Our second writing in regards to Virtual Workplaces will include the potential challenges faced in managing and sustaining a virtual workplace. So provided all the benefits of a virtual workplace and its efficiency in cutting down cost and internationalizing the company (which we will tackle in an upcoming article), yet many drawbacks and challenges are faced as well, which include:
Managing and Monitoring Employees
In traditional physical workplaces, monitoring your employeesâ€™ attendance and performance can be a relatively easy task, as you can always come to the desk of the employee and check out what he is doing, or discuss with him in a short meeting a prompt issue that just took place. Meanwhile from a virtual workplace perspective this becomes harder as monitoring attendance gets harder, especially with a large employee count (no punch-in, punch-out systems) and even though you can check out his online presence via Instant Messaging tools, but you cannot guarantee exactly what he is doing at this time or pass by his desk. This drives the company to work harder on more trustworthy employees and who have been properly trained, and with a proven record of loyalty to work, and who can be trusted to work virtually. The employment of some modern tools have been made available which allows monitoring of your employeeâ€™s screen during his work time, yet this also opens up the concept of privacy and whether you should be peaking at your employeeâ€™s screen all the time.
Proper Communication Means
When setting up a virtual workplace, you will need to setup the right tools to provide your effective communication among the team. Instant Messaging platforms for direct instant communication, your company-based email, online phone and video conferencing tools allowing virtual meetings. And still with all of that you might be missing on some of the benefits of the physical office such as in-person presence for key meetings, as body language can be very effective in such meetings and virtual meetings cannot opt-in for the personal presence, yet this can be evaded through the use of video conferences where you will need proper bandwidth to accommodate, and finally you might also have monthly or quarterly in-person meetings as required in your environment.
Social Isolation Challenge
Under the same hood of communication, the employee might enjoy the concept of working from home, online, but we are social creatures, and we need face to face interaction and to avoid looking at a screen 18 hours a day â€“ where the employee is more likely to feel bored and stressed. At a physical workplace, the employee might jump out for a 5 minute coffee break with his colleague and talk out the stress-inducing factors at his current task. Overcoming this might be through the use of other short breaks which can be taken via social media, where employees can interact with friends via social media and enjoy some social chit-chat aside from work.
Promoting Team Work
When employees are working virtually, they have a tendency to work isolated each on his own task and might forget proper collaboration. It is important in a virtual workplace to ensure employees are well organized, are properly sharing their progress with their team, planning what their current tasks are and ensuring no two employees are working on the same task so as to prevent repetitive work. Several online tools now allow team collaboration and project management (such as dotProject and many others) and can follow up on each employeeâ€™s tasks, time spent, and progress on the project.
Virtual sharing of knowledge can be another challenge for virtual workplace, as you need to first ensure your data is secure, and your information is stored in the right place that only your employees can access. Many online solutions have been crafted for such purpose such as cloud based solutions (Egnyte is one solution for example), and you can also use solutions hosted your own servers with restricted access to your employees, you just need to make sure your employees are willing to make effective use of these solutions and are willing to update them frequently.
Separating Life From Work
When employees are working virtually, the likelihood to keep working beyond normal working hours multiplies. As the workplace is the same as home, stepping away from desk means simply moving across the room, and this tempts the employee to stay working longer as he is at the comfort of his home. As this might be good from the perspective of an employer, yet on a long term this might be more stressful on the employee and lead to negative effects.
So above are our view in regards to the challenges, what do you think?