Sweat the details: This classic B-quadrant activity can go a long way towards alleviating the concerns some employees might have about the transition. Systemation set everyone up with a phone, computer, printer and allowance for office furniture. In addition to a main office number with a directory, employee lines can be forwarded to employees’ cell phones so they can be reached wherever they set up shop for the day.
Take advantage of technology to keep people connected: There are so many tools available to help virtual employees stay connected. At Systemation, Slack is the virtual water cooler of choice, and everyone is required to post something at least once every day. Whether it’s a salesperson recapping a great call or someone simply posting what they’ve got on deck for the day, this keeps people engaged and tapped into what’s going on throughout the organization.
Prepare managers for the shift: If managers are used to managing people by stopping in to check with them throughout the day, they’re going to need to develop new management and engagement strategies. New processes, workflows and communication systems may be necessary for managing the work productively, and a mindset shift may be required to build trust and confidence in managing people from a distance.
Recognize that change affects everyone differently: Unlike a company that has always operated virtually, Ben reminded me that many of my team members weren’t hired into a virtual environment; they were hired to work in an office. Some will love the new setup, but others will miss the day-to-day interaction and the hum and background noise of a busy office. It’s up to us to take proactive steps to ensure everyone feels comfortable with the change.
Don’t assume one work style fits all: Employees should be encouraged to find the right conditions and set up boundaries so that they can be most productive and efficient. For some, this may mean getting up, showering and getting dressed before ever stepping foot in the office. Others may wake up energized to plow through a project right away.
Stay focused on results: Systemation has always been a progressive company in terms of flexible work hours. No one’s scrutinizing your hours or micromanaging your every move; results are what matters. And still, he admits he struggled initially with the meshing of work/life/personal that happens when a company goes completely virtual.