Why are businesses still afraid to embrace virtual working?

Digital technology is revolutionising every aspect of our lives, including how we work

Thanks to advances in technology that enable better communication and collaboration, it is now easier and simpler to work remotely than ever before; however, there is still a huge amount of resistance to virtual and flexible working, especially from some of the more traditional industry sectors. 

The idea of being tied to an office desk all day, every day seems outdated to many, especially the younger, digitally native generations; however, the CEO of bank BNY Mellon recently voiced his intention to ban the practice. Those in favour of virtual working argue that it enables creativity, empowers employees and increases productivity in the long run. It is not something that is the preserve of working parents; in fact, there are many, many reasons why employees may want to work remotely.

With so many purported benefits, why are many organisations still set against this way of working? There are a few common themes that have emerged as key concerns for businesses.

Many organisations fear that if they cannot see their employees physically at their desks and working, what is to stop them simply slacking off and doing the bare minimum while working remotely? While it is possible that some employees may take the chance to take their foot off the accelerator, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that the opposite is true. Either way, successful companies tend to be those that trust and empower their employees; in addition, it would become apparent fairly quickly if objectives were not being met by individuals.

Other business leaders worry that if they allow one member of staff to work remotely, everyone will want to follow suit; however, while virtual working works for some, it is not for everyone. Even if all employees did want to take advantage of virtual working, there are many flourishing organisations out there that have a complete team of virtual members, so it certainly can work.

Some organisations, especially agencies, worry about how clients will react to virtual working practices. By embracing innovative and productive new ways of working, businesses can show their clients that they are forward thinking, which can only be beneficial.

Conversely, some employees may worry that they may miss out on the chance for career progression and promotion by not being omnipresent or will be overlooked for training and development. If a proper remote working strategy and associated processes are put in place, this should never be the case. Excellent performance should be recognised no matter where it is being delivered from, and much training can be delivered via online communication channels.

It is important to remember that virtual working does not have to be exclusive. Teams can – and do – still meet face to face for internal and client meetings.

What virtual working does mean is giving employees the freedom to work when and how best fits their lifestyles. This is only going to make employees happier, and it can’t be denied that a happier workforce is likely to be more committed and more productive.

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