By Kristy Smith
With the rapid changes in technology reshaping the way we work, it’s crucial for modern businesses to adopt a new way of thinking, and open themselves to the possibilities of ‘going virtual’
The way we do business is changing. A recent survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that more than a third of micro businesses now use the internet to enable staff to work from home, which represents an 8% increase in two years, while for larger businesses, more than 75% now have the facility for staff to use the internet to work from home.
With telecommuting on the rise, the traditional 9 to 5 office workday will soon be a thing of the past. Entrepreneurs can take advantage of this shift in business mindset by setting up flexible and scalable business models that allow themselves and their staff to work remotely with adaptable and accommodating schedules. Some of the benefits of ‘going virtual’ include:
Reduction in costs - with overheads such as office space and commuting expenses eliminated the costs of running business are greatly decreased. This allows entrepreneurs to create adaptable business models that can scale very quickly to suit market trends
Increases in productivity - Over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters 2 this is thought to be due to a quieter work environment with less distractions and the ability to have a more flexible work schedule, unhampered by commuting
Flexibility – with no need to travel each day and the ability to work outside of traditional office hours, going virtual suits the busy schedules of entrepreneurs and working families alike.
So how do we leverage all the wonderful benefits of remote working? Well the devil is in the details when it comes to setting up and working in a successful virtual business.
1. Make The Cloud your Friend
With all the wonderful technological advances of the past 10 years, there are a plethora of options when it comes to cloud based SaaS programs you can use to take your business virtual. So do your research and educate yourself on all the necessary and relevant systems that will enable you to work remotely. Choosing and setting up these systems should be your # 1 priority if you want to ‘go virtual.’ Solid systems and administrative practices are the foundation of a successful business. Don’t know where to start? We’ve included a handy list at the end of this article to help you get the ball rolling.
2. Communication is Key
Without the face to face office time you’d get in a traditional work set up, you need to ensure that both you and your team communicate on a regular basis. This means regular skype meetings, project updates, phone calls and emails. For example, you could set up a weekly skype call each Monday to communicate with your team and go through the status of current projects. The key is to keep in contact regularly. When working with a remote team there can be the tendency to ‘set and forget’ and you can become of touch with your own staff, so make it policy to keep in contact regularly
3. Be Accountable
There needs to be clear cut parameters around how your remote staff will work and what’s expected of them. Virtual roles need well-defined job descriptions, and project management procedures must be carefully documented and followed. Many managers say that while they trust their staff, they feel better if they can actually see them and monitor their work. There are programs such as Screenshot Monitor that can assist with this virtually, and implementing a ‘results based’ merit system that focusses on the quality and output of your staffs work is a good way to gauge that your staff are being accountable whilst they work independently.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a handy list of some of the most popular cloud based business software:
- Project and Task Management: Basecamp, Asana, Trello
- Accounting: Saasu, Xero, Shoeboxed
- Email Marketing: Mailchimp, Aweber, Infusionsoft, Web Chameleon
- CRM: Highrise, Zoho, Salesforce
- Google for Business: Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar
- File Sharing: Dropbox, Google Docs
- Social Media Management: Hootsuite, Buffer
- Content Curation: Feedly, Zite
- Communications: Skype, Eventbrite, Go to Meeting
- Blog Administration: CoSchedule
Kristy Smith is the energetic founder, director and driver of Virtual Elves, a business that provides you an understanding of how to work with a virtual assistant. Connect with her at www.virtualelves.com.au