Benefits of Working with a Remote Team

 In eBooks, Virtual Staffing 101

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21 Global Companies Weigh In on the Actual Benefits of Working with a Remote Team

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Most of the world took on the challenge of re-arranging the work landscape to suit the new health and safety protocols brought on by the events of the first quarter of 2020. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report, more than 40 percent of employees in the US were in a flexible working arrangement prior to the COVID pandemic. 

The percentage has significantly increased, especially at the height of the outbreak, as organizations comply with local and national government mandates while reducing business disruptions. The research also found that the number of employees looking for a job that allows them to work from home in some capacity has been steadily increasing in the last decade.

The past year has been dubbed as “The Great Remote Work Experiment” and it has forever shifted perspectives on what types of jobs can be done remotely. In fact, a report by Global Workplace Analytics found that more companies are learning that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of offering agile work programs. In this content, we take a closer look at the benefits of working with a remote team and why it is here to stay.

Common Remote Work Myths (and Debunking Them!)

common remote work myths 20four7VA

There is an understandable reluctance for managers to let employees work from home. After all, this type of work arrangement does not fill the traditional mold of workers in a physical office space. Any freelancer or remote worker will be familiar with the many misconceptions surrounding remote work. Here are the most common work from home myths and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: Remote Work is For the Lazy

One of the many advantages of working remotely is being able to stay at home in your PJs. And while the lack of dress code may be a perk in many ways, remote workers are more productive than in-office employees. When in-person meetings and daily commute are taken out of the equation, virtual workers accomplish more tasks because of less distraction. In fact, a Stanford study found a 12% employee performance increase through online remote work.

“One of the big struggles of remote work is ensuring accountability without micromanaging. The way we combat this is by building out KPIs that we review each week. Together, we will build out our individual quarterly goals, and each week, we review them. Every KPI has sub-action items that help identify progress. The purpose of the sub-action is to ensure that on a week to week basis, we are each doing what we need to achieve our goals.”

-David Pawlan, Strategist, Aloa.co

Myth #2: Most Employees Need to Do Their Jobs in the Office 

There are some jobs that can’t be done through telework because of equipment restrictions or because in-person collaboration is required. These include construction work, repairs and maintenance, hospitality, law and order, and most frontline medical jobs. However, the pandemic has shown that many traditional in-office roles, including those in education, finance, and even some in healthcare, can actually be done remotely.

The world is adapting to telecommuting surprisingly well. When COVID-19 struck in early 2020, industries were forced to enact work-from-home arrangements for employee safety. The healthcare industry is one of the biggest that had to evolve for the new normal. The rise in telehealth has allowed doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to make their services more accessible and even cheaper.

As technology opens new avenues for comprehensive virtual collaboration, communication is bound to get easier, and possibilities will arise like never before. In the near future, even jobs that currently require face-to-face interaction, such as social work, could become location-independent.

“Consistent communication actually led to our teleworkers being more productive than they had been previously, and we would consider continuing work-from-home after the pandemic ends if our workers indicate that they would be interested in a permanent or semi-permanent telework model.”

-Tyler Boyd, Chief Strategy Officer, Squeeze

Myth #3: There is No Career Development

Contrary to popular belief, remote workers have more control over their career path and are ultimately responsible for its stability and progression. It is true that there are organizations that are content with outsourcing job processes to contractual virtual assistants with no promotion in sight. However, the biggest freedom for virtual careers is that workers can work for more than one client or company that will reward excellent performance with a promotion. Merit comes to those who work for it and so career advancement is more than possible in this online work arrangement.

“Employee retention and issues with engagement/motivation have been the biggest challenges while managing a virtual team. Now more than ever, it is vital to make sure your employees feel appreciated and heard. Executives need to make sure there is a visible opportunity to grow within the company. An employee should always have a viable position to be striving towards. It will motivate them to work harder as well as provide a visible success path within the company.”

