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How Do We Adapt to Virtual Work?

We have been doing research regarding virtual organizations — particularly related to training and the role that managers play. How we do get our organization to adapt/embrace this new way of working?


 — Changing World, assistant HR specialist, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

May 30, 2014
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Related Topics: Work/Life Balance, Work and Life Balance, The Latest, Dear Workforce
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Dear Changing World:

The decision for your organization to move toward more virtual work should be an easy one since there is clear, compelling and scientific evidence about the myriad benefits of what used to be called telecommuting.

When organizations look to the future, the most innovative and suc­cessful leaders realize the potential that virtual workforces have to change the face of business. Increasingly, leadership and organizations are view­ing work as something you do, rather than somewhere you go. As or­ganizations expand across the nation and the globe, remote labor forces are becoming vital to business success. Currently, 82 percent of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” have virtual work policies. That number is expected to rise as time and technology advance.

In addition, fully 81 percent of remote workers say they were more productive at home than in a traditional workplace environment. Furthermore, a recent Gallup workplace study found that virtual workers put in four more hours per work week than on-site employees — while also having higher engagement (32 percent to 28 percent).

Other valuable benefits of work-from-home/remote policies, for both employer and employee include:

  • Cost savings through lowering the need for, and cost of, real estate and other related overhead.
  • Higher customer satisfaction due to better coverage across different time zones.
  • Eliminates geographic restrictions, thus widening your pool of potential talent.
  • Lower absenteeism.
  • Eliminates stressful commuting (stress is one of the primary reason for resignation).
  • Cost savings for employees (gas, train/bus fare, parking, etc.). 
  • Better work-life balance and workplace flexibility, both of which are highly prized by millennials, who will eclipse baby boomers in the workforce by 2015

Harvard Business Review recently reported that by 2015, fully 40 percent of the world’s workforce will be remote. The trend toward virtual work is, in fact, gaining such a hold in the workplace that colleges and universi­ties are beginning to introduce programs dedicated solely to best practices for virtual work. To remain up to par in this increasingly distanced world, managers must consider the increasing demand and necessity for a virtual workforce.

  • So how do you get started? Here are some useful tips:
  • Determine what job positions internally are prime candidates for allowing the employee to work remotely.
  • Start slowly and try to ensure consistency in terms of the share of work performed remotely versus “at corporate.”
  • 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).
  • Hire the right people to be in these remote positions. Look for these five traits while interviewing:Are the people self-starters? Have they worked remotely in the past and where is the evidence that they succeeded? Are they self-motivated? Are they self-disciplined? Are they skilled and highly adaptive communicators?
  • Track and quantify as many outcomes and results as possible such that you can prove your organization is the recipient of the many benefits and financial dividends that come with the world of virtual work.

SOURCE: Kevin Sheridan, author, “The Virtual Manager,” Chicago, May 27, 2014

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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