Most of the time, you read about how to manage a complex remote work environment and what makes a solid virtual workplace environment.
But there is no general rule of thumb for building an intuitive and inclusive workplace environment.
Did you know that many American and European companies now hire workers remotely to save recruiting costs? In fact, over 4.5 million people have remote jobs in the United States alone.
Sure, whether or not a virtual work environment works for employers is still a hot topic, but companies can no longer afford to overlook virtual work requirements completely.
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The Need to Build a Virtual Office
Since most employees want to move to remote work, companies need to build a proper virtual work environment that can support diverse people.
Sure, you can build and design a typical in-person office space to complement different employees with different styles of work. But how do you bring this flexibility into the virtual space? Well, this is where companies have learned to make the most out of digital tools.
Remember, creating a growth-driven remote work environment is more than choosing the best digital solutions. It’s about understanding the work styles of your employees to create a realistic virtual work environment.
What Makes Up a Modern Virtual Work Environment?
If it is your first time building a virtual work environment, focus on the basics rather than technical elements.
So, what makes up a great virtual office?
Well, there is no generalization around the modern-day remote office – companies build their virtual workspace based on their organizational culture and employees’ work styles. And most importantly, it should complement your physical workspace to create a balance.
In short, find a shared purpose in your virtual office. Behind the scenes of a virtual office often come across as too complicated. But you can simplify a lot of virtual office elements to make it for your company.
That said, all virtual work environments use a combination of digital tools to manage work, engage with employees, and set communication standards. And since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work standards have changed significantly.
Creating a remote work environment makes sense for business owners. It leads to more employee satisfaction, lowers operating costs, and boosts productivity.
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The Art of Building a Personalized Virtual Office
It takes a long-term commitment to lay the foundation of a virtual office. Once you’re aware of your vision and goals, you can start planning. Remember, you’re not building a virtual office just for the sake of having a remote work environment.
Your mindset should be to make sure your company is sustainable enough to survive and thrive in a competitive business landscape. Concentrate on the planning of your virtual office to personalize elements.
Check the structure of your virtual office and see whether or not it would work for your employees. If you’re ready to build your virtual workspace, make sure to put the most important elements in place.
From creating a remote office strategy, developing strategies to improve productivity, setting up a virtual technology infrastructure, and getting the collaboration and communication digital tools to engage with remote employees similar to a traditional office, a great virtual workplace environment requires improving these elements.
Create Your Virtual Workplace Strategy
Your remote work strategy should cover the core principles and logistics of virtual work. Remote workspace logistics involve tangible elements of your business that are part of the operations when employees work remotely.
The trick is to have an insightful plan that works for the company and the remote workers. Set clear expectations about the virtual office and gain the trust of remote workers from the start. It will help you measure remote workers’ productivity easily.
Having a proper virtual strategy ensures no employee is frustrated, dissatisfied, or confused. And the more details you add to your virtual office plan – the more control you can assume.
Set Up the Right Tech Infrastructure
Choosing and implementing the best tech tools and creating a solid tech system is foundational to building an excellent virtual office. In fact, the success of your remote work environment depends on the digital tools and solutions you add to your tech infrastructure.
From project management tools to cloud-based solutions, choose the tools that would work for your company’s virtual office. Remember, digital transformation extends beyond having Zoom calls and issuing company laptops. You can look at digitalization as a way to scale up and shift operations online.
Oftentimes, a company needs straightforward digital solutions. But there are more than enough online tools that ensure the survival of a virtual office. For instance, most virtual offices now use a cloud management system to store, access, and review files in real time.
Use Proper Communication Channels
Before you even think about managing a virtual office, select the communication channels you will use to engage with employees and management. Since virtual meetings are common in a remote workspace, the last thing you want to do is use communication channels that don’t align with your needs or overwhelm employees.
Conduct some market research and find out the newest trends in communication channels. You should also learn about the preferences of your employees to implement the most compatible communication channels. For starters, find out whether your employees prefer direct online chat, phone call, or email communication to receive and share updates.
Apart from basic interactive digital tools like Zoom, consider using other communication tools to foster more collaboration across remote team members. Generally, most virtual offices need the following digital tools:
- Instant messaging apps for quick back and forth communication
- Video and audio conferencing tools to conduct meetings and run check-ins
- Project planning and management solution to manage tasks and track progress.
- Cloud file sharing tool to access, edit, and send data across remote teams
- Shared team calendars for scheduling
- Proactively Resolve Conflicts
Like in-person office, conflicts within virtual space can get out of hand. Conflict among remote workers comes in the form of uncertainty and misunderstanding. Communication is the key to resolving doubts and uncertainty among remote workers.
Proactive conflict resolution requires understanding the behavior of employees. Maybe it was a comment that was under-communicated or overlooked. At all costs, keep your virtual conversations and engagements on an individual level. In a crisis, office managers have to step up their online communication efforts.
Determine the conditions under which you can schedule conversations to resolve virtual conflicts. Like face-to-face conversations, make virtual conversations purposeful and maintain a casual engagement with clear intent.
Specify Virtual Roles and Responsibilities
You cannot set clear boundaries without clarifying roles, responsibilities, and goals to remote workers. Clearly explaining roles and responsibilities also makes remote workers more responsive. In a virtual work environment, actions speak louder than words.
Advise business leaders and executives to communicate to their colleagues and employees about different roles, deliverables, and responsibilities. And when roles and responsibilities are not clear in the virtual office, remote workers will start to question their roles and how they can be productive.
For starters, set reasonable and practical deadlines in a virtual work environment. What’s interesting about remote work is that managers can easily renegotiate new break rules. Continue to discuss boundaries with virtual teams to make sure they understand their control and freedom over work hours.
Actively Help Out Remote Workers to Boost Productivity
Just like traditional work environments, virtual office managers have to proactively help out and support employees to maintain high productivity standards. Fewer calls, meetings, and people wanting to talk to you at your desk make you more focused on the actual task.
To build a successful virtual office, make sure you’re able to measure the flexibility of remote workers. Like traditional 9-5 jobs, virtual office managers have to motivate employees to extract the most productivity.
Also, build trust through open-style communication. Remember, you’re mostly dealing with millennials and Gen Z remote workers, and it would be in bad taste to use conventional formal language to communicate day-to-day tasks. Instead, an informal, open, and direct communication style will help managers earn the trust of their remote workers.
In your journey to build a virtual work environment, you will notice different behaviors that deserve rewards (and penalties). In a virtual office, don’t overlook or normalize a toxic behavior. In fact, managing a virtual workspace requires managers to be consistently proactive and engage with remote employees to ensure organizational values are intact.
As a company’s culture shifts and evolves, the virtual work environment will also have to keep up with new changes and ensure no one is making direct judgment calls. In retrospect, when building and managing a virtual office, you will have to adapt to new behaviors and norms.
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