-Jason Akatiff, Co-Founder, Boundery

Myth #4: There is No Work-Life Balance

Again, this argument depends on the type of person. Most virtual workers keep a consistent work schedule like office workers to enforce a healthy work-life balance. Staying home all day does not mean that remote workers never clock out. While virtual assistant work is more convenient and accessible, most people think it can cause overworking.

Organizations with remote employees that have irregular work schedules set clear expectations and objectives. Remote workers are not at all made to feel pressured to work more hours just because they can because they have set hours that they need to be available.

“Employees may experience burnout due to overworking because the boundaries might be unclear. To resolve this, encourage your staff to work only during business hours and encourage them to take a breather. Clearly explain to them what their roles entail. Do check-ins to see their progress, but don’t overdo it as everyone has a different pace doing work.”

-Lauri Kinkar, CEO, Messente

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Myth #5: What Company Culture?

A strong company culture is important because it is the foundation on which an organization builds itself and its biggest asset is its workforce. Most people have this idea that fostering company culture means having employees interact with one another in the same physical location.

The long and short is the company culture is dependent on its people. The management needs to set the tone by encompassing the values and beliefs of the organization. Building a positive company culture can definitely be done online and is extremely helpful for team members to acclimate when they work in different locations. There should be an emphasis for organizations to implement an open-door policy or two-way open communication so that both management and workers feel valued and engaged.

“I have an informal but mandatory Zoom introduction meeting for each team member where everyone introduces themselves on a personal level. Many companies just send out a quick Slack message introducing a new hire, but it is much more effective when you put some more effort into it and get people talking.”

-Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resources Officer, Resume.io

Addressing Common Issues & How to Overcome Them

Addressing Common Issues and How to Overcome Them 20four7VA

More and more people are choosing remote work over working in an office because of the freedom it provides. However, as with any work setup, working from home comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some of the most common remote work issues and tips on how to address them.

Technology & Connectivity Issues

Connectivity is one of the biggest issues in a remote work arrangement. Having the electricity suddenly go out or the internet get cut off is extremely frustrating, especially when your work is dependent on them. For those who are not tech-savvy, another big issue is learning how to use unfamiliar devices, tools, apps, or software.

These issues can be easily resolved by planning in advance. If the internet is the lifeblood of your work, invest in a good service provider and have a backup for emergencies. Additional backups may include your mobile data connection and nearby coffee shops or co-working spaces where you can connect to the internet in case something goes wrong with the internet at home.. 

As for getting workers used to new work tools or software, organizations need to conduct training sessions or create a comprehensive process review for using these new techs. This helps ensure a smooth transition into remote work, especially for older employees.

“We have older employees who are great at personal finance but terrible at tech. It took some time to get them up to speed, but extended training programs and courses helped smooth out any issues.”

-Carter Seuthe, CEO, Credit Summit

Time Management & Distractions

Procrastination happens to the best of us but do it for longer and it will hinder productivity. Working remotely means having control over time and tasks and it is up to the employee to wisely manage it. One time management tip is to create a schedule and stick to it. Segment what tasks are needed to be done and allot a time to do them. It helps to have a personal calendar or a to-do list to serve as a reminder.

There are many apps to help manage planned tasks more efficiently. Some project management apps have these features so take advantage of those to help get things done. Time tracking tools can help track time and the tasks done as well.

Being at home means there are plenty of distractions but remember that they don’t have to be done during work hours. If there are pressing matters, take a quick break if you have to. Some distractions can be managed ahead of time. One way to limit interruptions is to create a dedicated working space in the home, preferably a room with a door and lock so that housemates know when not to disturb you.

“For procrastination due to so many distractions at home and no direct supervision, the solution is to set specific deadlines to each task no matter how small it is. I found that this motivates employees to focus better knowing when each task should be done.”

-Nahla Ibrahim, Business Development Lead, Kotobee

Overworking

Virtual burnout is real, and it can happen to virtual workers who don’t know when to stop working. Overworking is the opposite of procrastination and it can happen when tasks get delayed. Employees often compensate for the delay by spending a few extra hours to get it done, but it can get dangerous when it becomes a habit. A few hours can turn to more than twelve hours, leaving workers fatigued and disoriented.

