In the face of rising costs, it is only natural that organizations are increasingly turning to virtual communication and telecommuting – but getting it right is critical to the continued success of your ministry.
While in our last post we alluded to the cost savings your organization can realize through virtual teams, here we will take a deeper dive into those numbers. The simple fact is, shifting to virtual teams can result in impressive cost savings:
- Real estate
- Time management
- Reduced absenteeism
- Improved productivity
A 10-month study conducted by Stanford University found that organizations can save as much as $2,000 per employee per year by working from home. Further, remote employees were often better rested and happier, and worked longer hours than their in-office counterparts.
Employers can save over $10,000 per year for each two-day-a-week telecommuter. The primary financial benefits for employers come from increased productivity, reduced real estate costs and lower absenteeism and turnover:
- Fewer interruptions: home-based workers are not distracted by non-work-related chatter, long lunches, coffee breaks, etc.
- Time management: 75% of virtual employees said their ability to meet deadlines improved
- Longer hours: Telecommuters typically add 60% of the time they would have spent travelling to their regular work hours.
- Real estate: Telework programs reduce the costs of owning/leasing offices, electricity, parking, furniture, cleaning/maintenance, etc.
- Absenteeism: Working virtually is one of the most effective means of reducing absenteeism due to reduced stress and increased flexibility to address personal and family appointments
On average, telecommuting just two days a week would save employees between $600 and $3,500 per year – the result of reduced driving and fewer work-related expenses (food, clothes, vehicle costs or public transportation costs).
Yet, directs costs are probably least compelling as an argument as they mainly relate to dead travel time and transport costs. Working effectively in the virtual environment is all about avoiding the failure costs, inefficiencies of over-collaboration, and impacts of unproductive conflict. These hidden costs can be exorbitant if not managed well.
Best Practices for Virtual Teams
1. Don’t Just Invest in Technology – Invest in Training
Successful virtual teams need more than a web conferencing solution. They need a new set of communication strategies that are designed for a working environment where typical cues such as eye contact and body language are absent. Relying on communication skills meant for co-located environments means your team will build relationships and trust slowly, misunderstandings will be commonplace, and productivity will lag.
Set your team members up for success by investing time in developing the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the virtual environment.
2. Build an Equitable Team
Virtual employees often feel isolated from their colleagues – particularly if some of those colleagues are co-located and have access to typical cues like body language and eye contact. This is especially troublesome in team meetings, where those in the same room often hold side conversations or communicate visually, leaving their virtual counterparts out of the loop.
Where possible, virtual managers should strive to create an equitable working environment. When it comes to meetings, that means making sure that if one person joins virtually, then everybody does. This ensures that all participates interact according to the same set of rules and creating a feeling of inclusion.
3. Build a Team Operating Agreement (TOA)
We are all familiar with the miscommunications that occur over email and text messages, even between close friends – which is why virtual team managers should work with their teams to develop a TOA.
A TOA is a document outlining how a team works together, facilitating the norms of communication and workflow for virtual teams. Every team is unique, meaning every TOA is unique. By creating a TOA, you help guide your team’s actions and interactions.
In our next post, we’ll cover the common pitfalls of working virtually that may not only cut into the expected cost savings, but can wipe them out entirely. Read on to learn: