All the time! Just kidding, but unfortunately some people think that this is actually the case. And pushing your virtual team too far will have negative impacts on your business in several ways.
But let’s focus on the positives and talk about how you can enable greater performance by focusing on productivity rather than traditional “shift-based” thinking. Determining when your remote staff work will have a dramatic impact, either positively or negatively, on their productivity, well-being and your internal company culture.
Am I advocating removing shifts from your virtual team? Not at all.
What I do advocate though is “balance”.
Let’s look at a real life case study before we begin to explore how to establish your team rosters.
Case Study – Blanket Rules
A large company with over 700 employees, implemented a rule that all offshore staff needed to be onsite to work equivalent hours as their Australian counterparts. Given that the offshore team was located in India, there was a 4.5 hour (or 5.5 hour depending on daylight savings) time difference between the two delivery centres. The work performed was primarily back office tasks with little interaction required however there was a component of inbound and outbound calling required in some roles.
To make matters a little more difficult, the initial ruling was that all offshore staff needed to be in the office at the earliest shift timing in Australia. 7am AEST. This meant that people needed to be in the office between 1:30am and 2:30am Indian Standard Time.
It is important to note that not all Australian-based staff started at 7am and that common starting times were between 8:30am to 9:30am AEST
The misalignment between onshore/offshore working hours is a common issue and one that can only be resolved through pragmatism.
The impacts of this ruling were dramatic. Staff attrition soared over 40%. Those who did stay struggled with tiredness and low esteem. They were often disconnected from their family life and this created strain. Motivation levels dropped and a clear imbalance crept in between the two delivery teams.
Initially it was difficult to get the ruling changed. Eventually, we created a short video that documented “A Day in the Life of Our Staff” – it showed a female from the office getting picked up by taxi in the middle of the night. It showed the length of her work day. Her return to home was still in peak hour traffic in India. You could see the exhaustion in her face (although this was not the primary intention). The video was placed on the Client’s intranet and it was an eye opener. We also began rotating client representatives through the Indian delivery centre and nearly ALL had to wake up at midnight to start their day at work. Easy at the start but after a week, people really saw the impact.
Eventually, agreement was provided to allow non-voice based staff the opportunity to start later in the day. We took the opportunity then to rotate people through voice and non-voice based roles. This spread the load and improved attrition rates substantially.
Summary: A blanket rule, something as simple as agreeing on shift timings, nearly brought an engagement to it’s knees. Pragmatism saved the day.
When should your virtual staff work?
The key is to form a balance with your remote staff. If they are required to emulate your shift timings, it is best to find someone as close to your time zone as possible. If there is the ability to be flexible, it is imperative that you have a firm structure in place to ensure that you and your staff agree when they will be online. It is important that your reporting processes are well defined and adhered to.
It is also important that you assess the interaction that your remote staff member will have with other members of your team. If there is a requirement for regular interaction with other team members, they should have similar or the same shifts.
These are the golden rules for when your virtual employee should work:
- They should at least have a portion of their shift when you are available to work with them
- If they need to emulate your shifts, try and hire close to your timezone
- They should at least have a portion of their shift when other team members are available to work with them. If they need to interact regularly, their shifts should be similar or the same
- They should have an agreed start time that requires your approval to change
- There should be at least one time per week where you can bring the whole team together to ensure everyone is on the same page
- There should be somebody in your team empowered and with the right level of authority to monitor other staff member attendance (so you don’t have to do it)
In summary, try and avoid blanket rosters for your virtual team. With the help of the available tools to keep in-check the work performance such as the Time Doctor, try and create a balanced approach that is monitored by someone else in your team and ensure that your virtual staff are working at a time that is optimum for their output, not just optimum in terms of your ability to monitor them. Wherever possible, be pragmatic.