The workplace has evolved.
We can trace the wholesale shift to remote and hybrid work to the onset of COVID in early 2020. According to the Census Department, the number of people primarily working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021, and the US “commuting landscape” in the United States has been changed forever.
This big shift also changed employee experience standards. The future of work involves remote, smart enterprises adapting their operating models to build and maintain a smart and productive workforce to succeed in the digital economy.
Cut to 2023 and enter a “new normal” with some experts claiming that companies that fail to adopt more leniency revolving around remote, and hybrid work will lose talent. Apparently, reducing attrition and attracting top-tier workers will require forward thinking, and flexibility.
Keys to Successfully Working Virtually
Earlier waves of virtual working have helped identify three distinct elements necessary for successful remote work: technology, social needs, and work rhythms. Let’s unpack all three.
Technology has always been an enabler… especially when it meets peoples’ needs, becomes part of the regular flow of work, and matches the tasks at hand. Using group platforms for project work, and switching to video for more interactive conversations are two examples. The time has never been riper for experimenting with technology, and some early adopters are demonstrating what this experimentation can look like.
Reimagination of home workspaces has become important. Remote workers do best when their workspaces protect them from outside distractions, provide easy access to the tools of their trade, and are dedicated exclusively to work. Such ideal conditions, however, will not be available to most, especially if there is more than one remote worker, or children in the home.
It can be helpful for hubs of virtual coworkers to be created to balance the isolation of working from home. People clustered in these local hubs like to feel as though they’re part of a larger community. Recently, 3000 participants were polled about how they were feeling about virtual work, and the sentiment most frequently reported revolved around social isolation (negative), with the second and third (positives) pointing out the benefits of autonomy, flexibility, and the ability to fully concentrate. Pluses and minuses, to be sure, so making remote workspaces more human, with greater ability to communicate with video, have informal conversations, virtual coffee breaks, and even virtual after-hours get-togethers can help.
Important too to stay in work rhythms. Many do best when there is a natural rhythm to their daily calendars and rituals. Dressing in work clothes, having check-in meetings at 9AM and 4PM, starting all projects with video touchpoints, and scheduling additional video check-ins midway, and at the completion of projects with the emphasis on checking-in rather than checking-up. Build strong collaboration practices, such as deciding up front on goals and key roles, clearly defining boundaries and spans of control, clarifying tasks and processes, and measuring roles and commitments.
The Importance of Trust
People working from home need to be engaged and productive. Trust remote workers until they have proven themselves untrustworthy.
Virtual workers work. Just ask any of our happy clients and they can tell you how our Virtual Assistants are making them and their businesses better and more productive.
There are bright things on the horizon for companies that set the tone now with the three key elements discussed. Looking forward, what seems clear is that even as COVID recedes, the “workplace” will be forever altered. Many remote workers have become far more productive doing less commuting, less traveling to face-to-face meetings, and MORE technology. As such, we do well to re-think, reset, and SHIFT how we work. COVID has not been the death knell for collocated work… we humans thrive on face-to-face interaction, and our innovative spirit demands it. But it has demonstrated the benefits of embracing both the virtual and the physical to get the most from both without causing burnout among our best, and brightest.
We would love to have a conversation about our Virtual Assistants and how they excel at getting their jobs completed for our clients every day. Please contact our Director of Business Development firstname.lastname@example.org for a no obligation phone call to learn more.