A woman sitting at home, using her laptop.

Many companies are managing virtual teams to boost efficiency.

The virtual office is currently one of the hottest trends in business. Companies are looking to adopt new strategies for handling growth and cutting costs. Virtual offices, as it so happens, tackle both of these proverbial birds with a single stone, according to Cambridge Network.

As enticing as this concept is from a business perspective, humans tend to be a bit more fickle when you start changing their routine. This makes managing virtual teams challenging, to say the least. That said, we’ve documented a few user archetypes you’re likely to encounter through your mobile workforce management, along with tips to assuage potential hurdles they may face:

1. The Hermit

This particular individual is probably the biggest proponent of a virtual office — though he isn’t one to vocalize it. Even so, this person may encounter unique challenges of his own that require proactive intervention on your end.

It’s your job to make sure you’re preventing these users from finding themselves — happily or not — on a virtual island, isolated from other team members. To do this, your No. 1 priority should be encouraging communication.

The best way to accomplish this task? Make it easy and make it a habit. In a virtual office, your resident hermit may not have or want a phone staring condescendingly at him from the corner of his desk. Deploying something like a conference and collaboration platform lets him more easily communicate without the anxiety of actually picking up the telephone. In combination with regular “stand-up” meetings, you may just coax that hermit into the sunlight.

2. The Diverter

We all know this type. Be it beautiful spring weather, or a smudge on the screen, just about anything will throw this person’s focus out the window. Unlike the hermit, virtual offices can be a tough place for the diverter to thrive.

In order to effectively manage virtual teams with users like this, you’ll need to add a little structure to her routine. Users in this category often respond well to tangible goals that can be reached daily or even hourly. Having a clear direction to work toward in easily achievable chunks incentivizes focus and helps ward off distractions. Of course, this becomes a bit of a micromanagement nightmare if your team contains more than a few people. With the help of a flexible project management platform, however, users can manage their own goals while you provide insight and encouragement as necessary.

3. The Socialite

If the hermit were to have a nemesis, it would be the socialite. Let’s face it — some people are energized by human interaction, while others are drained by it. It’s only natural. However, the socialite takes it to the next level. With a constant need to collaborate, whether professionally or socially, this person is most productive in a group setting. It’s no wonder, then, why the socialite might struggle in a virtual office environment.

To harness the socialite’s raw social energy and apply it to productive efforts, your best bet is to break down the virtual walls. Kind of like those trendy new office layouts — yeah, the physical ones — in which there are no defined offices or workspaces, the socialite requires a bit more openness and transparency. In a virtual office, this means providing collaborative digital workspaces, seamless communication, and an overall sense of community. That last one takes a little extra effort, but with some creativity, you can breathe new life into your team through virtual meet-ups, team challenges, and even some clever use of virtual reality, such as the office simulator featured by Upload.

In the end, managing virtual teams requires a similar approach to traditional offices. You simply need to understand the individual strengths and weaknesses of your team members and leverage the right technology to empower success.

Find out how Vonage Business can work with your organization to boost company-wide collaboration.

About Joe Hewitson

With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it.

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A woman works from home and drinks coffee at a desk.

Is the virtual workforce right for your organization?

Virtual offices are extremely popular right now, and for many good reasons. For one, a virtual workforce can be a powerful talent recruitment tool. It’s not uncommon for top performers to rank telework as high or even higher than salary when listing their priorities, and teleworking aids recruitment further by opening up the talent pool to candidates located throughout the country.

Working from home has been known to increase employee job satisfaction, boost productivity, and lower turnover costs. Virtual offices are also often cheaper to run, as they require lower overhead costs associated with office space and utilities. And there are many other tangible benefits of having an intangible office. However, being a virtual company isn’t yet a perfect fit for all companies or industries. Here’s how to determine whether it’s right for your business:

Can Your Business Thrive with a Virtual Office?

Some businesses flourish with a virtual workforce, while others may face challenges in adopting such a model. Certain industries, such as health care and IT, have found that telecommuting is an excellent fit for their needs. It allows employees such as engineers or developers to enjoy greater productivity while working on their own. These are professions that require strong attention to detail and might be significantly hindered by distractions in the office, such as overly chatty colleagues. Virtual offices do a great job of future-proofing startups and small businesses, who tend to find the flexibility and low cost especially helpful at that stage of their growth. Larger businesses are also capitalizing on virtual offices more often, particularly when starting branches in new locations.

Businesses with a significant creative function often find that a virtual office is a good match for them, as there is less of a need for face-to-face conversations or in-person review of a physical work product. Marketing organizations in particular tend to thrive in a virtual setting for this reason. When it comes time to compare notes with colleagues, virtually located professionals can take advantage of conferencing and collaboration technology that allows them to share their screens with one another and join a conference on demand.

Sales, IT, project management, administrative, customer service, and education or training roles also tend to thrive in a virtual office since it supports independent work especially well. In those cases, any internal collaboration needs that employees have can be met with cloud-based unified communications services that enable them to message or exchange files with one another throughout the workday.

However, businesses or specific business units that require a great deal of in-person customer service or team collaboration may decide that a virtual office doesn’t quite fit the bill where those activities are concerned. They may still rely on a physical office or a combination of traditional and virtual office settings to do their work.

What to Keep in Mind When Setting Up a Virtual Office

If your business decides to set up a virtual office, there are a few steps and precautions you should take in order to ensure a smooth transition. First and foremost, it will be essential to have a clear and well-communicated teleworking policy in place before launching the virtual office. This policy should cover several aspects of the teleworking arrangement, including the following:

  • A clear explanation of the criteria determining how teleworking privileges will be granted
  • A description of how many days per week or month will be worked in the office versus a remote location
  • An outline of teleworking employees’ general working hours
  • An overview of the business’s expectations of remote workers

It’s also important to make sure that as teleworking gets underway at the company, staff members understand the performance goals they must achieve in their new virtual office environment. Most businesses find that when a significant percentage of their employees work remotely, managers concern themselves less with the amount of time their staff spends working than the actual results they achieve. Even so, supervisors may find that it’s a bit of an adjustment to oversee their staff when they’re no longer physically located together in the same brick-and-mortar office, so they should make sure they have the training they need to properly carry out their responsibilities in this regard.

Teleworking employees often report they are more productive when working from home. Terrific as that may be, teleworkers can sometimes feel isolated from the life of the company when working alone. Some businesses address this concern by proactively arranging regularly scheduled virtual events or meetings in which the staff or various teams share information about what is happening at the business, or they create virtual water cooler spaces where employees can engage in the same kind of casual workplace banter they would at a traditional office. Others secure co-working space for some of their employees so they still have the benefit of social interaction as well as networking and professional events where they may make useful contacts or engage in professional development that benefits the company.

A virtual office can be a great benefit to many types of companies of various industries, sizes, workforce configurations, and geographic locations. If your company has been looking for ways to cut costs, improve employee job satisfaction, and boost productivity, it might be worth considering the benefits a virtual workforce may offer. While it isn’t a fit for each and every business, teleworking can be a major asset to the companies that do choose to offer it.

Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can help your company.

About Rose de Fremery

Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer and technologist. She is the former Managing Editor of The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first and only print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. Rose currently blogs about business IT topics including VoIP, UC, CRM, business innovation, and telework for Ziff-Davis as well as HP’s Tektonika program, HP Innovation Journal, HP Channel, Intel, and Vonage’s content marketing program.


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