How to Create a Virtual Team: Our Remote Workforce Checklist

How to Create a Virtual Team: Our Remote Workforce Checklist

Yesterday You Didn’t Have a Remote Organization. Today You Do. What do you do now?

To attract more Millennials and remain competitive in the labor market, many organizations have been adopting telecommuting policies. For those who have yet to move in this direction, the speed with which they adopt telework policies has been under their control. All that changed with the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Yesterday, businesses that didn’t have telework policies might have suffered a competitive disadvantage. Today, this risk has been amplified by the COVID-19 virus–where not having a remote work environment could be the difference between life and death. To address this new threat, organizations are now faced with setting up remote workplaces, seemingly overnight. 

As of October 2019, more than 26 million Americans—about 16% of the total workforce—worked remotely at least part of the time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Virtual teams have skyrocketed, growing 129% in the last twelve years alone.

Remote work arrangements offer benefits to both employers and employees. Employers can hire the best talent—no matter where they are located geographically—and can reduce overhead expenses. Employees gain flexibility, save commute time, and reduce transportation and some child-care costs. A study conducted by FlexJobs and Global Workforce Analytics also found that virtual team arrangements reduce stress, enhance job satisfaction and increase productivity.

Outside of these benefits adn the current crisis, the biggest driver behind the growth in telecommuting is the rise of Millennials in the workforce. At 50 million strong, Millennials cannot be ignored. 85% of them desire a full time remote work environment because their culture is all about being connected and maintaining independence. “Millennials are simply happier working at home, a coffee shop, co-work space, library, or anywhere else not cube shaped.”

Remote Work Growth Chart

Set Up a Virtual Work Environment Quickly and Effectively

As a remote-first organization, StatusCast knows what it takes to setup remote workers and ensure their productivity. And, we appreciate how challenging it is for organizations who have to flip a switch and become a virtual office overnight. To make this transition easier and more successful , we’ve leveraged our experience to compile our top 5 recommendations:

StatusCast Remote Workforce Checklist

1. Configure Virtual Team Workplace

The first step in going remote is to determine the hardware configuration and collaboration tools you will use in your virtual workplace. Items to consider include:

  • Home router upgrades to ensure employees aren’t sharing the net with the kids and the neighbors
  • Wifi and/or VPN setup
  • Laptop requirements (Are you going to setup employee’s personal devices?)
  • Home office recommendations (ABCNews shares key considerations)
  • Reimbursement policies (Will you provide employees reimbursements for expenses?)
  • Webcam requirements (Video is important if you have never had a virtual team before. It helps maintain a human element in your communications.)
  • Collaboration tools you need to add to your software arsenal (Tools like Google docs, #slack, Google hangouts and other such tools help ensure team continuity.)

Once you’ve nailed down your remote work environment, it’s now time for your IT team to get to work bringing your configuration plans to life.

2. Communicate Your Game Plan

Once you have the money technical pieces in place, it’s now time to craft your initial communication to your team. This isn’t meant to be training, but rather, an initial communication to allay fears, demonstrate you have a handle on the situation and to set expectations as to what is to come. Items that should be included in this initial communication include:

  • High level overview of all aspects of the Virtual Office roll out
  • Checklist of what employees can do to prepare (Office setup, home router upgrades, etc.)
  • Roll-out Schedule (When employees can expect more information and to be up and running.)
  • Logistical Plan (How employees will pick up equipment, etc.)

When you craft your message, it is important to ensure you convey confidence in your approach. While issues will crop up as you move forward, now it is critical to communicate that no matter what comes in the future, everything will be ok. Uncertainty breeds more uncertainty, so it is most important to demonstrate that you’ve “got this.”

3.  Provide Training + Support

Once you’ve shared your plan with your employees, it is time to get them up and running. This is where your IT team really takes center stage. It’s important to include the following items at this stage of your roll out:

  • Initial tech support to get employees setup (Ensure your support team has virtual desktop sharing tools at their disposal.)
  • Training on new collaboration and other tools
  • On-going tech support as issues arise (Make sure it is easy for employees to get help when they need it, especially in the beginning when they are working to get everything setup and to learn new tools.)
  • Establish accountability buddies as needed (To help junior-level or other employees – who may not transition well to remote work – on track.)

Once you’ve got your employees setup and trained, you can focus not only on using the new virtual environment to conduct work tasks, but also to bring some of your office “spirit” to life.

4. Create Virtual Culture

Image of a virtual high five for remote organizations

The one element that doesn’t translate well to a virtual work environment is recreating your company culture. Birthday celebrations, high-fives for deals won and other interpersonal activities aren’t easily translated to the computer screen.  

This is where how you use the collaboration tools you have selected becomes key. Setup a space within your tools to allow employees to share virtually what they would be sharing in-person. As FastCompany puts it, “You must create a virtual water cooler where employees can run into each other and play out their personal and human sides.” Key considerations include:
  • Decide how your culture should play out and which tool is the best fit (#slack is a great tool for setting up channels for this purpose.)
  • Make sure every level of the organization participates (It is critical that everyone from the CEO to the most junior employee participates.)
  • Setup contests to get participation going

Once you have your virtual culture underway, it’s now time to focus on the most important ingredient no matter where you are in the virtualization process—communication!

5. Communicate Continuously

With your virtual team up and running, please don’t consider your work done. To ensure success moving forward, you have to communicate and communicate often. As Forbes puts it, “…human beings have a tendency to assume (or even manufacture) outcomes when they don’t have all the information available.” Having your employees dream up what’s going on and sharing it via virtual gossip is not what you want. To protect against this, consider the following:
  • Make sure announcements are timely (Waiting too long to share information causes unnecessary speculation.)
  • Ensure all employees have access to your communications
  • Provide regular updates (Don’t send a bunch of communications in the beginning and then stall your efforts – keep sharing information on a regular basis.)
  • Engage your audience (Communications don’t have to be one-way – find ways for your virtual team to interact.)
Setting up a virtual office environment is no easy task. This setup is even more challenging when it has to be completed in a few days. At StatusCast, we’ve been 100% virtual from day one and have learned the hard way what does and does not work. We’ve incorporated our real world experience into our Remote Workforce Checklist to get you setup quickly and effectively.
StatusCast offers virtual and traditional organizations the ability to communicate effectively with employees and customers. Our Status Page communicates the status of IT systems, networks and applications to ensure employees and customers are up-to-date on the state of business systems. StatusCast’s Status Page provides this unified communication while also:
  • Dramatically reducing IT support costs
  • Increasing employee productivity
  • Providing communications updates on any device and platform
  • Allowing messages to be segregated by audience

A Status Page from StatusCast can help your organization communicate effectively throughout your virtual office transition and on an on-going basis once you have everything up and running. Want to learn more? Get your free trial now.

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