Anyone running a small business has a potential business model that wasn’t an option twenty years ago: The virtual office. The internet has made the virtual office possible. Communication, data sharing, document exchange, and video conferencing have all made it possible for a business to rely on a team of employees who come to work virtually, instead of IRL (in real life). Increasing numbers of small businesses use this model. Is it the right strategy for you? Let’s explore the pros and cons.
Advantages of the Virtual Office
● The most obvious advantage of having a virtual office instead of a traditional one is lower overhead costs. The money saved by not paying for office space, utilities, furniture, janitorial services – yes, even that fancy coffee people expect these days – is significant.
● A virtual office has the virtue of scalability. You can double your staff overnight without the headache of finding everyone work spaces, expanding, or moving into new digs.
● When you are location-independent, you’ve got a larger employment pool. You can seek experienced candidates from around the country, perhaps even from around the globe. Your companies talent pool will not be limited by the area you are in when you choose a remote approach.
● In some cases, having people in a range of time zones is advantageous, so the business can be more responsive. You may even be able to capitalize on having workers who are native speakers of a variety of languages.
● You will attract more potential employees because many people now prefer to work from home. Some of them live in remote places or overseas, but many of them just need flexible hours to care for family members or to accommodate another gig. Having a work from home option, even just a few days a week can add balance to your employee’s lives- which can make them more productive at work. In fact, those who thrive in a virtual office will tend to be loyal, long-term employees.
Disadvantages of the Virtual Office
● Certain industries must consider security and compliance issues. It can be risky to store confidential information remotely. Accidental data breaches are bad news in any industry, especially financial services, retail and healthcare. (Let’s talk about how SOL- I.S. can help your business prevent a data breach)
● There’s less opportunity for camaraderie and collaboration. When employees live in different time zones and do most of their work in pajamas, they don’t get a chance to connect personally, which can be crucial to vibrant teamwork.
● A virtual office will be more fragmented, unless you have ground rules set. Because people may work fewer overlapping hours and not report to a central location, a crisis such as a major equipment failure or a serious IT issue can be very disruptive, due both to communication issues and the inability to brainstorm at an urgent organization-wide meeting.
Making the Call: Virtual or IRL?
If you know of other companies in your industry who are using the virtual office model, study them. Ask them for their own list of pros and cons. Research the many resources on the internet which discuss virtual office dynamics. Start experimenting with some virtual office tools such as remote meeting software, and let employees try working at home for a trial period.
And if the virtual office model works for your business, you may find yourself conducting meetings from a condo in Costa Rica or a villa in France.
Contact SOL-I.S. today to discuss ways that we can partner with your virtual office.