Having a Virtual Workforce, the Two Sides of the Same Coin

If there’s one lesson the pandemic taught business owners this year, it’s that having a virtual workforce is doable across many industries and sectors. About 50 percent of surveyed companies in the United States and Canada think their employees are more productive when working from home and project this will continue in 2021, according to Talent Trends.

However, the research also indicates that another 43 percent of companies are not sure if they can adapt to a digitally enabled remote work entirely in the months ahead.

Having a Virtual Workforce, the Two Sides of the Same Coin

Some of the most successful corporations in the world are extending WFH into 2021, while there are others equally thriving that can hardly wait to get their people working together face-to-face again. In either case, there are many factors to consider before making a long-term complete transition to remote work.

We have compiled a list of pros and cons that can help any business determine whether having a virtual workforce is the right course of action for the new year to come. If you’re a service provider, use this information to help your customers find the best solution to their specific business situation.

The sunny side

While the choice to shift to virtual was not yours initially, you will eventually have to choose whether or not to keep your team remote. Let’s begin with the benefits of extending the shift to virtual workforce from short-term to long-term.

Less overhead costs

When you eliminate the need for office space, you save money on rent, utilities, cleaning services, furniture, and supplies. Six out of 10 employers point to lower costs as a major remote work benefit, according to Global Workplace Analytics. For example, IBM reduced its office real estate costs by $50 million since moving to a remote structure. 

While for SMBs the expense decrease won’t be this large, proportionally, it will have a big impact on the budget.

Geographic flexibility

When you are no longer depending on a location, you can recruit a diverse pool of talent from across the nation or even the world. What’s more, geographic flexibility can lead to a 4.4 percent increase in productivity.

At the same time, Harvard Business School researchers found that new hires will often agree to an 8 percent salary decrease if they do not have to relocate.

Employee satisfaction

Based on recent statistics from FlexJobs, remote workers tend to be 57 percent more satisfied in their careers than the average American. Also, 80 percent are less impacted by work-related stress.

According to the same study, three-fourths of employees also consider a remote work option to be the most effective non-financial strategy for retention. 

More potential to scale

If your business does not rely on a specific location, it can grow unrestricted without the need for a large office. Since a remote infrastructure removes physical barriers, the potential to scale your workforce is huge.

The muddy waters

Despite all the benefits, there are also drawbacks to maintaining an entirely virtual workforce. Here are some of the pitfalls to be aware of as you make a decision.

Sense of disconnection

Since the pandemic began, 51 percent of Americans who work from home feel less connected to their workplace culture. Given the profound changes in the way we work, it has become almost impossible for leaders to provide the same guidance to their employees.

Therefore, having a fully remote workforce also means rethinking, reshaping, and recreating the very nature of the organizational culture. And that is a monumental task!

Here are some strategies that can help you keep your organizational culture alive through this pandemic.

Security-related issues

The rapid shift to remote work was necessary at the height of COVID-19, but in the long run, it can pose security risks. With many workers using personal devices on unsecured networks, business data and login information are vulnerable to cyber attacks. In fact, over half of all employees lack the training to work securely from home.

According to The 2021 State of IT report from Spiceworks Ziff Davis, tech budgets will be focusing on updating outdated infrastructure and addressing rising cyber security concerns. Companies are aware of these security issues and they are ready to address them.

Time zone differences

If some members of your remote workforce are based on opposite sides of the country or even across the globe, communication can be quite a hassle.

According to a recent SHRM survey, 54 percent of dispersed teams have either frequent or occasional time zone issues. This is especially the case when it comes to team meeting schedules. And that can build on to already increased levels of stress and lack of sleep.

Unreliable technology

Innovation is only as powerful as the technology that drives it, so if remote workers do not have the right tools, that’s a problem. Based on a Nexthink poll, in this remote transition:

  • 38 percent of employees had issues with VPN access
  • 37 percent had an unstable WiFi connection
  • 35 percent had various technical glitches

Ultimately, all such problems affect productivity as it takes longer for people to perform their tasks.

Instead, take advantage of communication technologies in making virtual teams work. With Hubgets for example, you can empower team communication and collaboration regardless of employees’ location and used devices.

How to win the coin toss

As you consider how to organize your business structure in 2021, there are many variables to think about. Weigh both the pros and cons equally to determine the best option for your team. Looking at the long-term, all these drawbacks can be addressed with intentional investments in security, planning, and tools.

As a service provider, it’s your opportunity to empower your customers to tackle the challenges of a remote workforce. Help them flip the coin with the best possible outcome!

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