By Anthony Chadwick, Founder and CEO, The Webinar Vet
Businesses globally are still working hard to adapt to the changes COVID and lockdown have forced, however for many SMEs virtual leadership and remote working may be something they’re considering permanently or long term. Like any workplace shift, there are pros and cons to every decision, especially when it comes to virtual leadership.
Let’s start with the pros:
Creating a more sustainable future.
Continuing to work virtually for both you and your team can have huge sustainable benefits. By not regularly commuting, you are drastically reducing your and your team’s carbon emissions that would have resulted from the regular 9-5 commute that many of us have been practicing for years.
By also cancelling out the need for a commute, many leaders and their employees can free up to an hour of time in the day, if not more. For leaders this can be a vital amount of time to catch up on tasks and do that extra bit of work needed, especially for leaders of SMEs, time is so valuable. For employees, by not starting the day with a busy commute, this extra time can make a huge difference in their wellbeing and productivity, which is crucial to business success.
Who wouldn’t want to opt for an extra hour in bed and reduce carbon emissions at the same time?
Easier to expand the team
By becoming a remote SME and leading virtually permanently, it can give leaders the option to hire from outside of their county and expand into a wider pool of talent when hiring for new positions. By opening up a job to anyone in the UK or further afield, it’s so much easier to expand your team and you’re much more likely to find a better fit for your company by hopefully having a much larger list of applicants to choose from.
Flexible working hours
By not being tied to an office, it can mean that leaders are able to choose their working hours and take more breaks as and when it’s needed and best suited. It’s much easier to take a step away to make a drink and sit outside for 5 minutes in your garden for some fresh air than it is to leave an office / building. Taking regular breaks and working hours when you’re most alert, as a leader,
is known to improve productivity and motivation to get the tasks done. However, if you are known to be a night owl, make sure you let your team know and communicate the hours you’ll be available during the working day and when to contact you if needed.
The same also applies for employees, flexible working is known to attract top talent, increase productivity and engagement as well as providing a cost efficient and eco- friendly working choice.
Again, just make sure that employees are regularly communicating their hours and availability if and when it is changing.
Reduced overhead costs
It may be obvious, but by letting go of a fixed workspace and going virtual, as an SME, can save a massive amount of money and reduce overhead costs such as rent, electricity, heating, the list goes on….
Using the money saved from office expenses and better utilising it in areas your SME needs, such as recruitment, or marketing can be the difference between success and failure. Even big brands such as Apple are adopting a new remote working policy on certain days, which will undoubtedly reduce overhead costs.
Sefton Council recently recognised a 10% reduction in its carbon emissions due to home working. If we are to hit our Paris climate accord commitments every saving will be vital.
However, with any benefit from virtual leadership also comes consequences:
Sense of community
Many leaders and employees have felt their once thriving workplace community, drastically diminish over the past year. By not having those tea break chats and regular conversations with colleagues, the sense of community as a leader and team has taken a hit. Some leaders and employees thrive at being in the workplace and are much more productive being in an office environment, so it’s really important to listen to your team as a leader and know how your team best operate. As switching to a permanent remote working policy could end up having a detrimental effect on your workforce. It’s important as a leader that you feel engaged and connected to your team and community.
New recruits / onboarding
Hiring new team members and onboarding them successfully as a leader is a lengthy and important process, which can be made all the more difficult if done remotely. Its not as easy for a new colleague to ask a quick question for clarity or bounce new ideas around if they’re working remotely. It can often leave employees feeling lost and uncertain on their day to day activities. If you are considering virtual leadership for the long haul, then make sure you have a tried and tested onboarding method for any new recruits that clearly outlines what is required as well as a first point of contact they can go to with any questions.
When you’re not physically present in the same room as your employees, it makes it that much harder to communicate. Thanks to technology there are many platforms you can use such as zoom, but these can often be impersonal and draining, particularly for employees. Make sure you have 1 on 1 sessions once a month with each employee encouraging open and honest communication so that your goals and values for them as a leader are clearly outlines and there is no doubt what is required from them. By also having regular team meeting you’ll easily be able communicate any tasks and goals that are needed that week and keep on track of progress.
It’s clear that for every individual business there are going to be pros and cons to virtual leadership. What’s important is what works best for you and your team, for some that may mean going remote, for others it’s returning to the workplace. The most popular option for many is a blend of the two where possible.
Anthony Chadwick, a serial entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of The Webinar Vet, a world leader in online veterinary education. He is one of the most recognised and respected thought leaders in the UK veterinary sector. Anthony is famous for disrupting the veterinary profession with new and innovative ideas to make life easier for vets and nurses. He is very passionate about providing high quality education and services to veterinary professionals in a very accessible and affordable manner which is also sustainable for the environment.
Anthony founded The Webinar Vet in 2010, when the word webinar was not in the veterinary dictionary. A vet by trade, whilst at an internet conference he spotted a gap in the market to make veterinary education and training more accessible and affordable, via the medium of webinars. Trailblazers in the industry, the company grew very quickly and now has over 75,000 veterinary professionals accessing the training in over 120 countries. Students currently spend a combined annual total of over 200,000 a year training on the site. The Webinar Vet training has reduced travel mileage by several million miles since starting in 2010 with concomitant carbon reduction.