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Virtual offices, telecommuting and telework all mean essentially the same thing: employees work from another location outside of the traditional office. Virtual offices and telecommuting have become immensely popular for some employers, and met with trepidation by others. The concept is a relatively new one, which makes it difficult to construct definitive policies that set clear parameters for working outside the traditional office environment. As with any work arrangement, there are advantages and disadvantages to virtual offices and telecommuting.
Customer Service Representative – For a busy entrepreneur, customer service is a great task to outsource to a virtual assistant. You can forward calls to your virtual assistant, and they can become a virtual call center designated specifically for your business. With the enhancement of technology, there are companies such as Ring Central that make this an easy option for small businesses. Additionally, the virtual assistant can handle any follow-up calls as needed.
Travel Research:Virtual assistants are a great resource for finding hotels, booking airfares and mapping out trip itineraries both for business and pleasure. The assistants can take advantage of the growing number of travel research tools and review sites on the Web. They can also deal with the hassle of navigating time zones when booking or researching international travel options by phone.
Employers can also realize saving by allowing virtual workplaces. Among these are real estate or office costs. By allowing more workers to telecommute, companies can reduce the amount of works space they need and it also reduces the resources needed to support these employees in the office (such as office supplies and electricity). According to the Telework Research network, the average real estate savings realized from a full-time teleworker is $10,000 a year. Companies that have implemented several virtual workplaces have seen large cost savings in real-estate cost. For example, IBM has reduced its real estate costs by $50 million and Sun Microsystems saves $68 million per year. 2
Administrative Services – Most businesses need a good administrative assistant. A virtual assistant can handle all types of administrative services, which include managing company email, scheduling and confirming appointments, managing business correspondence, entering data, and assisting with bookkeeping. They can also take on additional administrative projects that you don’t wish to handle. Thankfully, you will find that many virtual assistants are Microsoft Excel experts.
Companies are being forced to address production over presence as the ultimate indicator of value in the remote world. That is forcing people to rethink their traditional compensation plans. As these compensation plans better align employees with the company, the overall financial picture improves. People are incentivized to the right behaviors, and both the company and employee benefit. - Matthew May, Acuity
Personal life and work life imbalance: As it involves work being done in the same physical space as where most people typically go about their personal lives, it is inevitable that work will be invasive in your personal life or vice versa. This means that maintaining harmony between work life and personal life is crucial to the success of virtual work.
Having a virtual office can cause employees to miss out on the social advantage of being in an office. Virtual employees can suffer from the "out of sight, out of mind" effect, in which they could be passed on for promotions or opportunities because they weren't in the office for management to consider them. They also can miss out on networking opportunities which could lead to other options in the company.
"At Trello, we've found it beneficial to create activities like online trivia nights and coffee meetings. We also try to recreate those casual 'water cooler moments' you experience in a physical office with our team chat and video conferencing tools," Pryor said. "We've also created multiple social channels for employees to share their hobbies, fitness goals or silly pictures of their kids. Especially in virtual teams, you need these opportunities to connect on a human level."
Online Research:You can easily farm out Internet research to virtual assistants. Common requests include finding information on corporate websites, exploring new products and vetting potential employees or business contacts. Be sure to send clear instructions, along with user names and passwords so assistants can get access to specialty search tools or paid websites.
In a world that is constantly on the move, the concept of “office” appears to be best left behind in the 20th century. With the rise of cloud technology and the increased need for people to stay mobile, the idea of going to an office seems to be fading away fast. As a company owner, there's no more need to spend thousands of dollars on renting an office space and managing an in-house team.
Collaborate about team expectations and goals. Be sure that expectations and goals are clearly stated for virtual meetings. If working in a team, allow everyone to work together to create the team’s expectations and goals. This will set the standard for what’s expected from everyone, and allow everyone to agree on meeting protocols, such as how to resolve conflict and make group decisions.
Having worked remotely for my whole career (25 years) I found this to be a great read. I certainly agree with the elements as provided. It does take a certain personality to be able to stay focused and committed without the boss watching. wink wink. The biggest challenge I find is actually separating from work. With the advent of PDA this is really the norm rather then the exception.