Virtual offices are taking off as a viable solution for non-profits, small businesses, start-ups, individuals, and others who want access to the benefits of technology without the baggage and expense of the traditional office space. The first real virtual office as a commercial application came into use in 1994, and the idea has only grown since then. About 67% of professionals now agree that remote work is productive work, and a full 80% of employees look at the option of working remotely as a real perk to their job. This is especially true as cities grow and traffic worsens. Already, 14% of workers in the United States have changed their job solely for the purpose of shortening their daily commute. This is led to the rise of coop working spaces and virtual offices.
Despite the benefits of virtual offices both to businesses and to employees, some companies have been highly reluctant to move to a virtual office scenario. Employees need to make sure that they can work without distraction while still enjoying the perks of remote work. Employers need some assurance that employees will give them the time and effort that they’re paying for even when no one is keeping an eye on them. For virtual offices to run successfully, there are a few things that need to happen.
- Rotate in-office time. While working remotely can be good both for morale and motivation, it is also important that everyone at the company occasionally network and remain familiar with all of the moving pieces at the physical location. It’s a good idea to rotate people coming in to work at co working space in the office once in a while. If there is no physical space at all, it’s possible to rent an occasional meeting room or other physical space to get everyone together. This doesn’t need to happen a lot, but it should happen occasionally.
- Make a rented office your own. Once in a while you’re going to need to bring everyone together to an actual physical space in order to hold a meeting with face-to-face communication. When that happens, skip the café or coffee shop. For one thing, you have no guarantee that the coffee shop has space for you unless you rent a room, so either way you’re spending money. If you don’t rent space at the café, you also won’t have the privacy you need, and your people will be constantly distracted by everything that’s going on. Rent a meeting room and make it a professional space.
- Even virtual offices need office hours. Your customers and clients need to know when they can contact you and get an immediate response. Although you may be allowing employees to come in and out to work virtually at any time of the day or night, there should still be advertised office hours when there will definitely be somebody monitoring the website and any phones in order to answer questions and address issues.
- Use time or goal-tracking programs and project systems. You want to make sure that employees stay motivated, and one of the best ways to do that is to let them work from home. Numerous studies have shown that employees who can do at least some of their work remotely tend to work more diligently. This isn’t always a given, though, so there are two options here. One option is time-tracking software that allows you to see exactly how many minutes employees have spent actively working and connected to your site. Another even better solution is to use goal-tracking solutions. Rather than keeping track of every person’s individual timecard, goal tracking watches what is actually being accomplished. After all, it’s not the time you want so much as the work. This also might let you keep track of which employees are working most efficiently and reliably. That kind of information is useful when it comes time to determining promotions and raise or deciding who is allowed to work remotely and how much of the time.
The virtual office can save money for a business and energize and motivate employees. Set up your system well from the beginning and you can reap the benefits of both these advantages.