The virtual office creates an opportunity for employees to work when they want from anywhere. In addition, not only does it save travel time and lower overhead costs as there is no rent to pay, but having remote workers also increases productivity and results in a lower rate of quitting.
What is a virtual office?
Well, a virtual office works like a physical office, but it lacks physical space and facilities. Employees interact with others through portable communication tools such as email, cell phone, mobile apps, voice mail system, laptops, fax machines and an audio video conferencing system.
Allowing workers equipped with these tools to be able to carry out their work from anywhere: their homes or cars, restaurants, airports, client offices, among others.
In addition, these electronic communication tools allow organizations to greatly reduce the office work required for each employee, sometimes allowing them to replace dozens of conventional offices with a “productivity centre” that employees can use to hold meetings and perform other short-term face-to-face tasks.
Advantages of virtual offices
Virtual offices offer several advantages over physical offices because these link employees through electronic means rather than physical means. Some of the advantages of a virtual office are the following:
Lower cost of installation.
The virtual office allows an organization to reduce the cost required to establish a physical office. Instead of having a large physical office, the organization can be significantly reduced in size as many employees work for the office without physically attending. This helps reduce the cost of real estate, the cost of maintenance, and the cost of physical travel for employees.
Reduction of expenses on office equipment
The physical office requires employees to use computers while working there. In virtual offices, such equipment is not required; what is required is the development of a local area network through which employees are connected, and this arrangement is more relevant to information workers. For other categories of employees, other electronic communication tools are required.
They emphasize formal communication
A virtual office places emphasis on the formal communication network that ensures the orderly flow of communication throughout the organization. This further ensures that only officially relevant communication passes through the network, unlike physical offices where a lot of time is wasted in informal communication without much meaningful exchange of ideas and thoughts.
They reduce lost business days
Virtual offices can even work during some events that can hinder the work of physical offices, such as storms, hurricanes, floods, among others. Since employees are not required to physically attend the office, they can continue to work during such events.
Interaction and social contribution
These allow employees to participate in social interaction as they can save time due to the absence of physical commuting that is otherwise time consuming for employees. Similarly, a virtual office allows people who may not be able to physically go to the office, such as disabled people, elderly people, and parents with young children to work.
Disadvantages of the virtual office
A virtual office has certain disadvantages, although most of them are not related to the technical aspects of the job, but to the social aspects. The main disadvantages of this legal form are as follows:
Lack of belonging
In a virtual office system, employees cannot develop a sense of belonging to each other and to the organization. They never treat themselves as members of the organization or members of a team they are working for. Due to lack of membership, the employee turnover rate tends to be higher. This is detrimental to the organization in question.
Fear of job loss
Employees who work in a virtual office generally develop a psychological fear of losing their job, as the feeling is created in their mind that they are not indispensable to the organization. This situation lowers morale, which ultimately leads to lower productivity.
Families who are used to seeing older members come into office in the morning and arrive in the evening are hardly reconciled with the view that these members stay home during office hours. This feeling begins to create family tension. Apart from this, family tension created by other factors leads to lower productivity among virtual office workers.
Measures to make a virtual office more effective
To better manage virtual offices, the following measures can be taken:
Provide computing resources
The work in the virtual office revolves around computing resources, and these resources must be provided by the employing organizations. When providing these computing resources, you must ensure that they are consistent with the requirements of the employees in question.
Access to information
Arrangements must be made for employees to have easy access to the information they need. As society becomes increasingly information-oriented, employee access to relevant information is a prerequisite for the successful operation of virtual offices.
Organize conference calls or video calls in a virtual office
A conference call allows more than two people to participate in a telephone conversation at the same time, and this helps workers exchange opinions and ideas with each other without physically meeting. These views and ideas are very helpful in solving problems that cannot be solved individually, and to take advantage of this phenomenon, the organization must organize conference calls or video calls at regular intervals.
Organize regular meetings
Although in the systems of virtual offices a face-to-face meeting between employees may not be required to do their work, sometimes it is best if they meet their co-workers at a predetermined time at regular intervals. These meetings help them understand each other better and develop belonging and a sense of community. Therefore, the organization should arrange for such meetings and inform all interested workers.
Keep track of work routine in a virtual office
Employees should be encouraged to develop and follow their own work routine so that their attention is not distracted during their working hours. If they develop and follow that work routine, their family, friends and others may hesitate to disturb them during their working hours at home or elsewhere.
Carry out an objective evaluation of job performance
The organization must develop some objective criteria for the evaluation of the work performance of workers. Once the work evaluation criteria are finished, they must be communicated to the employees or teleworkers so that they are very clear about what the organization expects from them. This can instil a kind of discipline among staff that is beneficial to both them and the organization.