When COVID-19 reared its ugly head back in March, employers realized that they needed to brace for the worst. For many companies, human resources (HR) have been scrambling to put together plans to help their respective company weather the storm, providing mechanisms for
employees to work from home.
And of course, you know the rest—lockdowns, massive unemployment, and continued social distancing. While we’ve learned quite a bit about the virus and the precautions necessary to implement, there’s still much we don’t know, especially with respect to hygienic practices surrounding the virus. Indeed, cleaning companies are acting vigilantly with their processes to help employers better prepare as their teams return to the office—
Just in time for what may be shaping up to be “Round 2.”
School districts continue to waffle between in-person classes and online learning keeping parents in a constant state of stress—not to mention what it’s doing to our kids.
The holidays are gearing up to be a challenge this year. Currently, sixteen states and the District of Columbia have travel restrictions in place. It’s not hard to imagine that if the predicted Thanksgiving wave hits soon—others will follow suit.
Moreover, the word “lockdown” is being thrown around again too.
Some cities and states already forced bars and restaurants to ban indoor service again just a few weeks after allowing them to reopen. Business owners who sent employees home to work and haven’t brought anyone back to the office yet probably won’t be affected much if new lockdowns are enforced.
Thankfully, what we have learned from these “forced” trial runs of work-from-home procedures, is that having a remote workforce actually works.
Pre-COVID, many thought the virtual workforce was reserved for start-ups desperate to keep their expenses as close to zero as possible while they struggled to get off the ground. But, lately, we’ve seen some large companies announce plans to continue allowing employees to work from
Mark Zuckerberg stated that Facebook is taking over half their workforce virtual—eventually. They plan to spread out the process over the next five to ten years. Microsoft is adopting a “hybrid workplace” environment” allowing more employees to work from home permanently. They review each case individually before making a decision. And, Twitter decided back in May that employees could work from home “forever.”
Indeed, companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter survived the lockdowns by establishing a remote workforce and many don’t plan to go back to “business as usual.”
There’s no denying that things were a mess at first, but once the initial chaos passed, HR departments determined how to best utilize technology and added those steps to their current processes. When everyone had time to settle into their new routines, remote workers picked up
the ball and ran with it.
Robert Nickell, Founder of Rocket Station, a virtual assistance agency, isn’t surprised. “I always knew employers would see the value of having a remote workforce. COVID just expedited that process,” he said.
Since the onset of the pandemic, it’s estimated that 42% of the U.S. workforce work remotely. According to Stanford economist, Nicholas Bloom, the virtual workforce will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
There are hundreds of virtual assistant companies in the United States. Sadly, though, a lot of employers who gave them a try stated they ended the arrangement for reasons like insurmountable language barriers or discovering the remote employee doesn’t possess the necessary
skills to adequately perform their job.
Nickell says you can avoid those types of problems by fine tuning your screening process. If you’re advertising for virtual assistants on a job board, for example, your first step should be to document the process that you want followed. Then, be specific explaining what the job entails when creating the ad. You’ll be far more likely to attract qualified candidates.
“We follow a very strict recruitment process which I believe sets us apart from other VA companies.” Nickell explained. “Our applicants go through an extensive screening process so we can identify their strengths and weaknesses. We interview hundreds of people each month and only
hire about two percent of them. We only want the “best of the best” to make the cut.”
Employers who hire VAs themselves rather than using an agency should be conscious of the skill set required to succeed. It’s going to save them a lot of time and trouble.
“Putting together an entire virtual team has become more than a trend since COVID. Employers quickly realized the benefits of the remote workforce and are embracing it. By utilizing virtual teams, companies can grow their business while drastically reducing their bottom line.” Nickell explained.
“All of our employees are from the Philippines,” Robert continued. “They have impeccable English skills and an array of skill sets that we match to a specific client’s needs. It feels good knowing that you’re having a positive impact on someone’s life who may be living in an underdeveloped area. ”
Employees who work remotely are 16% more productive according to a Stanford Business study of 16,000 employees. Overhead costs are reduced dramatically as well because there’s a need for less—if any—office space. It’s possible that salaries may decrease a bit too because employees realize the benefit of not having to commute, buy lunch, or purchase separate work attire.
Hiring virtual workers encourages employee retention from the start because you won’t lose employees if they move. There’s also the flexible schedule appeal. Millennials, especially, want a work schedule that they can fit in around their interests.
It raises company morale too. This may be due to the fact that employees who work remotely report that they are generally happier than those who work on-site.
So, is there a secret to successfully managing a remote workforce?
Robert passed on a great tip for you to take away. He said, “Employers need to realize that having a documented process for each task performed is critical to success. You also need objective KPIs in place so that you can accurately measure performance.”
He continued on to say that it’s critical to invest time in engaging your teams because even though the stats conclude that remote workers are happier overall, there are some employees who might feel isolated and lonely. You also need to have clear and comprehensive technology
guidelines in place to reduce security risks.
There’s no doubt that the pandemic created challenges for businesses around the globe. Lots of employers refused to let it take them down though. Instead, they found creative ways to carry on—one of
them proved extremely successful.
Remote workers continue to prove themselves to be a valuable asset and employers are paying attention. Whether you decide to use virtual assistants from an outsourcing company like Rocket Station or HR will be onboarding virtual employees themselves, the key to success is mapping out the job expectations from start to finish.
Next, document every step necessary to successfully carry out each task. It provides your virtual employee with the tools they need to be successful in their role. If your company doesn’t assign someone to help your new employees learn the ropes, you might consider it. They will be less likely to get stressed out.
Ultimately, though, just knowing there is someone available to help if they need it is empowering. Your virtual assistants will be rocking their new position in no time—and that may be literally—some of us work better with a little music blasting in the background.