The virtual office: Another option
According to Gartner Inc.’s 2008 report “The Virtual Office: Making a Compelling Business Case,” 41.4 million corporate employees globally will spend at least one day a week teleworking.(1)
Although virtual offices vary in format, the most typical kind of teleworking involves an individual who works from home at least one day a week and has work space available at an office for the remaining days.
Teleworking or telecommuting is on the rise for the following reasons:
- Office overhead and transportation costs are increasing. Working from home has shown to reduce those expenses in the long-term.
- Recruiting talented personnel has become a greater challenge. Virtual work environments enable recruitment from a greater area, including disabled individuals who may be homebound, and more people than ever are seeking work-at-home positions.
- Telecommuting research indicates an increase in productivity and a greater number of hours worked, as employees do not have to travel. Research also suggests that home distractions appear manageable and do not impede work results.
Interested in seeing if telecommuting is right for your agency? Consider these issues before taking the leap:
Technological advancements have made telecommuting easy. From remote server login to Blackberrys for 24/7 communication, telecommuting is simply more feasible.
However, if your IT infrastructure isn’t prepped for a mobile workforce, an up-front investment may be required. You’ll need to consider possible upgrades or modifications to your on-site location, such as implementing a secure virtual network or remote monitoring software. Home office equipment, including printing or scanning capabilities, web cams and phone headsets, may also be needed.
Policies and procedures
Working from home may mean different policies and procedures. Will your team be able to work at any time, or will there still be established work hours? How will your managers oversee performance, and will you require attendance for weekly web conferences?
No matter the final decisions, it will be imperative to communicate how these changes will impact your team.
- Satisfy dual needs by using promotional products to help outline any new rules while supplying their home office at the same time! Give logo’d folders with the revised inserted policies and ensure every employee has a stapler or other office essentials imprinted with the IT help desk’s number.
Your team’s work habits may shift, and the social element of coming to an office space may be diminished for some of your team members. But helping them stay connected to your culture will ease the transition.
- When transitioning to a virtual office, don’t cut on-site time cold turkey. Begin by having three days working in the office…then two…then one…and finally, after several weeks of waning, none. This way, it will be easier to adjust to the rhythm of a home office.
- Send magnetic clips imprinted with “You’re an important part of the team” as a way to let each employee know they are not alone, but part of a greater whole.
- Implement instant messaging (IM), wikis, Twitter feeds or listservs to help keep communication open and frequent.
- Imprint your agency’s core values, mission statement or the agency phone directory on mouse pads.
Telecommuting can be a cost-effective way to minimize your agency’s overhead, increase your team’s productivity and enhance your recruitment efforts. Consider beginning with a pilot program to establish the ground rules and ensure a smooth customer transition.