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Article Contributed by Anand Srinivasan

A recent Gallup study found that nearly 43 percent of the American workforce has worked remotely at least once in the past year. This number is expected to go further up as more and more businesses realize the potential increase in productivity and the drop in operational expenses with a remote workforce. But although a virtual workforce offers great benefits to both organizations and its employees, it also has its fair share of challenges to overcome.

One of the biggest drawbacks of a remote workforce is the inability to arrive at a consensus. Unlike a traditional workplace setting where employees can talk and iron out differences quickly and efficiently, collaboration tools may not always make up for face-to-face interactions. It’s not surprising then that IBM, one of the pioneers of remote working culture, recently asked its employees to return to their cubicles. The ability to make decisions faster featured among the various reasons cited by the company for the move.

But moving employees to a physical workspace may not be feasible for all businesses. This is especially true for bootstrapped startups and enterprise businesses with a global workforce. Also, it doesn’t make sense to create physical workspaces when remote working has proven to be an extremely beneficial concept. For organizations that want to retain a virtual workspace, the solution lies somewhere in the middle – a platform where employees can continue to work remotely without impacting the decision making process.

Virtual platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Trello and Basecamp help remote workers efficiently and collaborate with colleagues on business projects. These tools serve as a discussion board where all project related correspondence is debated and deliberated on. In addition to this, add-on tools like Polly.ai are routinely used by users to conduct surveys among colleagues and stakeholders to arrive at strategic business decisions.

Old school project managers may deem it necessary to engage in a face-to-face conversation for decision making, at least over video conferencing tools like Skype. The idea here is that F2F conversations enable a free flow of ideas and discussions that is absolutely essential. However, one challenge with the legacy concept is that this can discourage shy and inexperienced colleagues from putting forward their ideas. Online survey tools for platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams can offer anonymous polling and the ability to send private messages which can enable a more democratic decision making process.

Remote working is a reality for the modern workforce and comes with terrific cost savings for the employer while also improving the work-life balance and productivity among employees. Given these factors, it may be nigh impossible to turn the clock back and go back to an era of physical offices and a local workforce. But while there may be challenges in some aspects of remote working (like decision making), the tools and technology available in the market today should make sure that workers do not miss the advantages that come with working from under the same roof.


 
 
 

 
 

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