Imagine if your commute to the office was rolling out of bed, over to the coffee maker, then onto your couch.
No spending 45 minutes to get to your office 5 miles away. No more fighting through traffic. No more daily, near-death highway experiences. Just working virtually from the comfort of your home.
These days, with the pandemic throwing the world for a loop, a large section of the global economy has moved towards this style of work — virtual work — whenever possible.
And it sounds nice in theory, but there are plenty of challenges to deal with when working in such a decentralized fashion.
This article offers you a complete guide to virtual work.
You’ll learn more about virtual work and its benefits, check out some mind-blowing stats about the state of remote work and its economic impact, and discover how to build a killer remote team. Plus, we’ll send you off with some tools you need to make this work style a reality.
What is virtual work?
Virtual work — also called remote work, working from home, telecommuting, and teleworking — is a style of work that lets team members do their job from anywhere.
In many cases, remote employees work from a home office. Coffee shops and coworking spaces are also common virtual work hotspots. Some people manage to make the beach work, although sand and water are always worries.
To perform remote work, teammates need a laptop or desktop computer and an Internet connection at the bare minimum. They can do some tasks on their phone as well, such as answering emails and joining virtual meetings.
Remote work was slowly gaining steam during the 2010s. By 2019, around half of all global employees were working outside their office at least 2.5 days a week, according to the International Workplace Group.
Then, the pandemic came along and accelerated the virtual work trend. Many companies were forced to transition to remote work to keep employees safe.
Eventually, various sectors of the economy began reopening, allowing employees back into the office as long as safety protocols were followed.
That said, some companies stayed fully or partially remote — even those that could bring their people back into the office.
Virtual work: some up-to-date stats
Take a look at these stats to better understand the state of remote work:
- At least 56% of companies around the world allow remote work.
- 55% of remote workers are individual contributors — consultants, managers, and other higher-level positions all make up the other 45%.
- The average commute is about 27 minutes, meaning the average employee can save about 4.5 hours a week working remotely full-time.
- 80% of full-time workers want to work from home at least 3 days a week after the pandemic is over.
- Employees save an average of $500 per month by working from home.
- According to estimates by Global Workplace Analytics, employers can save $11,000 per year on average for each half-time telecommuter on staff.
There are thousands more stats, but these few show the direction of the trend and help illustrate how virtual work can be beneficial to employers and employees alike.
Let’s take a deeper look into some of the benefits of working remotely.
Virtual work’s benefits
Employers might worry about virtual work for a number of reasons, from employees slacking to not having the infrastructure in place to support a remote team.
However, employers and employees alike reap plenty of benefits when working remotely. Here are 5 of the big ones:
Increased employee productivity
A study found that 41% of employees feel less productive when they are stressed.Remote employees no longer have to deal with commuting stress, which means they’ll be more productive at work.
On top of that, employees also get back commuting time — 4.5 hours a week on average — they can use for other personal tasks to decrease stress further.
Circumstances employees may face while commuting to the office poses a risk to company productivity, too. Employees can get stuck in traffic jams, get into accidents, or face inclement weather (or all 3).
Virtual work cuts out these risks, which again, boosts employee productivity.
It’s also worth noting that remote employees can choose where they work best — whether that’s a noisy coffee shop, a collaborative coworking space, or the utter silence of a home office.
Improved employee retention
Good employees are expensive to hire, so maintaining your talent is vital to success.
Offering your employees the option to work remotely can make them stick around your company because, as shown in stats mentioned earlier, most employees prefer having a work-from-home option.
So on the flipside, not offering this option might make your best employees jump ship for a company that does.
Additionally, the stress reduction and time savings employees experience working from home leaves employees feeling happier with their job — and less likely to leave.
Expanded talent pool
Offering remote work lets you recruit employees from anywhere in the world. That way, you can hire the best people, even if they live in another country.
No need to lose out on excellent employees because neither of you is willing or able to cover relocation.
Businesses can cut costs by allowing virtual work. Here are some areas your company can save money.
- Office space: fewer in-office employees means you need less space.
- Supplies: lower supplies expenses for the same reason as lower office space costs.
- Cleaning services: you have fewer employees dirtying the place, so you won’t need cleaning services as often.
- Catered lunches: remote companies don’t have any in-person event to cater. You might still host some anyways, but remote employees are less likely to show up.
- Relocation assistance: if an employee can work from across the country or world, you don’t need to offer relocation assistance to be competitive with other firms.
Employees save money, too.
- Car: employee vehicles see less use, saving employees money on gas, repairs, and maintenance.
- Food: employees have less opportunity or desire to leave home for coffee. They can also cook at home, reducing the need for going out for lunch.
- Transit costs: no tolls, bus passes, or parking fees to worry about.
When employees have more money in the bank, they’re generally happier and less stressed.
How to build a killer virtual team
As you can see, allowing virtual work brings plenty of benefits to your organization.
But you’ll only see these advantages if you know how to build a killer remote team. Follow these steps to create your dream team.
Determine your virtual work structure
Decide how you want to do virtual work. You have a few options.
- Fully remote company — also called a distributed team
- Remote work available for everyone, but not required
- Certain teams or individuals can work remotely
Depending on your company’s industry and culture, you may not want to forsake office work completely. For example, most tech companies and some marketing agencies can be 100% fully remote, due to the nature of their work.
On the other hand, some jobs — particularly those that involve working with your hands — may not be able to work remotely.
Make managing all this easier on yourself with some software that lets you track who’s remote and who’s not. This monday.com employee information template is a good place to start:
Set and enforce clear expectations
We’re all adults here, we know we can’t slack off at work all day. Still, if you provide employees the opportunity to be unproductive, there’s a good chance some will take it.
Set and enforce virtual work guidelines, such as
- Work start and end times
- Check-in procedures and protocols
- Communication procedures and protocols
- Time tracking protocols
- Important points of contact
- Any changes to your current in-office workflows
Be mindful when hiring
Once again, remote work involves a lot of trust. Hiring only the most skilled, reliable, and focused employees for your virtual workforce is the key to succeeding when you can’t supervise your team
Pay extra attention to a few traits in each candidate that suggest strong potential for a good remote worker. Some of these include:
- Job skills and experience
- Communication skills
- Tech skills
- Time management
Track all your candidates closely so you know who your top contenders are. Software like monday.com helps — just look at this Job Recruitment template:
One last thing to keep in mind: virtual work-specific benefits. Offer your employees a stipend for home office spending to help them with the equipment costs. You can reallocate your savings from going remote towards this and make your employees that much happier with your company.
How to keep your employees engaged and communicating
Without the regular office water cooler talk, it’s easy for employees to lose connection to their team and their employer.
So it’s vital to keep your employees engaged and in regular communicating with each other and the company. Here are some ways to do that.
Virtualize your meetings
Thanks to video conferencing technology, you don’t have to meet in the same room. Just hold your regular meetings, but over the Internet.
You can easily track and share meeting notes from afar with something like monday.com’s Meeting Notes template.
Just jot any notes down while in the meeting if necessary, then plug them into that template to keep track.
Schedule regular check-ins
Have regular check-ins with employees, too. Check on each employee’s progress on their work to stay updated. It’ll keep them both engaged and accountable.
Keep it casual
Things don’t have to be all business. To recapture the small talk, consider hosting virtual “happy hours” after work or “coffee breaks” during that day that employees can attend if they choose.
This is especially important if only part of your organization works remotely. They can easily feel disconnected from the rest of the organization if you aren’t careful.
Create separate channels for each type of communication
Working remotely requires more organization out of you and your team. Using different channels for each type of communication makes it easy for you and your team to know where to go for certain types of information.
For example, you might integrate monday.com with Slack for quick conversations that don’t need a video call.
Then, use your video conferencing software for more formal communications and meetings.
Make sure teammates take time off
The lines between work and life blur when you work where you live. Employees may find themselves working on projects or checking emails well into the night since there’s no defined commute that signals the end of the day.
As you might guess, this can lead to burnout. Your best talent will perform worse and even leave the organization.
Make sure your employees are working only during work hours — except for certain occasions if necessary — and taking adequate time off. Make it clear you want employees to follow your designated start and end times.
Employees will feel less guilty about “putting away” all work-related stuff after hours if they hear it from you.
Ask employees for feedback
Want to know how to make your employees feel more involved? Get their input on everything. That could include work-related matters like new product or feature ideas, or casual things like fun team-building activities.
Employees feel their workplace has a strong, winning culture when its leadership listens to feedback, so your team will feel more engaged with the organization.
What tools are necessary for the demands of remote work?
A killer team is the foundation for a successful remote or partially-remote company, but you also need to equip them with the right tools.
Project management software
Project management software offers a central location for everything regarding tasks and projects.
A project management application makes it easy for you and your remote workforce to prioritize tasks and projects, track progress, allocate resources, and more.
Project management is the bread and butter of Work OS platforms like monday.com. You can build your board from the ground up, or, if you’re overwhelmed by monday.com’s flexibility, you can jump start work with this Project Management Plan template:
Video conferencing software
Video conferencing software is necessary for hosting meetings and casual, team-building events.
That’s why monday.com integrates with popular video conferencing applications like Zoom.
Communication and collaboration tools
Aside from video meetings, your team must be able to communicate with each other throughout the day — not to mention share work and collaborate on projects.
A Work OS platform like monday.com comes chock-full of ways for teammates to talk to each other. For example, monday.com lets you leave notes, reminders, and updates about projects and tasks for others to read.
Virtual work brings about new menial tasks, like sending meeting notifications. Automating these away reduces distractions and keeps you and your team focused on the most important work.
Platforms like monday.com let you automate many small parts of your workflow.
You can build your automations from the ground up, or you can select from various monday.com automation recipes. Set up these automations, and your whole team will be more productive.
Many remote companies implement time tracking software into their workflows to keep employees on-task. Oh, and to make sure they aren’t overworked, too.
Your company can also use time tracking software to manage time and resources. If something is taking unusually long, you can investigate why and allocate resources as needed.
Time tracking fits naturally in with the other stuff a Work OS like monday.com offers.
Just add time tracking to your board and you can monitor time spent alongside everything else.
The future of work is virtual
The pandemic has forced many to adopt the work-from-home lifestyle. That said, businesses and employees alike have seen plenty of benefits come from virtual work, from cost savings to productivity. Many plan on keeping things at least partially remote indefinitely.
The 2 keys to making virtual work, well, work are building a killer remote team and using the right tools.
On the latter point, monday.com — being a Work OS — covers most of the bases, and has integrations aplenty for the rest. Sign up for monday.com today and see why it’s the best platform for your remote team.