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Helen was recently interviewed by Business Mondays Scotland regarding how businesses are rethinking the way they work post pandemic.

The recent pandemic has forced businesses across the globe to re-evaluate every aspect of their business models. Lockdown measures have cast questions around whether it’s essential and more importantly, cost-effective for teams to be working physically from one central hub. Interestingly, a forced exit from the 9-5 office structure, has led businesses to innovate and many are now considering the benefits of sustained remote working practises.

Helen Foord is a global, strategic marketing and business development consultant passionate about empowering people to make a commercial and professional difference, in a socially, environmentally, financially and communicationally responsible way. Specialising in the legal sector, she has over 20 years-experience, across a number of in-house and agency roles, supporting organisations towards achieving their business objectives.

She shares her unique insights into how teams can go about successfully creating virtual businesses post-pandemic.

“It’s been very strange over recent months because people have kept asking how we were all coping, working from home. But the reality is that we’ve all worked like this for years and the recent circumstances haven’t changed very much for us at ELE Global. What I’ve found is that growing the virtual business isn’t hard. Good people have always been easy to find. Keeping them interested and supplied with stimulating work, however, is the big challenge.

There’s a wealth of tools and support out there for digital and virtual businesses – if you know where to look and since I’ve been running my business, the market for these has exploded. My personal favourites are: Xero, Zoho CRM, MarketingHub, PandaDoc and last but not least, what agency manager wouldn’t list Slack here?! We use it for virtual coffee, chat, client discussions and also share boards with clients on their projects.

We’ve invested a lot in looking at our technology and we are constantly reviewing how well it’s working for us as a team. Having increased client engagement digitally has fuelled this, and we’re looking at much greater levels of automation and integration than before.

What is hard, however, particularly at the moment when we can’t meet at all, is keeping and motivating those in a virtual business. Historically we’ve had face-to-face coworking sessions and meet-ups, but this is something that we simply can’t do that at the moment, so we’ve had to be more imaginative and use tools like Zoom, Slack and Facebook more and more.

Some things I’ve found to be really effective in keeping remote teams motivated include not just assuming things aren’t valuable or working because only a handful of people are using them. You might organise a weekly coffee chat on Zoom only for two people to turn up, but those two people may value that session. It’s quality of engagement and interaction that’s important, not the quantity of takers.

I also think it’s really important to ask people what they think and want and allow them to direct the activities you implement. That could be face-to-face events or digital, new ways of working or software. Their feedback is critical to both ensuring they feel valued and empowered. Internal reporting is also key. Most systems allow you to monitor how often people are using systems as well as how and when. This can be really valuable to help understand what needs to change or what can be done better.

I’m not sure that virtual organisations will ever serve as a complete substitute to large face-to-face meetings because physically being together from time to time is hugely beneficial for not only teambuilding, but also supporting everyone’s mental health. It’s been really interesting to see the changes in the legal sector over the Covid-19 period. Most firms now freely accept that they can be run virtually and with people working at home, and I think this is going to transform an already booming freelance and virtual working sector.”

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