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This post was authored by Salem
Kimble, social media development manager with BetterWorld Telecom.
BetterWorld Telecom provides services that enable and
support a virtual work environment, as a donation partner with TechSoup
Global. However, BetterWorld itself
works as a virtual team, with team members scattered literally across the
U.S. With TechSoup's focus on virtual
work this month, we thought we'd share some of the tips and practices we use to
make 'virtual work' work for us.
The primary organizing principle behind all the practices
that our team implements is a democratic and horizontal management structure.
This means that decision-making is pushed out as far as possible to the people
actually doing the work. Two outside organizations that help to track this and
provide best practices are B Corporation, (whose online
assessment is available in full for free) and WorldBlu (providing 10 Principles
of Organizational Democracy).
One of the benefits of working virtually is that a results-only work environment (ROWE), naturally arises, making efficiency and clarity
of focus the working norm. (ROWE
is management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not
presence.) A democratic workplace and management style establishes trust,
maintains adult relationships, avoids micromanaging, and is a key component of
successful virtual or distance-based teams.
Each member of our team emails their main achievements from
the past week and their primary objectives (As and Os) in the coming week to
the team every Monday. This is followed
by a Monday morning conference call where each member shares weekend
highlights, top three As and Os, and a review of company progress towards
monthly goals. Having consistent and structured check-ins helps keep the team
connected to each other, accountable for their work, and up-to-date on company
direction and goals.
Using BetterWorld Telecom's Unified Communication platform
(one of the services we provide), our team members can see who is available and
who is on the phone at any time. Clicking a team member's name causes the
system to call their phone and to call your phone to connect. Our team also utilizes Google chat for quick
questions, although this has more limited reliability.
Members of our team use different tools and platforms for
their jobs, but everyone is connected to Jungle Disk,
which allows for instant sharing of relevant files with the rest of the
company. Everyone is also connected to
Salesforce, which is a cornerstone for much of our customer care and company activity.
We commissioned a nine-month
study with Bainbridge Graduate Institute on the environmental and business
impacts of adopting a virtual work environment,
the result of that study was a framework called BetterWork TM. BetterWork TM is an organizing strategy that
physically provides substitutions for commuting, travel and building activities
through the implementation and adoption of current virtual work tools (audio,
video conferencing, unified communications, and so on.). Many of the tools and solutions we provide to
our customers support virtual work and we use them ourselves to optimize our
Below is a summary of tools, practices and tips from our
Virtual work can be a daunting
shift for organizations, but it also has been shown to decrease costs, increase
employee retention and satisfaction, and catalyze greater productivity (Filling
the Tank with Telework, 2011). Insuring that you have a structure and
policies in place can insure a successful transition to a virtual work
environment for your team.
Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at TechSoup.org @bajeckabean on Twitter