On the surface, virtualizing your work operations should not be an overly complicated task. Allow employees to work remotely, arm them with laptops and Skype accounts and you are off to the races, right? Wrong. As it turns out, successfully integrating remote work into your operations is a difficult, time consuming endeavor that is best thought of as an ongoing transformation of the organization rather than a one-off task to be completed.
This is not to say that the technology side is unimportant, but rather that it is one piece of a much more complex pie. Technology support for remote working is necessary but not sufficient for success. There are literally hundreds of apps and software products designed to help teams function remotely, and lots of them have hip names like Slack, Azendoo, or Fleep. The emergence of new options plus old classics like Skype or Google Hangouts means that there is no shortage of ways to keep your team connected across distances. Connection, however, does not mean it will all work out.
In his 2015 Harvard Business Review article Why Remote Work Thrives in Some Companies and Fails in Others, author Sean Graber suggests the answer to why remote working works for some and not others is actually quite simple: “many companies focus too much on technology and not enough on process.”Graber elaborates on three key elements that create a foundation for successful remote working: communication, coordination, and culture.
At OTUS Group our experts agree: a transformation as fundamental as integrating remote work into your operations needs to be underpinned by a complementary organizational culture that has the support of all team members, from the bottom to the top. Time and again, trust is an essential element of any enabling organizational culture. When true intra- and inter-organizational trust exists, an organization will thrive.
There is an old adage that nothing worth having comes easy. The virtualization of work is no exception. Successful implementation requires extensive planning and consultation, development of internal processes, and the creation or re-creation of the company culture. While culture is not something that can be cultivated overnight, if your entire organization is committed, the upsides of virtual work are great.