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Flexible Work Done Right: The Case for a Virtual Workspace in 2024

The simple truth of the current knowledge economy is that people want to work remotely. Recent surveys suggest up to 98% of respondents want at least some remote work in their lives. A large majority of employees have a very positive experience of working remotely, and most have come to value the flexibility that flexible work options have to offer. 

However, allowing remote work isn’t as simple as authorizing people to work from home. Maintaining a high level of productivity can be a challenge for organizations without the proper technology and policies. Remote work can also have negative repercussions on the health and well-being of employees. Increased isolation, coordination issues, a more sedentary lifestyle, and decreased motivation are the most commonly reported struggles faced by remote and hybrid employees. 

There are several ways to deal with the challenges of remote work. One is to give up altogether and force everyone back to the office—but for many employees, that simply isn’t a viable option anymore. Companies without a flexible work policy are effectively renouncing a large and growing part of the top-tier talent market. 

A more flexible approach is to implement the tools that will allow your company to reap the benefits of remote work while minimizing its downsides. Having a virtual workspace like ovice can spell the difference between isolation and collaboration. 

To better understand what virtual workplaces are and how they work, it’s important first to understand the benefits and challenges of remote work. Then, we can look at how to maximize good aspects while minimizing the bad aspects.

Why employees love remote work

The main reasons people prefer remote work all have to do with greater control and work-life balance. These include:

  • More flexibility in how employees spend their time. This means being able to divide time freely between work, rest, and household tasks. 
  • Reduced commute times, which frees up time before and after work for self-care and other important daily activities. 
  • The ability to work within your own space, away from the common open-space office arrangements where employees are lined up like machine cogs. 
  • Financial advantages, mainly to do with living in a less expensive area, eating at home, saving on transportation, and so on.

Why employers should embrace remote work

Contrary to what some managers might intuitively believe, research shows clear business benefits to allowing for more flexible workstyles. Some of the positive effects include: 

  • A double-digit increase in productivity, with an associated increase in output. 
  • While there may be some concerns regarding remote workers’ motivation, overall absenteeism decreases when people work from home. 
  • Retention rates are better among remote work and hybrid companies. Given the high employee demand for flexible work arrangements, they also have a broader range of candidates to choose from when hiring. 

Remote work saves money. Savings on everything from transportation costs to office space and electricity are estimated to add up to an average of $11,000 per employee per year.

Where employees struggle

The most common and pervasive remote work problem we see across reports and surveys is loneliness. Not only do we see fewer people over the course of a regular workday, but the types of interaction are different. Spontaneous ‘collisions’ become much rarer. Formal meetings multiply. 

The disconnect between the benefits of flexibility and the tedium of formal meetings can also lead to a loss of motivation. In recent years, phenomena like ‘Zoom fatigue’ have increasingly been gaining traction in research and the media. 

Finally, the blurring of boundaries between work and rest have made it more difficult to unplug. When everyone is working on flexible schedules, it becomes more common to receive messages outside of your own working hours. Without a physical space we can use to show our colleagues we’re currently working, it can become more tempting to reply to messages when really, we should be resting. 

Where employers struggle

On the employer side, the greatest reported struggles have to do with maintaining a strong corporate culture, and fostering collaboration between employees. 

When members of each team only meet amongst themselves and don’t accidentally run into members of other teams, the result is often a silo mentality. A breakdown in interdepartmental communication tends to negatively impact creativity and slow down workflows. 

Classic communication problems can arise if leadership doesn’t provide the adequate tools for remote work. Sharing information can become more complicated. If employees repeatedly don’t know how to get the information they need to do their jobs, they are more likely to feel demotivated. 

Also, when we are forced to work with more and more people we don’t know or haven’t seen before, it becomes harder to trust our colleagues. Employees may begin to feel like they don’t know what’s truly going on within the company, who is doing what, and if business overall is going well or poorly. 

The right tools for the job

There is no single solution that will magically eliminate all the challenges employers and employees face when working remotely. However, with the right combination of online tools and corporate policies, companies can go a long way in reaping the benefits of a flexible model without suffering the drawbacks. 

On the policy side, management has to respect the core benefits of remote work. Don’t grant more flexibility with one hand only to take it away with the other. Trust you hired a group of mature adults who are willing to do a good job. Don’t overwhelm your team members with mandatory events—even if they’re meant to be fun teambuilding activities! Give employees time and space to have informal conversations, solve problems without management getting too involved, and you’ll have a thriving flexible corporate culture. 

As for having the right tools, a modern virtual workplace solution like ovice can go a long way in recreating the benefits of a physical office. 

Virtual workspaces make remote work better

A virtual workspace is a software solution specifically designed to emulate the benefits of a physical office while preserving the best elements of remote work. With a virtual workspace, you can: 

  • Create dedicated online spaces for work and for relaxation, where employees can communicate however they want. Set up a virtual water cooler, and you can even bring those critical office ‘collisions’ into your online environment!
  • Encourage collaboration by displaying who is available to chat, who is already in a meeting, and who needs time for deep focus.
  • Foster creativity, company culture, and team building through highly customizable designs. Arrange your virtual environment to suit your needs and tastes. 
  • Use spatial audio to make walking up to virtual colleagues feel as natural as an in-person conversation. 
  • Get rid of all the meeting links and simplify your scheduling with an array of fully integrated audio features 
  • Link your workspace to your calendar, file sharing technology, or whatever other software you use for your business with integrated apps

Reclaim your company culture by creating a visual identity, hosting online events, and opening a space for your employees to feel like one big team again.