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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way people work, interact and communicate with each other over these past six months. The “new normal” consists of working from home and trying to maintain a healthy- work life balance as we continue to fight and endure against a public health crisis. At the beginning of this pandemic, stay at home orders designated a new experiment on remote work and how it would impact productivity and the company’s capability to stay were thought be temporary but after six months have continued, it seems like this will be a long-term strategy. This article will address how small businesses can adapt to be successful while continuing with remote work… indefinitely.
It is essential for business leaders, managers, and employees to work together to build a new virtual business model for the long run as this pandemic continues to play a major role in developing the new normal that has not transformed how we interact socially but how we continue to work. There are three things that businesses need to focus on in order to be successful in the long run: establishing and maintaining a virtual office or a remote work environment where everyone will have access to and be able to communicate both short-term and long-term goals, maintaining high levels of communication through video conferencing and other applications, and adapting to formulate and adjust to new unforeseen challenges. These three areas feed into the new work-life balance or work-from-home life balance that everyone is susceptible to and will help avoid burnout. These areas will help ease the transition into long-term work from home goals.
Building and Maintaining the Virtual Office
The invention of email alongside the advent of the internet changed how the work force communicated with each other. Instant rates of sending and receiving information in moments, changed how business was conducted. Eventually, it expanded into social media tools, digital marketing, and telecommunication tools. This pandemic has marked a new development in how we work and requires more than email. It requires a virtual office. There are many models to building a remote work environment to fit one’s needs. To a degree, there is no need for a one size fits all policy as virtual office applications provide and cover for different styles.
The virtual office has three main tasks: provide information, create a secure space to communicate with each other (outside of teleconferencing), and an organizational space. Building and organizing the office can be difficult at the beginning depending on the size and scale of the company and how the company is organized. It is most important to note that the most effective virtual spaces are ones that are constantly being used and organized that can facilitate to everyone’s work style. For small businesses and business owners, they have an idea of how their employees tend to work, organize their tasks and thoughts, and habits and can use that knowledge to create virtual spaces for people to be more efficient.
Fortunately, software and tools provide that much needed spaces. The most common and useful applications are Discord, Slack, Asana, or other communication applications. Depending on your needs, the size of the remote team(s), and the frequency of interactions, these applications can provide the needed organizational skills. For example, in Slack and Discord, you can create and designate rooms for various remote teams and establish boundaries by giving employees and managers access to certain groups that will allow them to work together. That feature and multiple job boards, calendars, and other features will give each member an opportunity to find their own style and to help communicate with one another.
Staff members might be feeling more productive while focusing on their work alone without any distractions, while others need that structural system. That is the same way with how people communicate with each other. The benefit of having a virtual office is that it provides experiments with these tools and tasks. The virtual office will continue to have to present short term and long-term goals for remote workers that are discernible whether that is through a mass email, a posting on one of the message boards, etc.
Utilizing Telecommunications Tools For Success:
Building a remote office environment is important. Keeping remote workers communicating is another easy challenge to overcome. The pandemic has brought special attention to new teleconferencing applications like Zoom and Google hangouts. These platforms are great for conference or team meetings. Google hangouts are easy to use with a gmail account and great for teams to collaborate and go over the next goals for the future. The most important thing to plan and to evaluate is what purpose are these applications going to be used, how often or frequent will these programs be used, and how much money should you spend on it? I think these questions directly link to how business leaders communicate with their employees and managers.
Telecommunication tools feed into the success of the virtual office. In addition to communication tools designed for videoconferencing, communication tools are essential to informing remote employees. Telecommunications, business tools, and teleworking have been a major part of keeping the business and employees focused and organized to focus on day to day operations and goals. Communication applications like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and many others are great for employees and teams to communicate with each with ease. These applications have become part of everyday life. They will continue to be useful substitutions for in person meetings and discussions for the time being.
Pandemic-Related and New Challenges: Bringing on New Hires and Human Resources
The largest challenge is going to be continuing to develop new strategies for human resources. Human resources have adapted to holding virtual interviews, but what about new employees that get hired on? New hires require face to face interactions in order to understand how the company functions and the culture involved. The main method of understanding the culture and how things are done were in person with face to face interactions through office events, happy hours, and through team projects in the home office. Managers can provide follow-ups and check-ins with both their new hires and getting them integrated into a new system. In the short term, it will be an initial challenge that will get easier over time as new employees get used to the system and interacting with members of the company.
Human resources have a similar challenge. The onboarding hiring process has eliminated face to face meetings and identifying top talent with potential new employees. Nevertheless, virtual interviews and video conferencing has eased the burden a little bit. However, there have to be some guidelines and instructions that HR managers should put out for applicants, especially during the interview process and to prepare for potential problems from a poor Wi-Fi connection to making sure the video conference application is working properly.
The last unforeseen challenge will be adapting to day to day challenges and keeping both employees and managers informed. It will require strong organization skills and members to stay up to date on what is going on in the company. Simply, maintaining the virtual office space with groups and using videoconferencing applications will help alleviate new unforeseen issues.
The initial hope for all businesses was planning work from home orders and teleworking to be a short-term ordeal. Until a vaccine is created to combat coronavirus, work from home will continue to be a part of the new normal and how we interact with each other. Businesses have been able to adjust as with short-term work from home strategies and will continue to adapt during this pandemic according to their needs. Those needs will focus on how to organize and pass along information and restate goals for the business as well as access to telecommunication applications that keep remote workers connected and on task. Businesses have been successful in creating new road maps and new business models to adapt to the pandemic already but will need to continue to push further in the long run and to adapt to some tasks and activities that might not be achievable until resuming office work. At the end of the day, the great work from home experience has been a learning experiment for business leaders, employees, and managers
The bottom line is that it is important to stay consistent in maintaining the virtual office and teleconferencing or communication applications as it will help maintain cohesion and maintaining high employee morale. Like the home office, the virtual office will continue to be the main tool for communicating new updates, tasks, and events to employees and managers. Business leaders have to understand that staying consistent and up to date on these tools will help alleviate any issues. Maintaining a platform to communicate goals, designate remote work teams to certain projects, and other collaboration tools will play a major part in the company’s extension to remote work and reflect how it will be able to achieve the company’s long term goals that fits everybody’s work-life balance.
Nevertheless, these tips and ideas may not necessarily be a permanent as companies like Twitter or Facebook have announced. Every company is different and has different needs in order to achieve their goals. Most importantly, a virtual office is not the substitution for face-to-face communication and a physical office. The physical office, whether it is your home office that you have built in the last couple months or the company’s location, we are social creatures that require face to face communication. In the meantime, it will have to be a bit more socially distanced until new developments with a vaccine or new strategies in creating a physical socially distanced work environment that is safe for everyone.