The digital workforce is no longer seen as a future trend but instead as an essential strategy to stay relevant in today’s market. The incorporation of new technologies into the workplace has allowed businesses to discuss its cost- and time-saving benefits, on top of building a favourable digital work culture.
However, is a digitised workforce the driving solution to business growth, or is the tech-driven work dynamics bring more challenges than expected? With a clear understanding of digital workplaces right from the start, virtual teams can gain a competitive edge in the future.
Here, we discuss the pros and cons of a digital workplace to present the possible challenges in maintaining a harmonious tech-led work setup.
Digital Workforce: What It Is and How It Works
A virtual workforce is a virtual equivalent to a physical workplace where employees use technologies to connect and collaborate with other employees. Unlike physical workplaces, communication among employees in a remote team is not in-person and done mostly in virtual meetings.
A remote team is a group of people that is usually geographically dispersed yet practices virtual teamwork with other employees towards a common goal. Because employees are spread across various locations, discussions and management are done mostly in virtual meetings.
Virtual meetings are real-time sessions that take place over the internet using video conferencing and other virtual team communication tools.
There are also 7 types of virtual teams:
1. Parallel Teams
Parallel teams are generally composed of members of a company that is responsible for working on focused projects and problems. Parallel teams are usually formed for short-term projects that could revolve around solving company problems in a parallel manner. The members of a parallel team put forth their views and perspective, and they remain intact until the goal of a project is fully realised.
2. Networked Teams
In networked teams, members work together irrespective of their locations, and some of them could be from outside of the company. The members of this team often come from different fields and have different expertise, which allows them to be assigned in cross-functional roles that are based on their skill sets and strengths. Networked teams are usually observed in consulting businesses and technology firms.
3. Management Teams
Management teams are often formed from managers of the same organisations working together to discuss corporate strategies. These strategies are placed at the top of the planning pyramid, and decisions made by this type of team affect an entire company.
4. Production Teams
This type of team has members that work on specific areas within a company. The roles of the members of production teams are clearly defined, and their tasks are continuous and must be performed regularly.
5. Service Teams
Members of service teams are assigned to specific services, such as customer support, data maintenance, and system upgrades. Service teams usually offer support 24 hours a day. To cater to the customer needs all the time, most of the members work in different time zones and are from different locations.
6. Action Teams
Action teams resolve and respond to immediate problems that occur in different areas of a company. This type of team is formed for short-term needs and are dissolved as soon as problems are resolved.
7. Product Development Teams
Similar to parallel and service teams, product development teams are often geographically scattered and operate from different time zones. The objective of this type of team is to come up with business ideas and develop products or new systems from those ideas. Members of this team can be added or removed at any given time depending on their area of expertise.
4 Disadvantages of a Remote Team
Many companies have benefited from the new culture that working remotely brings. For some, the benefits outweigh the inconveniences along the way. But no matter how minor these inconveniences are, these can still affect the workflow of a virtual team. That’s why it is just as important to know and address the disadvantages that virtual teams often face at work.
Here are four of the most common disadvantages of working remotely:
1. Technological Issues
With the non-face-to-face work setup, problems involving technologies become harder to resolve. Aside from connectivity issues, the learning curve in using various tools for remote work can be steep. Some employees cannot easily adapt to new technologies, which happen to be a necessity for virtual teams.
2. Less Team Bonding
Activities that strengthen professional relationships among employees are now limited to what they can do on the internet. Team huddles and bonding over coffee or lunch are activities that are so easily done on physical workplaces but a challenge for digital workplaces.
3. Communication Barriers
Another thing that is often hindered by working remotely is the ability to properly and constantly communicate with the team. For example, employees can be overwhelmed with so many communication channels to check. Other things such as internet connectivity and technological issues also increase the communication barrier among employees in a team.
4. Lack of Office Culture
Company cultures that are borne from physical workplaces are hardly ever cemented in teams who have been working remotely right from the start. A large part of solid company culture is centred around team collaboration and constant communication, and it’s uncertain how much not being face to face can impact culture-building.
Despite these drawbacks, there are tools that can make virtual work a lot easier. With the right management and communication tools, teams can benefit more from working remotely.
