Let’s take a minute to envision your office in the future.
Gone are the giant file cabinets jammed with papers that are impossible to manage. You’ve made the leap into digitizing your office and your workflow by scanning all of the paper and getting a document management solution in place. And guess what? Everything is running super-smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that you begin to realize that you can cut costs in other ways. Like, maybe, cutting the office out of the equation.
Digitized workflows sometimes make it prudent to adopt an entirely virtual workspace. This is something that’s standard practice for high-performing offices all over the world right now—from graphic design studios to software developers, from non-profits to sales offices. But before you start reselling your employees’ old cubes, take a look at these three steps toward keeping tabs on work, even when it’s not going on right outside your office door.
1. Keep On Talking
In a workplace, communication is like breathing—you’ve got to keep doing it. When it’s possible, schedule phone or skype calls with employees or direct reports, and especially for new hires. Email and instant messaging are great ways to keep the ball moving with business, but you’ve got to talk to your people if you expect to be able to keep their loyalty and attention.
2. Get Involved in the Workflow
When the people working under you learn to trust your judgment and level of engagement, and see that you’re interested in their work, they’ll be more likely to come to you with their questions and problems. Show that you’ve still got a pulse! Get on Facetime, skype, or a google hangout to talk through problems. Demonstrate the personality in your work.
Remove yourself entirely at your own risk! Disconnected behavior almost always fosters some type or floundering, mission creep, or quality issue.
If your virtual workplace suffers because you don’t know how to get involved, then it’s your own fault.
3. Staying Accountable
The greatest perceived obstacle for a virtual workplace is accountability. I say ‘perceived’ because the only people who really think that way are fossils and control freaks. You don’t need to have people down the hall to have a good working relationship, but it certainly helps to have some tools involved to keep everyone accountable.
Some people may advise you toward an inelegant route, like having a shared Google spreadsheet where people track their progress. Spreadsheets aren’t made for project tracking! It’s a really awful route when there are so many other great tools that you can use to supplement your workspace. Check out getapp.com and bestvendor.com to look over a whole range of tools that can help you keep your workplace together.
The basics that most virtual offices in transit feel they need are some kind of project management software and a time management or tracking tool. Give more consideration to finding tools that can help the business as a whole run more efficiently, and let the sexy-looking ones that won’t do you much good truly slide. For example, do you really need a time tracker? Unless you have hourly employees or a strong per-hour metric, you might just scrap that one.
There a tons of great apps out there that you can use affordably or on a freemium basis, so don’t be shy in finding the one that will work just right for you.
Are you already working in a virtual workspace? Have questions about what it’s like? Leave your questions and comments below!
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