 It can be difficult to allot time for self-care when working from home, but it doesn’t mean it’s not important. Learn to take breaks and put off some tasks for later or ask help from a virtual co-worker or manager if needed.

Prevent overworking by planning and organizing the day. Prioritize the most urgent tasks and set a realistic limit to finish work. Anything that can be done the next day should be put off by then.

“Employee burnout is a notorious issue in remote work where work-life balance is much more sensitive than in traditional 9-5 office work.  I combat this even during onboarding by making it clear that nobody needs to have Slack or work email on their phone. Even if they want to, they don’t need to respond to any messages outside their working hours. Nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait for tomorrow.”

-Mark Coster, Owner and Chief Editor, STEM Toy Expert

Remote Workers are Not Productive

Remote Workers Are Not Productive 20four7VA

There is a misconception that people with virtual careers are not as productive as in-office employees. On the contrary, those who are enjoying flexible working hours report that they are more productive. In fact, companies that operate virtually or those who have had work-from-home programs have said that their employees are just as productive at home and sometimes, even more so.

Among the many advantages of being at home are the time and money saved on commuting and other expenses. Employees also report that the autonomy and freedom that come with managing their own schedule is a plus, too. Furthermore, there are fewer workplace distractions such as random conversations with other employees and background noise. 

This is not to say that the hours that remote workers render are more valuable than the actual work done. Many organizations are realizing that operating their virtual team with a body-in-seat mentality is harmful and are finding new ways to approach work goals and enhance productivity.

“Last year we noticed lower employee productivity rates. This was mainly caused by the shift to working remotely and dealing with mental and emotional exhaustion caused by the lockdowns. For some projects, we shifted the focus from an hourly-based to a project-based approach to employment. This rooted in the belief that teams shouldn’t always be paid on an hourly basis but according to their results, and this way we have seen increased productivity in these projects.” 

-Chriz Bolz, CEO, Coara

Security Threats

With virtual work, everything is done online. Security is one of the biggest concerns for organizations with several to hundreds of employees who need to collaborate online. It takes only one employee using an unsecured network to compromise the virtual working space and all the sensitive information within.

Fortunately, this comes with an easy solution and that is strict security standards and measures. Enterprise-grade security is available for larger organizations but there are plenty of ways to secure systems cost-effectively.  Smaller virtual teams on a budget can learn about the best cybersecurity practices for working remotely. 

Some security issues that remote workers should be wary of are insecure passwords, phishing emails, and weak recovery systems. Employers need to look into investing in cloud applications and virtual public networks. Enforcing cybersecurity policies and procedures can help too.

“For virtual teams, security is always a key problem especially after the rise of remote work. Make sure that employees do not use public WiFi that is unprotected, such as that found in cafes and restaurants. If this isn’t practical, insist that they use a VPN whenever they use public WiFi. Educate the remote team on how to secure their home networks properly with simple steps like using better passwords. If the virtual team uses some SaaS software, look for plans that provide enterprise-grade security features including single-sign-on (SSO) and encryption. This means that the data stays secure on third-party servers and is not easily accessible by outsiders.”

-Veronica Miller, Cybersecurity Expert, VPNOverview

Loneliness and Isolation

One of the biggest challenges of virtual work is loneliness and isolation. That although remote workers frequently communicate with their team, the physical separation can seem like there is no connectedness. Staying at home or anywhere as long as there is an internet connection may be a perk, but those who may not be used to this kind of work arrangement may find it taxing to their mental health.

A way to decrease the feelings of loneliness and isolation is to get out of your personal working space. If it is possible to go to a co-working place, coffee shop, or even library, then do so. Another is to find a friend who has a similar virtual career and work alongside them. Employers can increase collaborative efforts by using video conferencing tools to interact with the team.

“Once people get used to the comfort of their own homes, it’s very hard to maintain the team spirit. Zoom fatigue is a real thing and people often isolate themselves from the rest, especially after a long period of remote work. To break the monotony, we introduced regular team buildings online that gave people a chance to re-connect and chat. The most important thing is the sense of community and team buildings, even virtual, are a great way to achieve this.”

