The Future of Virtual Work

As the pandemic wears on, it’s difficult to imagine a time when the future of the workplace was talked about more. It makes headlines. It’s front-and-center in company town halls. And whether they love or hate it, it’s on the mind of your employees too. Will we ever revert back to “normal” or will virtual work become the new normal?

The answer is really a hybrid approach. Yes, there are some folks who wish to be back in the office. And while many companies intend to keep their physical office space, organizations of all sizes have also announced they will allow employees to work from home permanently , which employees are asking for. Of those who wish to go into an office from time-to-time, the majority also want the option to work from home at least a few days a week.

But what will virtual work really look like?

If you’re struggling to envision it, you’re not alone. Today, business travel has nearly ground to a halt. Face-to-face meetings are taking place over Zoom. Slack is the new water cooler. Much like the aftermath of 9/11, virtual work as we know it right now is a reflection of unexpected, mass disruption – but it won’t stay that way. In fact, it will actually become a more productive and preferred method of work for both the employer and employee.

Employer-employee dynamics are shifting

Virtual work introduces a mindset shift. Breaking geographical barriers means employers can no longer rely on physically seeing their employees present as a measure of productivity and engagement. Instead, managers need to build trust with their direct reports. These deeper relationships will allow managers to pick up on subtle cues that an employee is becoming less engaged.

Employee performance will also be looked at through a new lens. Instead of tracking the hours employees clock-in for on a daily basis, performance measurement will be tied to their contributions to overall business goals.

Find out how your team is doing by completing our Virtual Team Performance Survey and receive a free 45-minute mentoring session.

Management styles will evolve

The key to successfully managing others in a virtual environment revolves around communication. In order to adequately measure employee performance, managers themselves need to communicate clearly.

Consider these guidelines:
  • Attach quantifiable goals to each role within your team to measure overall productivity
  • Practice open communication with your employees – checking in and asking what type of support they need is a proactive measure that can be really impactful
  • Develop SOPs with your teams to understand their perspectives and gain their buy-in

As virtual work becomes a standard, workplaces will need to make clear and concise communication a priority for employee success.

The Future of Virtual Work

The 9-5 mold will break

As employee productivity is measured in new ways, it will also break the traditional 9-5 work day introduced by Ford Motor Company a hundred years ago. This antiquated system is known to have its flaws as employees commonly cite fatigue, burnout, and general dissatisfaction – hardly a recipe for success.

In a virtual environment, employees have the opportunity to exercise more control over their schedule, without the guilt that would accompany being in front of a boss or colleagues if they needed a 10:00 am stretch or didn’t take lunch until 2:00 pm. This will allow employees to structure their work days for productivity and efficiency.

Flexible work is the new normal

As we look towards the future of virtual work, the one common theme we will see is flexibility. Traditional office workspaces were counterproductive in many ways as they blurred the lines between employees being physically present with being engaged and productive.

The workplace of tomorrow offers employees the opportunity to perform their best work where and how they choose.