Rethinking What an 'Office' Looks Like: The Rise of the Virtual Team

August 14, 2019 Theresa Edwards

Young man taking note while using computer

The world is changing at a faster pace than it ever has before. Technology, globalization and constant connectivity tend to affect almost everything we do, and that’s especially true when it comes to the way we do our work. With an average of 25 percent of Americans telecommuting at least part of the time and 90 percent that would like to, we’re experiencing a change in the working landscape: the rise of the virtual team.

Working where and when one likes, whether that’s an airport terminal or the comfort of home, has obvious appeal for workers who want flexibility, and businesses like the idea too. Sending employees home to work can represent an attractive in-the-black line item. A smaller team means a smaller office and a smaller portion of the budget going to real estate and overhead costs as well, which businesses are finding tough to pass up. According to a Global Workplace Analytics report, the number of employers sending workers home at least part-time has grown by 115 percent in the past decade.

Still, even though technology makes secure and connected remote work possible — and public consciousness has helped make it desirable, some companies have concerns about moving large portions of their talent out of the office. These concerns are worth addressing — when an emergent or rapidly evolving business practice attracts attention and dominates headlines, there’s bound to be a need to unpack the questions, apprehensions and solutions that inevitably follow.

Common concern: I can’t manage what I can’t see.

While telework has certainly caught on, it isn’t exactly universal. One reason? It still feels like a perk as opposed to a policy. Despite the fact that employers reap plenty of rewards from a smaller on-deck team, remote work is still positioned as something of a “treat”. Who knows what employees will get up to when no one’s around to keep them on task? How can you manage a team of people who may not even be in the same zip code as you?

It’s not completely without merit: there are always going to be certain types of people that will take advantage of what they view as relaxed rules.  But most people don’t need to be told to do their work during working hours, and they don’t need to be physically watched while they do it. 

 

The truth: You probably already manage many aspects of your business from afar.

Think about the aspects of running a business in the office. Chances are very high that every single person you work with doesn’t share your workplace. You likely communicate every day with vendors, banks and support teams. You almost certainly use third party software and delegate tasks to contractors for everything from information technology to office supplies, and you certainly don’t need to be physically present at every facility that distributes paper clips in bulk or houses a server farm. 

The solution: Empower your employees to communicate and produce.

“Remote” doesn’t mean “extraterrestrial”. There are so many channels for collaborative, professional communication in 2019, and you should expect and encourage your team to use them. Set communication standards -- progress reports, daily post-mortems or core hours on Skype or Slack -- and then allow your team to use them. Empower them to solve problems autonomously and report the results back, and that’s just what they’ll do.

 

Common concern: There’s no way I can assure digital security.

Though technology has made remote work possible and rapid global information exchange a standard feature of working life, many leaders who explore the possibility of sending some work out of office are wary of the risks that same technology poses when workers venture into the wide world of unsecured networks with unencrypted data. 

The truth: Risks are inevitable, breaches are not.

It’s wise to be concerned with security risks. Sensitive data might be the lifeblood of your business. It might be the lifeblood of your clients’ business, which they entrust to you. At the same time, data breaches and privacy violations aren’t inevitable if you know to anticipate, control for and mitigate them.

The solution: Develop, implement and evolve best security practices

Develop best practices for remote work based on your security needs, and spend time training your team on how to deploy those practices. This could mean moving your company’s data to the cloud, encryption protocols, and requiring remote teams to use a virtual private network, or VPN when telecommuting. No matter how you choose to protect your data, none of it will matter if you aren’t educating your team early and often. Technology evolves rapidly, and so, too, should your best practices. Make sure you’re up to date and that your team is abreast of any changes.

Common concern: Building a virtual team represents an opportunity cost I can’t realistically afford.

 

Even though studies show just one part-time remote worker can save a company an average of $11,000 a year, some operations stay in-house indefinitely. That may be because the task of implementing remote procedures, training a team to follow them, developing new communication practices and securing remote security can seem downright Herculean.

The truth: There is more than one way to build a remote workforce.

 

Scrapping existing in-house roles and hiring procedures or training an existing workforce in telework procedures is just one way to reap the benefits of a virtual team. Utilizing freelancers or independent contractors is another.

One particularly elegant way to transition from an onsite team to a virtual one? Outsourcing.

The solution: Compare your options side-by-side.

Outsourcing isn’t just for customer service anymore. For significant savings, you can take everything from back-office tasks, creative workflow and CPA-level finance and accounting work offshore. With a competent partner, outsourcing allows you to reap the benefits of a remote workforce and offset the concerns associated with teleworking. Let’s revisit those:


Managerial and quality concerns: A reputable offshore center invests in and directly supervises the talent that handles your company’s workload, moving off of your to-do list. At Personiv, we invest heavily in our workers because we know that nurturing talent and investing in the professional development of our employees just happens to yield exceptional work for our clients. We hire, train and manage your offshore team for you. And because we invest in the communities we work in, our talent is top-tier. The work we do is demonstrably and consistently performed to meet a high-quality standard.

Cybersecurity concerns: When it comes to data security, a reputable BPO will take the risk of a breach as seriously as you do. They will have an Internal Security Management System (ISMS) that complies with information security standards determined by uniform standardization bodies like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and certification that reflects that. They won't stop there, though.

Where Personiv is entrusted with our client’s sensitive data, we use a three-tiered approach of people, processes and technology to proactively protect it. We are transparent about our cybersecurity measures and continuously audit, improve and adapt them to changing technology. You should expect the same from anyone you partner with.

Opportunity cost concerns: Outsourcing also diminishes opportunity cost, since the infrastructure for an efficient, agile and rapidly scalable virtual team are already in place. A BPO that functions as a partner who cares as much about the success of your business as you do will have an onboarding process that is designed to make the transition from an onsite team to a virtual one as seamless and efficient as possible.

We’ve been helping connect clients to remote talent for over 30 years. If you’re ready to make the case for a virtual team at your company, start with our eBook: Ready to Outsource? A Workbook on Presenting Outsourcing to Your Leadership Team. 

Previous Article
How Austin's Startup Community Made Our First Event a Big Success
How Austin's Startup Community Made Our First Event a Big Success

On August 8, 2019, we had the unique pleasure of hosting our first event in Personiv's home city of Austin,...

Next Article
[Infographic] Top 5 Elements of Employee Retention
[Infographic] Top 5 Elements of Employee Retention

It’s well known that employee turnover can be costly. Keeping employees is often a matter of keeping employ...

Think You Know Outsourcing? Not if You Believe These 6 Myths.

Learn More