As our customers will know, the team at Unified recently moved into a new virtual office, and now all our team are used to (and loving) the experience. A recent article in the Telegraph, extolled the virtues of home working citing the following as reasons why companies should consider the move:
- Reduction in commuting time
- More productivity - fewer sick days, improved employee retention, increased talent pool (hire the best people irrespective of where they live),
- More time to go to appointments and,
- Less money spent on office space
These all ring true to us, and even after just a few weeks, we are already seeing the benefits.
What I think is interesting though, is the way that working physically remotely from one another, encourages (demands), better use of systems and processes that may have already been in place, but were underused. A simple example is the exchange of information; be that about a support issue, a leave request or a potential sales opportunity. When everyone works together, they tend to rely on less structured ways of sharing information. A chat “around the water cooler” can cover several topics and not lead to a clear set of actions with clear ownership.
That same informality can be achieved using the many forms of instant messaging / VOIP at our disposal (we have four different ways of “being together for a chat” right now). However, such gatherings now have a definite start time, and a definite conclusion. They take seconds to convene and can even be recorded for those not present.
The same is true of processes.
Ad hoc and unpredictable requirements that make team working necessary, must be recorded, or the right people won’t see that they are needed. Recording tasks, with a due date and specific assignment ensures someone owns it, and everyone else can see it. This fosters openness and traceability; if everything is captured, then everyone can help contribute to making it happen.
We have a very strong team at Unified, who have worked together for many years. This has undoubtedly helped make the transition to a virtual team easier, as there are strong relationships place. However, we are finding that we are talking together more now as a team than ever before. Weekly meetings have been replaced by (much) shorter daily gatherings, where the focus is on today’s planning and our short to medium term objectives. Ad hoc, one to one communication, is much more efficient and focused. This has something to do with the fact that both parties are prewarned and prepared to have the conversation and give their total attention, and partly due to the private nature of those conversations and the quality of information that is being imparted.
Clear objective setting makes for simple accountability, and again with such a strong team, the trust that people will deliver was already there. We’ve been lucky in each other’s willingness to embark on this transition with homes capable of creating office spaces, and in the infrastructure of cloud-based solutions that our Technical Director has put in place. It has taken some serious reviews of the way we work to make it all happen, but I think this is a big (but often hidden) benefit of moving to virtual office working.
The really great thing is that we're able to pass on these efficiencies to our customers ensuring projects are on task saving valuable time and money.
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