Virtual Work: the Waging Pros and Cons Debate

When the CEO of a company as large as Netflix speaks out against remote work – people take notice. Back in September, Reed Hastings labelled remote work a “pure negative” to The Wall Street Journal and it sparked a healthy amount of debate. Months later, there are still numerous articles being published and dissecting the value of remote work, citing his views in the process. Are there pros that outweigh the cons? Or is he right – is the lack of face time completely negative?

On the flip side, there are just as many large organizations who do see the value in remote work and fundamentally disagree with what Hastings has said because they don’t see it as a negative whatsoever. These companies have spurred a wave of change embracing a hybrid workforce, one that sees employees enjoy a blend of in-office time but also the flexibility to work virtually when and where they’re productive.

A few examples of this include:

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but one thing is clear: employees want to work from home but not every leader feels as comfortable with the concept. How can some large companies see remote work as such a complete negative while so many others see such a long list of positives, they’re willing to commit to it long-term?

Virtual Work, the waging prose and cons debate

What makes some organizations more successful at virtual work than others?

The difference often stems from attitudes about remote work – and what leaders do with those attitudes. For virtual teams to be a success, it can’t just simply be permitted. It must be supported and encouraged. Company cultures with mindful and deliberate approaches to remote work have a far different experience and those are the ones citing productive, happy, and engaged employees.

These organizations adopt best practices designed for employee success. And it’s a smart tactic to have in place for attracting and retaining top talent; a startling 83% of workers have indicated that remote work flexibility can be the deciding factor when they’re choosing between offers and two thirds of employees would actually start looking for a new job if they were to lose it (source: 25 Key Remote Work Statistics for 2020)

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Virtual Work, the waging prose and cons debate

Empowering virtual teams for success

So, what exactly are these companies doing differently?

  • They don’t simply approve virtual work – they help leaders learn how to do it effectively. There is a difference between leading a virtual team and leading a high-performing virtual team. It requires training for that specific environment and being equipped to do the job successfully.
  • They emphasize communication. If there is one common thread that comes up over and over in the context of remote work success, it is communication. In a remote environment, you remove the core element of body language and, if you also allow too much to happen behind a screen, you also lose tone and sentiment. This can allow messages to easily be misinterpreted and create silos. It’s important to have discussions with teams about communication and what works for them – they need a voice.
  • They value trust. Working from home quickly becomes a negative experience if there’s distrust simply because you’re not a few feet away from each other. Successful teams look at creative ways to measure performance and productivity that isn’t based on the number of hours a team member is “clocked in.” Don’t read too much into a TEAMS member being labelled as ‘away.’
  • They build relationships. Quite simply: they treat people like people. It’s important to acknowledge that people often have a lot going on outside of their daily work lives and turning that off is not always straightforward or realistic – and why should it be? It’s important to check in with each other, see how everyone is doing, and be empathetic. Remember, in an office setting, it can be easy to tell if someone is off or having a hard time. In a virtual environment, you need to be mindful about checking in with team members and asking how they are.

Virtual Work, the waging prose and cons debate

Now, if you think about your own team, would you say you emulate these fairly well? Would your team agree? If you answered no to either of these questions, think about where you can improve and make sure to solicit feedback from your employees too. With an emphasis on relationships and communication, remote work provides an ideal environment to build a closely-knit high performing team – one that can work from virtually anywhere. Of course, if the team at Virtual Team Builders can help in any way, please feel welcome to contact us!