Running a virtual workplace? Here are our take-aways for doing it successfully.
We didn’t set out to build a virtual company. We were focused on building a telehealth substance abuse treatment program. In fact, we thought we might end up with a central HQ where most of our team worked. But as we grew, most all of us continued to work remotely, and after a decade, it’s become clear it will likely remain that way.
The current COVID-19 outbreak has made our model even more desirable to companies that have not operated virtually before. As authorities advise employers to institute telecommuting for employees for the foreseeable future, many businesses that previously depended heavily on in-person communication are being forced to navigate the uncharted waters of running a business virtually – all with the pressure of doing it successfully.
This is Lionrock’s 10th year in operation, and today we operate across the country, helping hundreds of clients every month. During that time, we’ve learned a thing or two about managing a virtual company.
Top Take-aways for Managing a Virtual Company
- Desktop video (one screen per person, not conference room video) is not the same as being there, but it’s close. In desktop video conferences, most business gets done the same way and with the same quality as in-person meetings. In fact, the collaboration tools are often better when your collaborators aren’t in the same room.
- It’s harder to build deep relationships with people at a virtual company. The important down-time interactions, like going to lunch, are hard to replicate in video. What suffers are the buffers people have with each other, which are used when things go wrong or there are misunderstandings – the benefit of the doubt. That’s why it’s important to augment video communications with periodic travel to spend time in the same room. Or at lunch.
- Voice communication is not a substitute for video. It’s just not.
- A virtual company must be a data-driven company. With everyone working remotely, strong data management is required to understand trends and identify anomalies.
- It’s critical to employ only people sophisticated enough to operate virtually. They must be self-starters, organized, and committed to the mission. This requires the company to communicate philosophies, codes of conduct and clear processes to employees.
- Over-communication is the rule. The many email messages, news feed posts, and system notifications create a constant stream of information. Critical messages must cut through the daily information in. And the best place to over-communicate is during live video chats.
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