Virtual business: employees’ expectations v the unavoidable truth


Necessity is the mother of invention – critical times call for businesses to reinvent themselves and create a perfect fit for business continuity. Many businesses globally are taking a paradigm shift of running virtual entities. Even though the internet has been here for decades, online presence hasn’t posed much of a challenge for businesses – the internet offers a better competitive advantage.

For the past years, online presence has boosted the business’s brand and complemented their physical presence. Now, the challenge is how businesses can integrate their operational activities and employees fully on to the internet as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to severely impact business operations.

Organizational activities which are essential to meet customers’ needs are necessary for business persistence. Many organizations are used to the traditional business operations by which their existing structures accommodate the new age Internet presence to maximum productivity. It is no longer a question of business availability but also accessibility to meet the high need demands of customers in the current crisis that is certain to change the future of business and total employability. Business, service accessibility, and delivery today are key to meeting customers’ expectations, but business activities and operations can be impeded by many telecomputing challenges.

The Challenges

Today, companies are facing indebtedness and shutdown due to uncertainty of the economic conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The unpredictable nature of the pandemic makes sustenance of businesses difficult, since it’s impossible to work from the office and have stable continuity of operations – which has forced businesses to shift into virtual companies.

The Internet’s benefits to business are like ideas without financial backings – they go through the development phases, but without the financial commitment nobody ever hears of them. This is the Internet’s importance for businesses to reach customers outside their locations – as it serves as an essential key for companies, it’s also a necessary evil ruining business reputations and productivity.

The virtual business has rapidly become the most attractive amid the COVID-19 crisis, pushing businesses which do not have an existing fitting structure to move and manage a mobile workforce. While businesses have the potential to skyrocket to success, the unavoidable truth is running a virtual business isn’t fun – wearing pajamas all day and relaxing in a favourite couch to get some work done. The surge of many businesses fast rolling into virtual entities to stay afloat without strategically analysing its benefits and challenges is becoming more like a trend than a necessity.

These platforms can offer real challenges for companies, employees and even customers. The illuminating truth is that businesses are overwhelmed by the pandemic, and staying operative is critical for survival and a comeback after the coronavirus pandemic – the time to restructure, determine a balance for its remote employees, customer’s preference among other decisions, were majorly taken in a haste as a response to the lockdowns and restricted movement orders by governments to curb spread of the virus.

Heck, it isn’t even the shift of many companies going remote at the same time. Its how a company cultivates business growth by offering employees a voice while encouraging rigorous day-to-day attitudes, productivity, work ethics and engagement The challenges can outweigh the benefits – a few issues to look at are:

  1. Loss of culture

A company’s culture creates a unique identity for the brand and an environment for employees. An actual presence helps co-workers to bond over time – discover tidbits of each other’s strength and weaknesses without a necessary communication. Regardless of how you look at it, employee’s virtual engagement will not 100% provide the warmth for that bonding. Remotely, it doesn’t define the variety of elements which constitute a company’s personality. Business culture is paramount for the team’s success.Certainly, the aftermath of coronavirus will cause an inevitable change to our business settings.

  1. Poor relationships

A relationship between a company and its workers will foster a healthy network during and after work. We have all had our fair share of the ‘social life’ with our co-workers, and you will attest to being hesitant to keeping a continuous flow – even in good moments. Working remotely can be uninspiring and lonely. It’s difficult to build a relevant social relationship and keep up a conscious effort to stay productive working online.

  1. Overwhelming schedules

Effective working hours are defeated –personal experience is having to deal with mental exhaustion and being unable to meet deadlines. Working from home most certainly conflicts with home chores and other personal responsibilities. A flexible work schedule from that of the office can help to avoid burnout and ineffectiveness. But the truth is the same; working in a formal setting produces more results than from the comfort of home – it’s not an issue of conditional mindset but a case of available remote structure

  1. Cost

Cost-efficiency may currently not be on the table for many businesses now, looking at the need to meet demand and minimise cost. Remote work comes with extra costs – more data, upgrading to premium Apps tools to have maximum benefits, etc.

The Workforce

As more businesses are going virtual and employees working remotely than ever before due to impact of the coronavirus, there’s no doubt the number will continue to increase as businesses are trying to improve the work-life balance and protect workers from testing positive for the virus.

