For many organizations, COVID-19 changed the remote work landscape forever. Where some employers would have never considered adopting a virtual workforce, the pandemic left them with no choice. In the face of adversity, organizations around the world were forced to embrace remote-first policies or shut down. Skepticism was pushed to the wayside and organizations began to get to work on developing strategies and processes that helped their employees embrace virtual work.
What would have once taken years happened overnight. As the world begins to get back to normal, managers, leaders, employees, and business owners alike are continuing to find their footing and define what it means to work in a post-pandemic landscape. While many employees and employers are embracing the change with open arms, others are beginning to recognize the pitfalls. Whether your organization is continuing to work virtually full-time or adopting a hybrid model that allows for more flexibility, one key factor remains the same. Virtual work is under threat.
In this article, we will dive into the virtual work climate in 2022 while covering the risks and benefits from both the employee and employers’ perspective. In addition, we will take a look at 4 major threats that are presently plaguing the virtual workforce.
How do employees feel about virtual work in 2022?
Many employees are presently living the dream. The freedom that was once unimaginable at work is now in the palm of their hands. Employees that were previously expected to work a regular 9-5 in addition to spending hours on end commuting are now able to work from the comfort of their own homes. The time they once spent commuting is now spent with family. Flexible hours that come with remote or hybrid models also make it possible for employees to prioritize what really matters. Gone are the days of pushing family, friends, or even mental health to the side.
A survey by Tracking Happiness found that the ability to work remotely is directly correlated with employee happiness. Employees that were able to work fully remotely reported a happiness level of 20% higher than those that work in an office 100% of the time. This newfound freedom has opened the eyes of employees in sectors of all kinds to what work-life balance really means. If it were up to employees alone, virtual work would be here to stay.
Employers and virtual work
The COVID- 19 pandemic dramatically changed the risk calculation for remote work. Employers that never would have considered embracing a remote-first model were left with no choice and the majority of the workforce continues to work virtually as a result. Despite resounding support from employees, managers continue to identify hurdles, risks, and threats. According to a recent study conducted by The Society for Human Resource Management, 72% of managers in the US that are responsible for supervising remote workers would prefer to manage employees in the office.
Threats facing virtual work in 2022 and beyond include:
- Device Management and cybersecurity
Device management is presently more important than ever. Employees that would have once worked under one controlled roof are now working remotely from different corners of the world. E-criminals are taking advantage of these weakened security measures by hacking into employee’s personal data and mining for valuable information. While organizations have entire departments dedicated towards cybersecurity, no one could have anticipated the mass adoption of remote work. Organizations around the world are now scrambling to implement new security measures that aim to protect intel and data both in remote and in-person environments.
Device management and cybersecurity threats include but aren’t limited to:
- Data leaks
- Cyber fraud
- Loss of private client data
- Phishing and email scams
- Sharing files that aren’t encrypted
- The interception of sensitive information
- Security breaches on public or unsecure networks
- Using personal computers or devices for business related tasks
- Social isolation
Working remotely boasts many benefits for both employers and employees however no one could have anticipated the threat that virtual work poses on mental health. Water cooler chats and post workday happy hours have now been swapped for virtual meetings and the occasional team building activity. While these initiatives do aid in creating a sense of togetherness in remote-first environments, it can arguably be nearly impossible to mimic human-to-human interactions in a virtual environment.
Luckily, organizations like Remo aim to humanize the online experience by providing users with an all-new interactive virtual event platform that empowers users to recreate natural interactions virtually.
Remo works by:
- Empowering users to connect spontaneously with a single click.
- Elevating the quality of user experiences by seamlessly connecting people globally.
- Boosting engagement by creating instantaneous groups in unique virtual environments.
- Broken company culture
Positive workplace culture is extremely important for many reasons. Culture helps attract and retain top talent, helps boost and sustain engagement, and greatly impacts employee performance. Every menial component impacts an organization's culture including management, leadership, workplace practices and policies and the way in which the people in the organization work. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees experienced culture on a daily basis. Presently, organizations are struggling to make their culture known amongst employees working virtually. These struggles then present in less engaged employees that feel little to no sense of belonging.
Workplace culture is primarily fostered by employees coming together in person and engaging in brainstorming, and team team-building activities which can often be thrown to the wayside while working virtually. Before you can protect your culture, you must first determine what drives it while ensuring your virtual work strategy is built upon your organization’s cultural offerings and beliefs.
Consider mitigating risks and preserving company culture by:
- Focus on teamwork
- Build and foster trust
- Prioritize communication
- Plan virtual team building exercises and events
- Identify and sympathize with employees’ challenges
- Foster connections between employees and management
- Encourage interactions and relationship building outside of work
- Create online group environments for employees with tools like Remo
- People management
For many, working remotely is new. Managers and employees alike are facing never before seen challenges and have little to no expertise on how to manage them. As stated above, a recent study conducted by The Society for Human Resource Management concluded that 72% of managers in the US that are responsible for supervising remote workers would prefer to manage employees in the office. This can largely be attributed to managers having minimal experience managing virtual employees and employees having minimal experience working virtually.
These challenges pose a massive threat to virtual work. The stress managers feel while navigating the unknowns and challenges that arise in a remote environment can lead to unprecedented stress, fatigue, or even burnout that can spill into other areas of their lives. Mitigating these risks is imperative when maintaining a happy and healthy virtual work environment.
Ways in which you can build stronger manager- employee relationships while working virtually include:
- Prioritizing communication.
- Set clear virtual work standards and protocols.
- Identifying and providing access to the right tools.
- Hosting one-on-ones and following up with employees regularly.
- Understand common virtual work challenges and be open to lending a helping hand.
- Setting aside consistent office hours where employees can drop in virtually and connect.
Mitigate Threats and Eliminate Risks Today
In conclusion, the majority of threats looming upon virtual work are caused by social isolation. While device management and cybersecurity should be top of mind amongst organizations that are employing virtual employees, human-to-human connection is equally as important.
Remembering to take your virtual employees needs into consideration the same way you would if they were working in the office is a great way to demonstrate your willingness to create a happy and healthy virtual work environment. Understanding that virtual work is under threat is the first step to mitigating the risks.
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