4 Benefits of a Virtual Workforce
Because the digital workplace had been uncharted territory before, the uncertainties of whether it works or not comes as no surprise. But like any physical workplace, it offers benefits that are unseen in other types of workplaces. More employees now support the flexible arrangement that comes with working remotely.
In the 2019 State of Remote Work Report, Owl Labs published that more than 90% of employees have a better work-life balance with the implementation of virtual teams. More than 70% of employees also report having better focus and less stress in their new work arrangement.
Here are 4 of the most important benefits of a virtual team:
1. Wide Talent Availability
Because a team doesn’t have to work in one physical location, they don’t have to be based in the same location too. If a company isn’t bound by one location, then they get access to a bigger pool of talent all over the world. Employees can be hired anywhere and leaders can filter through multiple candidates to find the ones that best fit the job role.
Additionally, this opportunity increases the diversity of the employees in a team. With a diversified team and virtual teamwork, companies can get multiple points of view from different cultures and solve problems more holistically.
Many employees spend an average of 27 minutes commuting to and from their physical workplaces. With remote work, employees can work in the comfort of their homes, allowing them to save more time—time that they can spend on important business or personal needs instead.
Aside from that, virtual meetings are relatively shorter compared to face-to-face sessions. This is because in virtual meetings, there are less unrelated discussions and employees use time wisely to discuss only the relevant topics.
3. Reduce Operational Cost
Typically, there is no overhead cost for computers and offices and parking spaces with virtual teams. The amount that the company saves can also come from allotted budgets for other things like office space lease, electricity, internet usage, and other utilities.
But even if companies provide equipment for employees working remotely, they can still save a significant amount of money. A study from Stanford University reveals that companies can save about $2,000 annually per employee with the remote work setup.
4. Increased Productivity
Increased productivity and better focus are among the top reasons why most employees prefer working digitally.
Initially, many managers had doubts about whether digital workplaces would bring productivity and focus on a downward slope. These doubts are now ruled out with the evident increase in employee productivity when they are given the flexibility to work.
The budget and productivity-related benefits that come with a virtual team not only help the company but also the employees. With the right guidance for remote employees, virtual teams could be easier and more practical in the long run.
5 Key Elements for a Successful Digital Workforce
There are important practices that need to be put in place for digital workplaces to be successful. These practices, if implemented well in virtual teams, determine how successful and how far a team can go.
Here are 5 key elements for a successful remote work setup:
1. Logins and Regular Check-ins
Effective workforce management includes regular check-ins with employees. Even though employees are working remotely, remote logins and check-ins should still be regular and frequent. This reduces the number of status meetings for everyone in the team.
Employee check-ins can be done in project tracking tools, quick calls, or any running documents. When checking in, the following questions should be addressed, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis:
- What tasks are the employees working on?
- What are the biggest learnings that the employees released from past projects?
- What are the key milestones that the employees try to achieve for the month?
2. Project Management
Project management difficulties that are related to collaboration, communication, and teamwork are intensified when team members are not together in one location.
Use project management tools so that virtual team members are on the same page about project milestones and tasks. These types of tools can also help in tracking time, invoicing, and ensuring a smoother workflow.
Companies can also implement virtual management practices that can help enhance the experience of working remotely. For example, managers can define the company goals and objectives for the short-term and the long-term.
With the goals in mind, they can then outline the key milestones and KPIs that will keep the company in the right direction as they all work towards that goal.
Because employees are geographically dispersed, the need for constant and meaningful communication has never been more important. With the right virtual team communication tools, employees can overcome the issues that arise with working remotely. The reachability and timely responsiveness among all employees, including the managers, will keep tasks and projects running smoothly.
4. Team Building Games
In physical workplaces, engaging activities bring the employees closer, and that applies to digital workplaces too. However, ideas for team building activities for virtual teams are constrained because of the distance.
To overcome these distance-related challenges, virtual teams use technologies and the internet to increase employee engagement and to stay connected. With virtual team building games, employees improve communication and understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses. They can also feel less isolated with the sense of community and belongingness they have with their virtual team.
5. Use Similar Tools
Nowadays, there are so many tools that improve the workflow of employees, that it can be overwhelming to find one and stick to using it for the rest of the team. While it’s tempting to explore many tools that could work better for a team, it just distracts the team from getting actual work done.