Companies are greatly influenced by the huge changes taking place, disrupting traditional business settings and making way for business leaders to take proactive measures. Employees, in fear, are demanding better working conditions under the present circumstances. The workforce has taken another dimension – requiring both employers and employees to create dynamism and innovation to work in synergy to have a positive outcome. While the global business has gone virtual, they need to understand aspirations of the workforce at a level where engagement encounters fair treatment to be successful with management fulfilling its responsibilities.

The necessity of workers to also fully understand and integrate into working remotely, and have access to and the right virtual attitude toward work and customers, is more imperative than ever before. Another significant concern about the massive change in the mobile workforce is the current underlying pandemic; employees’ attitude and readiness toward work within the short time of transition from office space to online can be a hindering factor to productivity. The expectations behind the change in work setting are: better working conditions from home, defined work activities and telecommuting enhancement.

Defining the workforce

The role of management is first understanding the changing demands are due to a crisis and try to maintain a balance between the office and working remotely. Companies are changing to meet customers and equal demand delivery, productivity, generate value and still achieve objectives as well as collective success.

In the long run, whether you see an increase in virtual businesses and the workforce or recent flood of online businesses that have arisen concerning many countries under lockdown, you will find one thing very common: most of the challenges arising out of working from home have been due to coherence issues between team and management, consistent flow in communication, team mental health amid the pandemic, and high Internet charges among other failures.

Physical v Virtual Presence

Everything changes – and so does the concept of a traditional office. The idea of working remotely tends to attract more and more people – the number of such people is even twice bigger when we look at certain industries like IT, consulting, copywriting, support service groups, marketers just to list a few. Everyone wants to work from the comfort of their homes – who wouldn’t? Some managers, as well as employees, have described remote as less stressful, engaging, even more productive and ensures their happiest selves – freedom!

Almost 87% of business leaders and owners usually prefer the idea of office to remote because they believe this way work can be monitored and done in time, and exactly the way they want it – the reason physical presence to many employers is an assurance that work will be done by all means. The truth is that the physical presence of employees doesn’t guarantee productivity or 100% concentration – they can be distracted and less productive if they deem fit. An employee can engage in other personal activities within working hours – e.g. check and update social media statuses, watch YouTube videos and listen to music at will – and still manage to get 100% of work done.

Considering the state of fear for most employees in losing their jobs and assuming full responsibilities at home, especially if they’re family persons, makes it even challenging to get any work done all. Procrastination and multitasking are some common setbacks remote workers face. In my opinion, its more imperative for businesses to keep up good standing with customers in this moment of global crisis, and improve business persistence for a good chance of recovery. At the same time, I believe remote will cost businesses more to stay relevant and with less productivity – virtual presence can keep being active, while more focus is emphasised on strategic post-pandemic activities. unless in an essential service where some of the employees can be remote.

Employee expectation

Expecting 100% from employees in the hour of a pandemic would be considered an act of cruelty. However, its not far from the truth that businesses need to be productive for employees to keep their jobs. Remote employees are expected to be:

  1. Reliable
  2. Affordable
  3. Accountable
  4. Accessible, and
  5. Productive

The Future of Businesses

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to change business practices and traditional settings. Remote work has been done for years by many successful brands, but under very different conditions. Organizations now have to begin rethinking the purpose of remote work. In moments of panic, critical thinking is imperative for companies to figure how to be productive working from home if that is their best option – there are hundreds of productivity tools for remote work that businesses can work with. I also discussed restructuring in my previous articles – ensuring a post-survival strategy is a vital decision business leaders must begin to take.

As the world gradually heals from the impact of coronavirus, companies can provide the options of flexible working options for employees. It’s unprecedented to have most of the business world shift to working remotely at the same time – unthinkable. I’m certain more remarkable changes will play out after this pandemic is behind us; and as the world adjusts to the severe impacts, businesses will also learn to adapt and move along to provide value and more value.

>>>The writer is the CEO of Commec Group, a business development consultancy. She is a multiple award winning Business Development Consultant and a Writer. For business and engagements: [email protected] /

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