How can you create an effective virtual workspace you may ask? To get it right, there are a few factors to understand first. Read on.
The pandemic has paved the way for a “new normal” in the workspace: remote teams, hybrid teams, and workspaces composed of multiple people working from across the world within a closed virtual ecosystem. While millions have returned to working in offices, millions more are still working from home – and many of them are open to the idea of a long-term departure from traditional office life.
Throughout the pandemic, we have battled with the problems and inefficiencies of remote work, worried about the long-term implications to personal productivity and health, and discussed the impact of social isolation in a fully remote work setting.
Addressing the Issues of a Virtual Workspace
If you want to go fully virtual in your own business, employing the right strategies is key. You can:
- Encourage and support employees as they create their own schedules to improve work-life balance.
- Provide the option to work from nearby coworking stations rather than building a home office or taking the longer commute to work.
- Continue to build up team culture and cohesion through virtual activities.
What Defines a Virtual Workspace?
Put simply, a virtual workspace is any set of configurations that allow a team to work and interact remotely – wherein every member of the team is working from their own station, in a place of their own choosing, collaborating either within the same timeslot or in multiple shifts (depending on where team members are located) via the Internet.
You could collaborate via fax and phone, but any efficient virtual workspace is going to exist almost exclusively through cloud-based collaborative software, TeamViewer, conferencing software like Teams or Zoom, and one or multiple team-based chatting applications.
Virtual workspaces are nothing new. They have been around (successfully) before the pandemic, although there has not been a single global event as pressing in the matter of digitalization than the COVID outbreak, and the way it necessitated social distancing.
In fact, even long before COVID, successful and large companies like WordPress operated fully remotely, without a central office of any kind. Everyone works from wherever they wish, wherever in the world they may be, collaborating solely via the net.
As a result of the pandemic, many tech companies were forced to subscribe to the same ethos, and some of them have taken it to heart.
There are challenges to overcome – not least of which include trying to cope with the stress and isolation of a fully remote workstyle while in the midst of a pandemic which, for a time, prohibited social gatherings – yet the longer lockdowns and quarantine measures pushed companies into investing in their digital infrastructure and virtual communication skills, the more teams have begun to toy with the idea of going and staying virtual for the long-term.
Understanding Virtual Workspaces
The biggest benefit of a virtual workspace is the total lack of a space-based constraint. If you are setting up a headquarter for your company and want your team to operate physically within one location, you need that location to be central to each team member’s home, while continuing to source talent from the same city and surrounding areas.
You can still collaborate with teams outside of your area and outsource work to teams as far as the other side of the planet, but your team needs a space they can work from together.
A virtual workspace means completely leaving behind the constraint of an office and allowing everyone to work from anywhere – so long as they have a stable internet connection and can agree upon a time when they’re available to collaborate live. This is a huge benefit to anyone struggling to commute to work.
Many companies even function despite incongruent time zones, by organizing meetings and brainstorming sessions at hours when everyone is awake and letting everyone do the solo tasks assigned to them during the rest of the day, when only half or a quarter of the team might be online at the same time.
Virtual workspaces are also far cheaper to set up than a main office. Your team members may or may not have most of the tools they need to get started, and at most, you’re looking at helping them finance a single workstation, or a laptop and a coworking space subscription. No maintenance costs, long-term lease anxieties, or the hefty overhead of setting up a fresh office.
While worker oversight certainly drops when introducing a virtual setup, team managers might be surprised at how much more productive many people become when left to their own devices and presented with a simple deadline or daily task structure.
Virtual workspace managers require a completely different skillset from the typical office manager, and it becomes their job to coordinate tasks, check in on individual team members, wrangle the crew together for meetings and occasional group calls, and organize online teambuilding events (such as game night, a Friday lunch/dinner call, or the annual real-life meetup).
Melding the Real and the Virtual Through Coworking
Not everyone can work from home. Some of us still need the atmosphere of an office to get into the right headspace to work – even if only because we associate home with comfort and relaxation, and struggle to find the right mindset to be productive without a dedicated home office.
This is where the middle way becomes apparent. Rather than commuting to a head office multiple miles away, virtual workspaces enable team members to collaborate while working from the nearest coworking space, giving them not only all the benefits of working in a remote team, but also the benefits of working in a productive office environment, one saturated by varied talents from different companies and industries, with no shortage of collaborative and networking opportunities.
Coworking spaces can become a critical puzzle piece in a lot of companies trying to make the transition to fully remote work, or startups that are expecting a boom in business, yet are apprehensive about investing in an office space of their own and want to pool talent from regions all across the globe.
If you want your business to go fully virtual, you will find that we’ve reached the point where there is no shortage of tools to help you do so.
Whether you go with Teams or Zoom, rely on Google Docs or a use a different set of collaborative software, or work via your own in-house solution, what matters is understanding that you must address everyone’s individual challenges along the way, and encourage your team members to bring their best to the table in return.