Taking a Virtual-First Approach in a Virtual-First Workplace: How to Empower a Remote Workforce with the Right Tools

Now more than ever, it is increasingly important to ensure employees are fully engaged and connected in order to boost retention and encourage them to thrive in the working world of today – and tomorrow. In today’s working world – with a rising remote workforce – providing employees with the necessary tools and resources to do their best work is key. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the importance of healthcare professionals, and there are concerns surrounding a “brain drain” of nurses from the developing world. Today, the global nurse shortage stands at around six million, according to the State of the World’s Nursing Report, with that shortage mainly concentrated in low and middle-income countries. Furthermore, due to the traumatisation caused by the “COVID-19 effect,” millions could leave the field over the next decade. The WHO’s director general is calling on countries to invest in healthcare workers, offering more training and support in efforts to transform the nursing profession.  

While perhaps an extreme case, this is just one example of how the pandemic has highlighted the need to offer more support for employees, whether working remotely or onsite, yet the underlying principle is one that transcends many industries. Indeed, the year of 2020 has been a defining one for businesses, as many have been propelled to reassess how they attract, retain, and manage their talent. 

So how can companies help employees reach and unlock their full potential, in any profession? Why is this so important today? 

Collaboration through technology to support a remote workforce  

Citrix’s 2020 Talent Accelerator survey examined the forces shaping the modern working world, looking at how hundreds of knowledge workers and HR directors across the United States view the future of workforce and talent. 

One of the study’s major findings? Technology is – and will continue to be – key to an organization’s success. 

Used to effectively collaborate and innovate, technology was touted as a tool that has successfully brought together dispersed teams, with around two-thirds of those surveyed reporting feeling more connected to their peers and management teams when working remotely than when working in the office. 

Dropbox is one company that has adopted a virtual-first approach – remote work serving as the primary model for all employees, with eventual in-person gatherings for team collaboration. This has included the introduction of “core collaborative hours,” four-hour blocks of time in which employees are all online at the same time, beyond which they are encouraged to design their own schedules. 

Moreover, the Citrix study found that moving forward, the increased use of technology will break down hierarchies within organizations, leading to more open communication. For many employees surveyed, technology was viewed as vital to unleashing talent – with 89% believing that it makes them more productive. 

Looking ahead to a working future with greater flexibility, companies will continue to utilize technology to automate mundane tasks, thereby allowing employees to concentrate on meaningful work that engages them. 

More emphasis on technology = more room for workers to unleash their full potential and creativity. 

Companies are enabling productivity, anywhere 

The landscape of work is shifting, as are employees’ desires and expectations. Companies are working towards providing an optimal employee experience, taking steps towards innovation in the workplace.  

A May 2021 research report from Accenture found that 83% of workers favour a hybrid work model – having the ability to work remotely between 25 to 75% of the time, and 63% of high-growth companies have already implemented “productivity-anywhere workforce models.” The research found that 40% of workers feel that they can be healthy and productive when working anywhere, yet having the right resources to help them do so, both on a personal and organizational level, was cited as critical. Personal resources include autonomy in one’s job and a high degree of digital skills, while organizational resources include supportive leadership and an organization that is digitally mature. While this concept may vary for companies, it usually comes down to providing a unified employee experience platform that serves as a centralized portal for all communications, document storage, daily operations and more. 

Support could also be in the form of physical resources (yet hosted in the virtual realm). In line with its virtual-first approach, Dropbox is also offering a virtual toolkit for its remote workforce – an online collection of employee resources featuring content such as how to communicate effectively and how to manage one’s time.   

For those working remotely, having easy access to company resources and materials is key. A beauty brand and a pioneer in direct selling, New Avon designed a Digital Library for their already distributed independent workforce, enabling distributors to easily access various types of documents. Content offered in the library ranges from training materials, to product-specific information and advice on how to best leverage social media to grow their businesses. 

Recognizing that employees like the flexibility of working from home yet crave human interaction, Burnaby, B.C.- based technology company Traction on Demand plans to join forces with local businesses such as bike shops, breweries and cafés to create a third space for meeting and working (“The Shop”). The company will also create The Centre, a large space for in-person collaboration, community building and staff events.  

“Business and life have to operate in harmony. And as you start looking at that you start realizing, well, a lot of the constructs that we have in place aren’t necessarily in the best interest of the people we’re trying to represent,” said Traction founder and CEO Greg Malpass. 

Trust is also viewed as vital in terms of productivity, and creating a culture of trust is one way in which an organization can better support its employees – according to Citrix’s report, 69% of employees feel that they’re more productive if they feel that their employer trusts them to complete their job without monitoring their progress.  

Reskilling and upskilling a remote workforce to meet current and future demands

Equipping employees with the skills needed to succeed and remain relevant in today’s shifting landscape is another way organizations can offer support, and companies are doubling down on their reskilling efforts. The pandemic has highlighted the need for new and different skill sets, such as those needed to thrive in the distance economy, and skills required in an environment of increased autonomy, such as critical thinking, enhanced problem solving and project management.     

To maintain a competitive advantage in a global job market, upskilling will stand as a priority  – in Citrix’s study, 82% of employees believed that workers will need to reskill or upskill at least once a year. 

By taking an employee-centric approach, analyzing what employees want and need while embracing new models of work, companies can set themselves and their remote workforce up for success in the modern world of work. 

Find out more about how Rallyware can help your company with worker retention, training, onboarding, engagement programs and more!