-Stefan Chekanov, CEO, Brosix

Proven Benefits of Working with a Remote Team

Proven Benefits of Working with a Remote Team 20four7VA

Businesses looking to stay ahead of the competition without incurring too much risk or expenses will find that hiring a remote team of workers is one of the greatest business decisions they will make. Here are the actual benefits of hiring and working with a remote team of virtual assistants.

Reduced Overhead Costs

Typical overhead costs for brick-and-mortar offices include rent, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and repair. Additionally, there are administrative expenses, including ongoing employee wages and benefits, office supplies, and equipment. Companies that are completely remote have no need to pay for these associated costs because every team member works remotely.

According to 20four7VA data, businesses looking to expand their current organization will save as much as 77% off their overhead expenses by hiring a remote workforce instead of hiring locally. Aside from the financial benefits, remote workers also save time and money in commuting costs and related expenses.

“The greatest benefits of working with a remote team are the cost savings and the diversity that a widely dispersed team brings. Working with a remote team, we save tens of thousands of dollars each year on rent, utilities and other overheads costs, which is a major boost to our bottom line.”

-John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight

Access to Top Global Talent

Businesses that limit their hiring to candidates located in the same city or state will have a hard time finding the best person for the job. The best match for a particular job opening may be unable to work in the office because of a handicap or may be located halfway across the globe. Opening up the talent pool to remote workers allows companies to fill open roles with individuals who have the best combination of skills, expertise, and experience for those roles, regardless of their location.  

Access to a pool of top global talent is increasingly in demand as more companies become aware that these quality workers favor the flexibility of remote work. Finding an experienced outsourcing partner can help you find experienced and highly skilled employees quickly.

“One benefit of working in a virtual team is its diversity. A lot of companies are hiring people internationally and attracting some of the best talents available. In turn, these people help strengthen the team and add significant value to any team they join.”

-Nick Chernets, CEO, DataforSEO

Access to Fresh and Innovative Ideas

Access to Fresh and Innovative Ideas

People from different countries and cultures will bring new ideas because of their unique perspectives. There are a lot of benefits to hiring a diverse team of people from different races, religions, cultures, and lifestyles. They may be able to contribute creative solutions to issues. This is a rewarding perk for businesses that strive for constant innovation like the tech and sales industry.

“You can have diverse ideas. Having a team from different locations can have different experiences that can help create better business ideas. That being the case, during content creation, many people can relate to our content because it was formulated based on views of people with different experiences, cultures, and environments, which makes it more interesting.”

-Sonya Schwarts, Founder, Her Norm

A More Productive Workforce

Employees who work in a remote team are happy and more productive according to a 2019 survey. Working from home eliminates the need for commuting. It also puts an end to the microdecisions needed when showing up in an office. This includes grooming, deciding what to wear, and making breakfast or lunch to bring to the workplace.

“Working with virtual teams makes interactions, such as meetings, much more meaningful and productive. Almost everyone, if not all, was forced to work-from-home because of the pandemic. And for some, it worked out well. Employees were still productive and able to operate in the comforts of their homes. This will shift and redefine work arrangements, especially for the younger generations who seek healthy work-life balance and flexibility.”

-William Taylor, Senior Recruitment Advisor, VelvetJobs

Better for the Environment

Better for the Environment 20four7VA

Unsurprisingly, telecommuting has multiple positive environmental impacts. When more people stay at home, there is a lot less pollution because there is less consumption of natural resources. With people refraining from going to offices, there is a reduction in emissions which means improved air quality.

Going digital means less paper usage and wastage by companies around the world. According to a statistic, over 700 pounds of paper are used by a US citizen annually, which is the equivalent of seven mature trees.

Reasons Why Remote Work is the Future

Reasons Why Remote Work is the Future 20four7VA

Millennials followed by the Gen Z are slowly taking over most of the workforce as the Baby Boomers entire retirement. The vacated positions will be filled by the largest living generation and this will poise a huge change in business trends and processes with regards to new consumption habits. As the world braces for the upcoming major cultural shifts, here are reasons why remote work will be the future.

