Factors to Consider When Equipping a Virtual Office
By Gina Blitstein
Working virtually - or remotely - is becoming more and more common. This transition from a traditional work space is happening due to the technological tools that enable people to work from anywhere. Gone are the days when a cubicle in an office building is necessary in order to complete tasks, meet with others and collaborate on projects. And even from a traditional office, virtual meetings and procedures are now commonplace. Benefits of these virtual tools and technologies include:
- they make tasks easier and more efficient to complete, from wherever they are performed
- they make it possible for employees to work from any location
- by nature of their technological presence, there’s often more documentation of the work itself
The technological “tools of the trade” change constantly but the needs they fulfill really don’t. When it comes right down to it, the major components of a project include the ability to collaborate, communicate and share information. Regardless of the specific tools, which would depend upon your particular needs, budget, company size, workflow and probably dozens of other variables, let’s take a look at those three major factors that must be taken into consideration when equipping a virtual office.
Collaboration - No matter how it’s accomplished, the work needs to be defined, tasks need to be delegated and progress needs to be tracked. This project management process is critical for any job - and holds some special challenges when attempted from various locations. Without the benefit of in-person contact, this collaboration must be performed with particular attention to documentation, organization and accountability. Everyone working on the project should be able to discern what others are doing, when tasks are deliverable, and generally be able to gain a “big picture” view of the job whenever necessary.
While strong collaboration solutions include communication and sharing tools, these two factors are critical on their own.
Communication - Without benefit of in-person contact, all communication between coworkers becomes challenging. In most cases, major communications are relayed and documented but oftentimes it’s the minor bits of information, feedback, context and sentiment that fail to be transmitted to virtual workers. This can lead to them feeling, “out of the loop.” Traditional office workers have the opportunity to conduct casual conversations throughout the course of the day that “fill in the gaps” of information - critical and less-so - to which virtual workers are not privy. Be certain to create an opportunity for your entire team - including virtual workers - to participate in those “water cooler conversations,” where casual - yet vital - information is conveyed among coworkers.
Sharing - Virtual workers can’t walk down the hall and hand-deliver a report, blueprint or photograph to a coworker. The technological tools you use for sharing of important documents must be able to deliver them securely, keep track of previous versions, revisions, times, dates, notes, editors and viewers. All pertinent documents should be available to all team members from wherever they work, mimicking a shared file cabinet.
Your virtual office can be as efficient - if not moreso - than a traditional office. In addition, making allowances for workers to work virtually provides a larger talent pool, enabling you to hire anyone from anywhere in the world. A virtual office allows workers to enjoy a more flexible work experience, enhancing their job satisfaction - and it’s no surprise that satisfied employees are more productive. Transportation costs can be lessened when workers don’t need to commute to an office every day, too.
There are so many good reasons to provide the ability for employees to work virtually. Take care to equip it with these factors in mind to ensure that your virtual office is equipped for maximum productivity, ease, convenience and efficiency.
What priorities are important for your virtual office?
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