The Virtual Workplace: Should You Explore the Possibilities for Having Virtual Work Locations

Recently the debate on the merits and otherwise of a virtual workplace for businesses came up after Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer banned all Yahoo staff from working from home or any other location they choose.

Working virtually means several things to several people but for the purpose iof this article it shall be seen as having your employees work from any location as long as they are connected to the internet and are able to key into the available communication channels in your organisation and do their work without having to report physically to the office daily.

There is telecommuting where staff utilise communication technologies tools and the internet to work in an offsite location while for bigger organisations there could be a whole virtual work team collaborating closely but located in different parts of the world. In some cases people that form these virtual workspace have not ever met themselves yet are still able to work closely together to accomplish business goals.

The Case for Virtual Workspace in Nigeria

Given the serious issues of infrastructure, traffic gridlocks etc there seems to be plausible reasons to consider having many, if not most, of your staff working from offsite. Challenges ranging from insufficient office space, difficult road networks (resulting in loss of man hours in traffic) may sway an entrepreneur or manager to consider having some of the staff work virtually.

If You Are to Consider Virtual Work

Before putting your workers on the virtual train here are some things you might have to consider to ensure you take the best decisions for your business;

How Will You Measure the Productivity of Those Who Work Virtually

When your people work from outside the office location there is danger of low productivity as the physical supervision would not be possible. Considerations for how you will ensure that everyone does put up meaningful, productive work should be made.

Set minimum goals and objectives and never outline ambiguous job descriptions. To get the best from a virtual work arrangement be sure that everyone involved understands what they are required to do and the targets they are required to meet and surpass where possible.

What Are the Essential Work That Should Be Done In-Office and Not Virtually

Not all parts of your company’s functions need be moved virtual; determine what needs to be done in-office in order to reduce possibilities for compromise. For instance the content marketing team for a company could very well do its work mostly from outside the office working with editorial calendars and set objectives. The editor or content manager can easily monitor output and productivity of the writers, artists etc that make up the content team.

Are there any Security or Trade Secret Challenges You Might Have If Your People Work Virtually

Another key thing to consider carefully is whether virtual work arrangement can possibly result in security and/or trade secret challenges and issues. We seem to have low worker loyalty in many sectors of business in Nigeria and allowing certain staff access to company data from off location might be dangerous

Will There Be Need for a Weekly or Monthly Visit to The Office by Your Offsite Workers

To ensure you get the best out of a virtual work arrangement you must make a timetable for physical meetings and visits to the office by your offsite workers. Physical interaction will increase the bond between everybody on the team as well as give your team an idea on how the office is faring.

Virtual work arrangements should be 100% virtual if it can be helped.

Getting The Best Out of Virtual Work

in many cases virtual work helps you and your team members save money as less transportation is involved. To get the best benefits and positives from your virtual work arrangement you need to consider;

Setting the Foundation: Starting without a framework for goals, objectives, time allocation, and collaboration will spell doom for your virtual work arrangement. Individuals within the virtual work team need to understand their role in the scheme of things, what they are meant to achieve and how their roles intertwine with that of other virtual co-workers.

An initial face to face meeting where possible among the entire virtual team will help bond everyone together.

Building and Nurturing Relationships With Team Members: With all virtual work arrangements there ought to a leader saddled with the responsibility to interact with the team and ensure smooth cooperation with other colleagues on the virtual work team.

Ensuring Adequate Communication Channels: A virtual work team without a strong, multi-channel means of staying in touch with each other’s wok is on the highway to failure. Phones, emails and video chat (eg skype) should be put to great effect. You can use skype to hold virtual meetings and catch up with what every other person is doing.

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