Flexible Work Expectations

Whilst the older generation idealized a nine to five schedule as the model job situation, millennials clamor for flexibility. In fact, more than 90% of the upcoming working class want flexible working arrangements because they know that the existence of modern technology has made remote work possible more than ever.

Upskilling and Reskilling

Upskilling and Reskilling 20four7VA

As technology becomes more advanced, job automation has caused employment redundancy. Digital natives are well aware, and they understand that their current skills may lose relevance in the future. Rather than waiting for their current skills to become obsolete, many are looking to upskilling and reskilling to learn new ones to fill new positions. This dynamic change in working methods will shape future work trends.

Higher Profitability for Businesses

Businesses who have adapted the future mindset understand that they will find better candidates who favor virtual careers. By offering the choice to work remote with a flexible schedule, they have a competitive edge and are more likely to hire productive talents even for hard-to-fill roles. Employees who are empowered to work on their own schedule are more productive and that means higher profitability for businesses.

The COVID-19 Impact on Remote Work

The COVID-19 Impact on Remote Work 20four7VA

As the COVID-19 began to ravage the world in early 2020, the normal as we knew it suddenly changed, particularly in businesses as it impacted nations from an economic standpoint. The need to digitize processes for health and safety took over as operations were needed to continue or face collapse in the midst of the pandemic.

While remote work was becoming more common for virtual careers like digital marketing and computer programming, businesses in industries like education and health were forced to shift to telecommuting. The pandemic has necessitated distance learning and the expansion of telemedicine access.

Additionally, the labor market has further evolved as mandatory social distancing and prevention practices were put in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Needless to say, businesses and organizations that were ill-prepared or those who did not have the proper infrastructure to shift to remote work suffered significant losses. Millions of jobs were lost, and its toll was hugely felt especially by developing nations.

As people scramble to look for new ways to earn, the gig economy skyrocketed exponentially. Businesses looking to continue to deliver on-demand services through online platforms resort to the flexible and cheaper option of hiring self-employed workers including virtual staff.

The Post-Covid Future

It is generally unknown what the end of the tunnel looks like for the gig economy as the world is yet to overcome the ongoing deleterious effects of the pandemic. However, it is undeniable that virtual work will be part of the future as more workers embrace the remote work lifestyle.  Digital opportunities will continue to progress regardless of post-COVID development priorities and future investments set by governments.

Insights from Industry Leaders on Why Remote Work is Here to Stay

Insights from Industry Leaders on Why Remote Work is Here to Stay 20four7VA

  1. Employees Love the WFH Lifestyle

“Remote work is definitely here to stay even after the pandemic because people are now more used to operating that way and have been able to adapt to having meetings via Zoom. It seems that the majority of employees have fallen in love with the WFH lifestyle in general. In-person meetings are still a valuable interaction but this will be reserved for more important events that need to physically be at the office.”

-Mikkel Andreassen, Customer Experience Manager, Dixa

  1. WFH Will Be the New Norm

“For us, we are not reverting to office work. We tried it between 2016-2018, and since we adopted WFH in 2018, our productivity has been on the high end, as reflected in our yearly turnover. Very few businesses will return to the 9-5 schedule, But with the new norm, employees have adjusted to WFH.”

-Ronnie Teja, CEO, SoftwareKeep

  1. Flexibility is the Future

“Remote working is the world’s future, and virtual teams and workers are not going anywhere even after the pandemic. In the current scenario, when the rigid structure breaks and flexible systems win, remote workers’ importance has been increased. Businesses realize that virtual teams/workers are cost-efficient and more productive.”

-Krishna Rungta, Founder, Guru99

  1. Realizations of Witnessing WFH Benefits First-Hand

There is no going back on remote work. A lot more companies have seen first-hand the benefits of remote work, which in most instances outweighs the downside. Few would want to miss out on the real perks of having a remote team, or even one that is partially remote.”

