually out of necessity, or your team prefers to work this way, each working style provides its own challenges. Learning to overcome those challenges creates a much more unified and an ultimately stronger business.