This week’s “National Telework Week” will remind many Australian businesses that the workplace is changing.
While it may be a topic that many would like to avoid, the emergence of mobile and cloud technologies is revolutionising the traditional office.
In fact, telework and virtual teams have been adopted by the Australian workforce rather quickly. In May 2006, the government’s best estimate of the telework rate was 6%. In October this year, new figures revealed a much higher rate. 51% of Australian employees now work from home. Of those, 49% work from home at least two days per week.
The pace of this change is incredible and signals a wakeup call. Increasingly, businesses will struggle to compete in a world where employees expect to be able to work from home. So, if you are thinking about a virtual team for your business, here are a few handy pointers to ensure that you frame your thinking correctly from the onset. These are the 5 biggest mistakes that businesses make with virtual teams.
1. Starting without a clear idea
This is generally a good business practice, but is essential in a virtual team. Clarity on this point is vital for conversations that support performance, which usually need to happen more openly and regularly in virtual teams.
2. Failing to trial
While it might seem like a big deal to trial virtual work arrangements, many businesses already have in place technology that can support virtual workers to be productive. A trial enables employees to discover how to tweak their use of communication technologies. For example, whether a daily video call would support a manager’s assessment of the quality of work being done. In a trial, both parties pay careful attention to what works and establish ground rules for the future.
3. Unrealistic expectations of technology tools
Phone and email is often sufficient to conduct many tasks productively. However, businesses need to think carefully before expecting virtual team members to conduct collaborative work using these technologies. In many situations it is still important for workers to be in the office for some of the time.
4. Failing to recognise the impact on managers
Managers truly are the beasts of burden when it comes to managing virtual teams. While employees are usually sold on the idea, but managers need to exhibit clear leadership and support by adopting a different style of management.
5. Thinking that virtual work arrangements are an ‘HR issue’
The reality is completely different to this assumption. In fact, virtual working successfully reduces costs and boosts productivity in the presence of strong leadership, significant adjustment by managers, ongoing support from IT, HR and Facilities functions and ongoing engagement by employees.
Virtual teams are an enabler, which significantly reduces costs and increases revenue and can help businesses move into the digital world. If a virtual work arrangement isn’t an option for your team, many skilled workers might leave through the front door.
This article was first published by MYOB.