-Paul French, Managing Director, Intrinsic Search

  1. Remote Work is Here to Stay But Hybrid Arrangements Will Be an Option

“Yes, remote work is here to stay. However, many businesses still hold the perception that remote work makes workers less productive, so I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future the new ‘normal’ would be a hybrid work style where employees split responsibilities between the office and home, and I honestly hope this happens.”

-Tom Winter, Co-Founder, DevSkiller

  1. Remote Work Has More Upsides Than Downsides

“Remote work does not look like it is going anywhere, even once we have widespread vaccination. Workers enjoy the flexibility and companies are realizing that many people are capable of being just as, if not more productive while working from home. While there will always be a need for some employees to work at least part time from a physical office space, at present, there are more notable upsides of remote work than downsides.”

-Sebastian Schaeffer, CTO/Co-Founder, Dofollow.io

  1. Other Companies Are Missing Out on Virtual Assistants

“ABSOLUTELY! Remote work is definitely here to stay, it is proven pre-pandemic and this will only be magnified post pandemic. Once a business, big or small adopts the use of VA’s or teams of VAs they will be kicking themselves they didn’t do it sooner.”

-Johnny Wallbridge, Managing Director, Yakwax

Tips & Strategies to Support and Manage Virtual Teams

Tips and Strategies to Support and Manage Virtual Teams 20four7VA

In theory, virtual collaboration is the single most important glue that holds teams together. There are many challenges that come with managing and working with a remote team with flexible schedules. However, the innovation of technology like tools and apps that allow people to connect and collaborate has made it easier. Here are tips and strategies to help manage a virtual team.

  1. Define Roles and Expectations

Virtual teams are made up of individuals with unique sets of skills and they are hired for what they can do. It is best to define each team members’ roles and responsibilities and set what is expected of them. Remote work may be new and hard for those who have never tried it before but when everyone knows what to do, the quicker things get done. Additionally, teams work better together when they understand what they should be doing.

  1. Create Work Processes and Systems

Now that roles are clear, the next thing to do is to create a work system with step-by-step processes to set a standard. This is especially useful for repeating tasks. A handbook or a resource that outlines these processes will be a great way for workers to check as reference if they find something unclear.

  1. Set Regular Meetings

While flexibility is one of the biggest perks of remote work, it is still important to meet with others through virtual meetings. To account for participants living in different time zones, it is best to have the team work out the best date and time to meet. Having regular meetings creates a routine so participants get to know their co-workers and make everyone feel that they’re part of a time. Keep meetings short unless necessary.

Tip: It’s best to schedule meetings ahead of time and have a meeting agenda to have something specific to discuss during that time. An agenda allows everyone to know where they are with certain tasks and provides an opportunity for anyone to speak out of the challenges or roadblocks they’re facing.

  1. Keep Communications Open (But Not Too Much)

To make up for the geographical differences, it is important for virtual teams to keep communications open during work hours. While email is the most common type of communication tool, it may not always be the right choice. Group chats for teams are a great way for remote workers to contact one another in-real time for ad hoc tasks, asking questions, and other work-related stuff.

Tip: While it is important for virtual teams to understand and utilize different communication tools, it is also crucial to set boundaries to prevent distractions. Disconnecting from work can be a challenge and it is tempting to be always “on call” for emails and messages with remote work. Be mindful of time management and log out when the work for the day is done.

  1. Supporting Virtual Workers with Digital Tools

Lastly, remote workers can further be empowered by providing them with top virtual assistant tools. 

  1. Communication Applications
  2. Scheduling and Appointment Apps
  3. Organization and Document Management Systems
  4. Project Management Systems
  5. Time and Activity Tracking Tools

Is Your Organization Ready to Go Permanent Remote Work?

Is Your Organization Ready to Go Permanent Work 20four7VA

Transitioning from traditional work arrangements to go remote has certainly challenged a lot of organizations. However, perspectives have uncovered that many jobs that were presumably only done in the office can be done remotely. Both businesses and workers have found that flexible work has multiple benefits and that the restructuring of business processes may allow this to go long-term with new management systems and effective communication tools in place. 

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