Do you think an article on virtual or remote teams might not apply to your nonprofit or association just because you work out of the same office space?
The year is 2017 and, in one way or another, we are ALL already remote workers:
- When you take a day to work from home, you are a remote worker.
- When you sit in on a video call with colleagues or volunteers spread across multiple time zones, you are a remote worker.
- When you send an email from your phone while waiting in line at the DMV, you are a remote worker.
- When you call in for a meeting from the airport on the way to a client visit, you are a remote worker.
- When you work alternate hours or split your time at home and in the office to accommodate your child’s school schedule, you are a remote worker.
The truth is, whatever you call it in your organization – telecommuting, having a distributed workforce, offering flexible work arrangements – at least some of the work that you are doing is exactly the same kind of work done by 100% virtual teams.
The changing nature of work
In today’s world, it doesn’t matter so much where you do your work, as the quality and quantity of work getting done. In many industries, “punching the clock” is not only seen as an outdated way of measuring productivity, it could actually be detrimental to attracting and retaining the most talented workers.
There are reasons why all work is moving in a virtual direction. Starting with advances in technology, here are five major drivers for this massive transformation in work culture.
Technology has transformed modern work and made working from a distance easier and more seamless than ever.
The shift towards a more mobile and hyper-connected workforce has had a direct impact on the growth of remote workers. Last year, 43% of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report and some reports claim 50% of work will be remote by 2020.
Even in companies where the majority of their employees work on-site, a huge emphasis is put on software and platforms that make it easy to communicate from afar (including legacy systems like email and messenger platforms) – and this is a change that is being driven by employees themselves, not IT.
Says Samuel Greengard for CIO Insight, “The introduction of iPads and iPhones, social media, big data, and cloud computing have unleashed profound changes that far exceed the impact of each of these devices or systems alone. The combined impact of these technologies is redefining the way organizations and people interact.”
Long gone are the days where you couldn’t be reached when you left the office. Now, employees can keep the conversation going any number of ways.
Flexibility is a competitive advantage.
Flexibility is key when it comes to attracting the highest levels of talent. According to Gallup’s 2016 report, “flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job.”
Remote work was actually born in the 1990s when women were looking for flexible work solutions so they could earn a paycheck while continuing to grow and take care of their families. Now, skilled workers of both genders are seeking opportunities that promise a better work-life balance.
Millenials have become a major driver in the move towards fully remote businesses and teams.
The Millenial generation (18-34 years old) became the largest segment of the workforce in 2015, per the Pew Research Center. Not only are millennials characterized as being nomadic (changing jobs and locations often), they have a strong, almost intrinsic understanding of technology – making them especially drawn to virtual work environments.
As McKinsey puts it, “Younger workers are often particularly suited to work remotely, having grown up socializing and collaborating online. ‘They don’t want to work 9 to 5,’ says Bonny Simi, vice president of talent at JetBlue, ‘and it doesn’t matter to me if they work better from six at night until three in the morning or if they can do the work in six hours instead of eight.’”
Productivity and remote work are not mutually exclusive.
Just this year, Forbes.com published an article seeking to get to the bottom of the question of whether or not “remote workers [are] more productive than in-office workers.”
The results? “It’s safe to say that, according to studies, as long as the job is one that can be performed from home, most people are more productive when working from home.” Of course, it depends on the nature of the work being done – “the specific needs of the organization, the individual, and the circumstances.”
But generally speaking, remote work has been tied to jumps in worker productivity and employee satisfaction, thanks to quieter work environments, fewer distractions, a non-existent commute, and a natural inclination to work more hours from home.
A diverse, global perspective is good for business.
When you limit your work base to on-site employees only, you are putting a limit on your organization’s creativity, innovation, and growth, too. Geographical (as well as other types of) diversity is important for bringing new, different perspectives to your work, and one of the best ways to achieve it is to open your “doors” to remote employees.
Work smarter, from anywhere
It would behoove all organizations and employees to embrace this new remote work culture, even if your company doesn’t plan on ending their corporate office lease any time soon. For one thing, businesses have reported saving on average about $11,000 annually per remote employee (GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com via CIO.com).
And according to a Wall Street Journal report, businesses that allowed employees to work remotely at least three times a month saw increased revenue growth, compared with firms without such policies. But as we’ve just described in this article, the benefits of remote work go beyond the tangible dollar implications.
Once you’ve accepted this newfound way of working, ensure your CIO or operations managers are equipping the team with tools that make virtual collaboration and communication easy and secure. Provide workers with the same level of transparency and trust regardless of their location. With just a few simple but specific changes to your existing systems and processes, you can ready your association or nonprofit for the future of work.
What do you think? What programs have your organization put into place to enable staff to work virtually? Leave a message in the comments below!