It is important to analyse tech tools that the team is currently using and the needs that must be addressed to make the team’s workflow easier. The right communication tools for teams are those that deliver efficiency and offer a satisfying usability score among all employees.
7 Best Tools for Virtual Teams
Virtual teams need the right tools to empower their employees. It is also important that each work process has clear and easy-to-use tools. With the shift to digital workplaces, online collaboration tools are now more useful than ever.
Note that there are several tools available that may or may not benefit a virtual team. The key is to understand the team’s work processes, and then evaluate the options to see which tools fit best for the team.
Here are 7 tools that will make remote work a breeze:
1. G Suite
G Suite is a web-based collection of collaborative and productivity apps that are created by Google. G Suite’s primary offer is email hosting for business, but it is more than just for emails. It also includes a variety of powerful features that allow seamless communication and collaboration among employees.
With G Suite, virtual teams can easily manage and look at schedules of others, as these are shareable to other employees in the same team.
With Slack, virtual teams can connect the tools and services that they often use to finish the tasks at hand. Slack is a popular team chat solution that challenges the way employees to communicate with one another. For virtual teams, Slack represents a virtual office where conversations, both work-related and casual ones, happen.
While it is used mainly as a virtual team communication tool, Slack also offers more features for businesses. Teams can use Slack in conjunction with other apps to create a channel that enhances the workflow.
Trello helps virtual teams in project management processes. Employees can track any task progress in the pipeline in Trello. The web-based tracking tool is customisable so that teams can adjust it based on their tasks and working preferences.
Just like Slack, Trello also allows third-party apps that can add extra features or import additional information from the tools that virtual teams occasionally use.
Zoom is a video conferencing platform that virtual teams use as a means of communication with other employees. Zoom is available at multiple price points that are right for any team’s budget. The app also has the essential features that meet the needs of most teams, making it one of the top choices among video conferencing platforms.
Some of the platform’s most helpful features are HD video and audio streaming; simultaneous screen sharing, desktop, and app sharing; meeting recordings that are available in both local and cloud storage; and the ability to host even unplanned meetings right away.
5. Microsoft Teams
Most of the appeal of Microsoft Teams is the ability to organise and divide employees into smaller groups or teams, which brings people who are assigned to work on the same projects in one place.
The teams in Microsoft Teams can be set to a public group, private, invitation-only group, or even open to everyone in the team, no invitations are needed. Just like Zoom, online meetings for Microsoft Teams support audio and video conferencing and screen sharing.
Communicator is a VoIP phone system suitable for serving customers and enhancing team collaborations for employees who are working remotely. The features in this mobile application include chats, video conferences, screen sharing, and dynamic agent capabilities.
Wave offers a full range of voice and connectivity services for businesses. This unified communication system is built on a simple and secure system, with data and configurations stored in the cloud. With that, virtual teams can access the centralised communication services wherever they are and on any devices they want.
Is Switching to a Virtual Team Worth It?
In the past decade, face-to-face communication always had an advantage compared to all types of virtual communications. But with the apparent rise in modern technologies, companies are now seeing the advantages of digital workplaces too. For some, switching to virtual communications is a necessity rather than an option.
The most successful virtual teams are built on cultures of trust and collaboration, and building a productive virtual team doesn’t come easy. So, does switching to a virtual team drive the growth of businesses?
The short answer is yes, and despite its cons, its positive aspects far outweigh the negatives—and in the long run, taking this direction will pay off in many ways.
With careful planning, implementing the right rules, and getting the right tools, teams can survive in a workplace that runs virtually. One tool that encompasses a complete solution for virtual businesses is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems.
Make Digital Work More Seamless with VoIP
VoIP is a communication technology that allows for quick and seamless communication, wherever and whenever, without the hefty costs of implementing and maintaining a traditional communication system.
VoIPTech Solutions offers VoIP for any business size, and you have the option between two solutions: VoIPTech Wave, a cloud communications VoIP system, and Communicator, a unified communications platform.
Both offer robust features that will make remote work easier and more connected, all while keeping your data safe and secure.
With a VoIP system, you can make switching to a digital workforce more seamless. To learn more about VoIP, visit our site at https://voiptech.solutions/. We can also reach us at [email protected] or call us on 0203 745 0201.