Remembering anything before the pandemic is a challenge, but remote wasn’t always a necessity. Covid forced the transition to virtual workspaces overnight, creating mixed feelings for many.
One of the big decisions facing employers is whether to go back to the office or stay remote. The answer depends on the business, but virtual collaboration is so essential it should be considered as a real option.
Virtual collaboration has serious potential to improve your business in amazing ways. In 2019, 24% of the workforce was hybrid or entirely remote. In 2021, 1 in 4 Americans is expected to work from home. As people that work remotely increase, so does productivity by a whopping 47%.
Benefits of Virtual Collaboration
Team collaboration from home opens digital doors. Employee workflows can improve from constant practice with new software. Problem-solving will improve from experience with troubleshooting. The communication skills of your network can improve after learning new messaging apps. When your workforce is virtual your employees can improve their computer literacy skills.
Bigger Talent Pool
If your position is remote you can hire nationally and globally. Expanding the net you cast expands the kinds of fish you catch… Talent with diverse backgrounds, innovation, and experience can upgrade your workforce. You can find candidates with widely different knowledge, culture, and intuition.
Your workplace can grow from different points of view; together, you can brainstorm new products, new ad campaigns, and better social media posts, with new, fresher ideas. You’ll have the option to outsource projects to any specialized teams in any time zone.
This does mean you will have far more applications to review compared to opening up the position locally. The work will pay off when you are the ideal virtual team. Investing in your people is never a waste of time.
No More Property Leasing
A unique advantage of the modern age is remote companies can skip leasing or mortgaging a location. While property management companies and office companies may not appreciate this there’s no need to spend on something if you don’t absolutely need it. Property costs change for each location and can range from $8, to $23 per square foot.
There’s other costs like electricity and water bills change by the area and state. Then there’s property upkeep, like mowing the lawn, and employee competition for parking. There’s also the housekeeping costs for office trash, bathrooms, and more.
If you love or 100% require an office for a special department, you can always rent a smaller space or downsize while off site personnel are remote. Hybrid offices can be the best choice because employees that need to and enjoy being in the office still can.
Startups have a special edge over their competition. They take on everything with a low budget and allocate money to more important areas. For example, spending on software, virtual events, advertising, and of course on employees. Employees that are taken care of don’t leave.
The Perfect Work-Life Balance for Employee Retention
The perfect work-life balance finds the limbo where employees are content and get the most out of their work and personal lives. The better the work-life balance, the better the employee retention. This is because employees leave when they are missing something they need, or another job offers more of what they need.
Remote work can alleviate many of the reasons people seek new employment. The cons to working in the office can also cause employee burnout. That’s not to say that virtual collaboration will never have burnout, it can. It’s just that office work has so many restrictions to 8 or more hours of your day.
|Cons of Working Remote
|Pros of Working Remote
|Too much time with family (can get in the way of work)
Struggle with Virtual Literacy (some people struggle with learning new software)
Blurred Line Between Work and Home (working more hours, receiving emails all night, meeting invites, constant messaging)
Equipment Cost (if not covered by company)
No In-Person Communication (some may struggle to communicate emotion and context with messages and email)
Less Social Time (with coworkers)
|More Time with Family
Diminished or Erased Childcare Costs
Flexibility with Hours
Fewer Conflicts (and if there are conflicts they’re documented by email or chat)
Fewer Sick Days Taken
Can Work Outside
Cook Healthy at Home
More Creativity (being in a personal space helps foster unique ideas)
More Social Time (with family and friends)
|Cons of Working in Office
|Pros of Working in Office
|Less Time with Family (burden on parents with young children)
Commute Time and Cost
Less or No Flexibility with Hours
Spread of Disease (colds spread fast in offices, creating more sick days)
Less Time for Breaks (or comfort taking breaks when timed)
No Natural Light or Air (being outside can improve mood and health)
More Prone to Order in Food
Less Social Time
|Healthy Time Away from Family
Work Ends When You Leave
Better Access to Equipment
Better Access to Software (like virus protection and site restrictions)
IT Department Physically Present
Bonding Time with Coworkers (the chance to form better relationships can improve teamwork)
Secret Information Stays In Office
In-Person Office Socials (time to de-stress together)
Head Space for Productivity (Some need to mentally separate to be productive, office is work, home is play)
The real pros and cons of working in an office and working at home depend on the individual. Extroverts enjoy being around coworkers while working. Introverts enjoy working in private with no interruptions. Ambiverts can enjoy working with others and alone. Labels aside, everyone is different and in turn works differently.
The best way to avoid the burnout from either is letting employees choose their ideal environment based on their own work habits. Then combat the burnouts that are associated with that environment.
