17 Mar 2020

Working from home during COVID-19: Four tips for running a virtual office

A virtual office is an office that exists almost entirely in cyberspace. Employees are free to work from anywhere that has an Internet connection. With the arrival of COVID-19, an increasing number of employees are working from home to avoid spreading the virus. Besides the immediate benefit of minimising exposure to the illness, there are several benefits to adopting this approach on a permanent basis.

“Benefits of the virtual office include cost cutting on items like physical office maintenance, along with increased employee happiness and productivity as the daily commute is eliminated and they spend more time with family,” says Nalene de Klerk, reputation manager at Reputation Matters.

De Klerk explains that a virtual office does require a shift from the traditional office mentality and shares some tips for making it work:

#1: Have the right tools in place. Employees require functional laptops, cell phones, and Internet connection to work from anywhere. The virtual office also requires cloud storage and digital systems for scheduling, conferencing, and task management. Luckily, there are a host of business applications for every aspect of the business.

#2: Maintain set office hours. With increased connectivity comes the temptation to simply never switch off. Nowhere is this truer than in a virtual office, where the home environment would double as the office for many employees. ”We are encouraged to only be online after 07:00 and to switch off by 19:00, as a balanced lifestyle key for productivity,” explains de Klerk.

#3: Have set team get-togethers. With the spread of the COVID-19 virus, face to face engagements may not always be possible, but it is important for employees to check in with one another to prevent them from feeling isolated. “We have weekly Skype meetings and we check in with management telephonically for a monthly one-on-one,” suggests de Klerk. Once the virus subsides and business starts returning to normal, monthly face to face team get togethers may also help.

#4: Have the right team on board. It takes discipline and a lot of intrinsic motivation for employees to work from home. Management needs to be able to trust them to deliver quality work within agreed timelines. In the long run, management needs to ensure that they have the right people on board who will continue to function optimally from a home environment. “We have an extensive recruitment process that gauges potential employees’ ability to work remotely,” says de Klerk. Part of this is having shared corporate values that are communicated regularly, helping to build trust and guiding employee appointments.

“Those working from home for this period may find it a feasible long-term solution to boost productivity and morale,” concludes de Klerk. “We encourage you to make the most of the opportunity to step into the future of virtual offices and we would be happy to share more tips for those making the shift.”

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