In the past, offices were limited to traditional offices and cubicles. Managers and supervisors could easily check if their employees were working or chatting idly on the office phone. Meanwhile, employees could easily discuss their concerns with their superiors or work together with their colleagues on a common presentation. Communication was easier because everyone saw each other every day.
Now, the workplace is more dynamic and sophisticated because of globalization. The Internet has revolutionized business entities, paving the way for the creation of virtual offices. Virtual offices allow organizations from different parts of the world to conduct business meetings. As a result, some employees do not have to show up in the office to get work done. They can perform their duties in the comforts of their own home. This new set-up poses challenges for superiors who never see some of their employees in person.
One issue telecommuters face when working in a virtual office is the perceived lack of training and support needed to succeed in the job. Managers need to clarify the expectations of the job at the start of the work term. They also need to set aside time to give constructive feedback to their employees. They can use email, instant messaging, or video conference to communicate with their remote staff members about their responsibilities.
Supervisors need to adopt a flexible management style to handle remote workers properly. This is done by establishing trust and setting performance-based goals to ensure that employees meet work-related goals. Results are assessed based on work input, not on the number of hours employees log online. Otherwise, supervisors will feel paranoid that their employees are not working just because they are offline.
To make the virtual office work, an organized work flow must be set up to minimize confusion. Managers must set rules that employees need to follow, just like how they implement rules in a traditional office setting. They need to set specific deadlines for tasks and assign them to the right staffers. They must also talk to their employees daily and ask them to submit a weekly progress report to ensure the completion of tasks according to their deadlines.
The most common virtual office tools include the following: presentation sharing, virtual whiteboards, audio and video conferencing, and instant messaging. When those tools are used well, colleagues across the nation or globe can speak to one another as if they are in an actual physical office. The trouble begins when these tools don’t work as expected.
If a chat session disconnects several times within an hour, communication among remote workers is disrupted. A whiteboard that freezes in the middle of a meeting means the employee cannot understand the speaker’s main points. Telecommuters have also reported problems with inactive remote log-ins that cause them to miss important meetings. Companies need to be diligent in checking whether their virtual tools work or not to minimize disruption of important virtual meetings.
Virtual offices have many benefits that go beyond saving on rent, reducing overhead expenses, and increasing work flexibility. As long as superiors implement creative solutions to common problems and train responsible telecommuters, companies can manage remote work forces and boost productivity.