If you can eliminate the top reasons an employee will leave (aside from pay, which is also important), you can expect to keep your employees longer.
Remote Collaboration Tools
For those who can use remote work, they will need the right virtual collaboration tools. You can shop around for instant messaging, video chat, video chat, and all the other communication tools. As well as hunting down the best collaboration software that lets multiple people work on a project together. There is a plethora of tech for remote team members.
Online, Real-Time Communication
Software to consider for real-time communication are Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, and Slack. You don’t need to choose just one either, you can mix and match with them. Zoom and Microsoft Teams integrate with Slack, and Google Meet works well when used alongside Zoom.
For face-to-face meetings, you can use Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. They each have great video conferencing software. Zoom doesn’t have an organized messaging system like Slack or Teams, but is still worth integrating with complimenting apps.
Teams and Slack both have multiple communication channels, like chat rooms for groups, and project management tools for working on a common goal. Slack does have video conferencing, but it’s not as highly rated. Slack is better and more widely used for its great instant messaging software.
While neither Slack nor Zoom, have the enormous amount of online software integrations Google Meet and Microsoft Teams come with.
If you need more substantial software that handles employee and customer engagement and feedback, you may need a CRM. These tools are used to improve virtual communication for customers, and help employees collaborate. For those on a very tight budget, check out our article, Best Free CRM Software in 2021 to learn which is best for you.
Google Meet and Microsoft Teams have the benefit of coming with other online software like Excel online, and Google Sheets. Google is slightly better for big data companies that need storage for file-sharing. Writing up huge reports in Google Docs is easy with it’s automatic save function.
Microsoft is ideal for customization and formatting. You can manipulate summaries and images far more in Word than in Docs. Microsoft PowerPoint allows you to create amazing, custom presentations, and can be accessed for free online. Access alone can help you build databases that you have complete control over.
Teams that want the hands-on ability to color code, graph and format every other possible way should look at Microsoft Online.
Google’s platform overall is far easier to navigate, whereas Microsoft is known for its steeper learning curve. The bright side is if you know how to use Microsoft other software will be easier in comparison.
Why Are Some Companies Hesitant to Go Remote?
There are so many valid reasons people don’t want to go remote. There are reasons employers don’t want to, and reasons employees don’t want to. It’s a list that should be addressed.
|Why Employers Hesitate to go Remote
|Why Employees Hesitate to go Remote
No Quiet Space to Work
One of the major fears is security. An employee could risk an entire database to malware, by connecting from a public network, or falling prey to a phishing scam. Employees risk security in-office just as much as from home.
Security can be achieved from home with software protections, and if your employees are trained in best practices to keep their work safe. For certain companies, staying in office or going hybrid will be better to keep special files secure. Some companies may never be comfortable going remote because certain data is safer with absolute restricted access.
One concern that is a problem both in-office and remotely, is noise. A call center with cubicles can make it hard to hear customers. Working as a CSR at home can also be distracting with 3 kids. Your coworkers’ music in the office can be annoying but your music at home could be relaxing. The risk can be the same for both so it’s better to evaluate on a case by case basis.
Another concern is equipment and high-speed internet cost. These can become a burden on both employees and employers. That decision should be weighed against the overall benefit of working remotely.
Employers fear there will be less accountability if employees work from home. The concern is employees won’t focus on tasks or manage their time properly. This can be true for people, being in-office alone can flick a switch that says “work time.” Overall though, it’s not as pervasive of an issue for virtual work.
When it comes to remote work, studies show that the fewer restrictions and micro-managing an employee has, the more productive they are. A watched pot doesn’t boil, literally. Allowing employees to work from home is all about building trust. Employees should feel trusted to hold themselves accountable.
One of the big concerns is social isolation. The fear employees will become depressed, and struggle to communicate after losing the social interaction they had in the office. Hybrid offices can offer the option to return to the office. Remote companies can combat isolation by checking in and creating online events. Employees still can be social and present virtually.
Your company can schedule check-in phone calls, or a short face-to-face interaction, just to see how employees are doing. You can also host non-work events for online games or open chats for crafting and movie clubs. The outlet will be appreciated by employees that miss making friends in the office, but work better remotely.
Should You Go Remote?
Any company with workers that aren’t 100% required to be onsite should consider hybrid and completely remote options. It can improve productivity, and the work-life balance, lower housekeeping costs, and as a result reduce turnover in departments.
There are also benefits to in-office work like separating work and home with physical boundaries, which is integral for some employees. The best decision in the long run for productivity and employee satisfaction is to give employees a choice.
For further information on virtual collaboration and working remotely, see our article Should Telecommuting be Permanent? In need of more software options? There are dozens of vitrual collaboration software, all with pros and cons to consider. Below you will find a link to all of them that have customer reviews.
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