Technology has been an amazing factor for the workplace, giving people remote access to their job-related tools. Such developments have led to an increase in popularity of a "distributed workforce" or "virtual offices", where employees report to work online but not necessarily in office. There's a lot of known "pros" for this type of office setup, such as employees enjoying their flexibility and being able to recruit people from all over the world. According to The Forrester Research Group, 63 million employees are expected to work from home by 2016. However, a distributed workforce is usually touted because of its effect on decreasing business expenses. But is a virtual office really worth the money you are "saving"? Find out more on the pros and cons below.
1. Money- Without a doubt, if you are not having to pay for rent, electricity and other bills associated with having an office space, you are cutting down on major costs by having a virtual office. Not to mention, you are probably getting more for your money when it comes to your employees. When your employees are able to work from anywhere, sick days are more infrequent, they are able to check in at various off-hours of the day, etc. This freedom increases productivity, giving you a larger return on the money you invest in your employees.
2. Convenience - The best part of a virtual office is the convenience it now provides to each and every member of your team. You can now take your office with you anywhere. If you're not feeling well, but have an urgent deadline? You can work from the comfort of your bed. If your flight gets delayed and you trip goes longer than expected, you are still able to log on the next day, as your ability to work isn't dependent on location. Working becomes incredibly convenient, allowing you to only focus on the job at hand, instead of worrying about how you're going to fit in a doctor's appointment if you are too sick to come to the office.
3. Increased Talent Pool - Whenever you have a remote office, your ability to recruit stellar employees immediately (and vastly) expands. You no longer have to only consider candidates in your area, but you can search for talent all across the U.S. and even the world. This might allow you to bring on an individual who is a "better fit" than any of the available local talent. You'll truly be able to hire the "best of the best".
1. Blurred Lines - Although the virtual office provides a new level of convenience, it can also make it very difficult to separate business from personal. As a business owner it is already hard enough to make this distinction, but with the ability to always be "on", it will become even more of a challenge. As well, you will find that your the employees start to struggle with the very same definition. You do not want your employees to become exhausted because its too hard to turn "off".
2. Relying on Technology - You will no longer have inconveniences which cause the office to shut down, such as snowstorms, but relying on the internet and technology to connect your team can be a bit intimidating. You never know when an employees internet connection is going to die out, or be slow for a particular day. Damages can happen to your computer, for example, which would completely handicap you from doing any work. If you are going to consider a virtual office, you also need to consider ensuring your entire team has access to a stellar internet connection and top of the line hardware and software.
3. Lack of Personal Interactions - One of the biggest "cons" of a distributed income is the lack of valuable face-time. It's hard to develop personal relationships with employees when nobody is in the same place. There aren't people to have lunch with or chat with around the "water-cooler". Many people meet their friends through the workplace, so distributing your workforce takes away the possibility of personal interactions. Having many friends at work sometimes increases employee loyalty, so you'll need to find a way to keep loyalty up without face-to-face interactions.
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There are obviously many positives and negatives that come with having a virtual office. However, the best way to evaluate if this is a right decision for your business is to see if a distributed workforce fits in line with the mission of your company. If you value flexibility and freedom, it could be a great fit. If personal relationships and connection to the company is most important, it might not be the right setup for you. (Image: via freedigitalphotos.net)