What are the pitfalls of transitioning a workplace to a completely virtual environment?

What are the pitfalls of transitioning a workplace to a completely virtual environment?

As the COVID-19 pandemic circulated at a global scale, working in isolation as remote workers became the new normal. We got extremely comfortable connecting through the screen over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex Meetings etc. While we didn’t need to commute several hours, dress in real work clothes, or spend loads of money on food and coffee when we forgot our packed lunch. Working from home presented a lot of upsides that many people enjoyed.

Moving forward, maintaining a virtual team can still offer many advantages like reducing costs, recruiting employees outside of the region, increase work-life balance, etc. Yet, sometimes in-person collaboration and teamwork are necessary.

So, what are the pitfalls to creating a completely virtual workplace?

Relying on a virtual network minimizes teamwork and collaboration. Even though the digital platforms available offer settings for collaboration, it is still challenging to work together without social cues. Working online it is very hard to sense who is agreeing, disagreeing, and who is paying attention to the presented ideas. There is also a greater chance of misunderstanding what people are contributing. And further, if there are employees working in multiple time zones, finding a time to meet as a team can be extremely difficult.

As working as a team can become difficult, it can become harder to establish trust. Without really interacting with other employees, it is difficult to know their work habits and whether they are reliable. Further, the employer may get anxious about the productivity of their team and excessively regulate or control their employee’s work. It can create mistrust between the employer/employee because the employee can feel their talents are being discredited, or the employer is not being made aware of the work being done by the employee.

Both drawbacks can also create a sense of isolation. Without interacting with the team and building trust, it can make employees feel as though they are completely alienated. There is no lunch break to talk to other colleagues about the challenges they faced with a client, no casual setting to ask questions about the new memo that was emailed, and very little time for new hires to get to know their superiors in an informal setting. Employees can feel like they must push through and recover from obstacles all on their own.

As mentioned, lack of trust can be presented when employers try and control their employees too much. This could develop from a deficient method of tracing employee productivity and development. The employer can no longer physically see the hard work their employees have been engaging in – they see the outcome instead of all steps the employee has taken in between. Some projects take longer than others, but that doesn’t mean the employee has been lazy.

Lastly, in some workplaces, securing confidential data or information can be extremely important. Meetings that would have been initiated in person, must now be done over a computer that can be an insufficient method to protect private information.

If you are an employer who is thinking about transitioning to a completely virtual workplace and requires legal advice on transitioning to the virtual workspace, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.