For a growing number of the workforce, remote working is becoming a way of life. In fact, data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that half of the UK’s workforce are expected to be working remotely by 2020.
How is this even possible, you ask? Well, collaborative technology has a major part to play in the rise of remote working. Digital tools such as video, social media, and messaging apps are now being used to virtually coordinate teams and enable easy collaboration.
More and more startups are collaborating virtually to save on office costs. And it seems to be working for a lot of them. But, is a virtual workplace beneficial for a business? Is there any downfall to forsaking that physical face-to-face interaction?
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
But First, What’s the Main Reason Virtual Workplaces Are on the Rise?
Collaborative technology plays a huge part in breaking down the physical barriers that could pose an issue for a team based in different locations.
Sure, collaborative tools such as online portals and Outlook calendars have been in use for a long time, but over the last few years, more innovative digital solutions such as Slack and Asana are revolutionizing the virtual collaboration game. You can use such tools to communicate and plan projects with your teams as effectively as if you were based under the same roof.
Then there’s the evolution of video calling, so much so that you can replicate the feel of a live meeting using video chat. Tools such as Skype make it possible to video chat with a number of colleagues at once.
Most collaborative technology platforms are easily installed and free to use. There are premium membership options with added benefits that are recommended if you’re trying to run your business completely virtually.
What Are the Benefits of a Virtual Workplace?
First and foremost, it saves money.
Having a remote workforce can lead to huge financial savings for a business. This is largely what makes it so appealing for businesses in a startup phase. You’re saving on rent, office supplies and all the various utilities required in a workplace.
And it’s not just employers who benefit through savings. Employees also save money on commuting costs by working from home.
It could lead to happier employees, which is beneficial for any business that wants to retain good talent.
Being offered the flexibility of working wherever you want is proven to lead to more satisfied employees, as they have a better work/life balance. Is there anything better than being able to work from the beach if you want? The digital nomad lifestyle is becoming a popular choice for many people who want to see the world and hate the thought of being tied to a rigid workplace.
Worried about lack of productivity? You need not be.
Research by YouGov shows that 30% of UK office workers actually reported increased productivity when they were working remotely. Why is this? Well, workers are more likely to work outside office hours working from home. Workers are also less likely to take sick days if they can work where they’re most comfortable, which can save businesses a considerable amount of money over time.
Employers no longer have to worry about geographic restrictions when recruiting – companies have access to more diverse talent from across the world.
In our increasingly globalized world, businesses have to cater to consumers across different markets. Virtual workplaces make it possible for companies to source the best talent from different locations, who have the local knowledge and expertise to offer.
Sounds Great. But, How Do You Know If a Virtual Workplace Is Right for Your Company?
In 2013, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo! decided to ban employees working from home at the tech company. Her reasoning? Mayer said her decision was based on a desire to improve communication and collaboration by getting employees to work alongside each other.
This decision received a fair amount of backlash as various studies and research have proven that virtual workplaces can still run efficiently and communication doesn’t falter. But is there any validity to her arguments?
It is certainly possible that some individuals do fail to find that working from home is productive and need strict hours and an official place of work to keep them regulated and effective.
Simply put, working from home requires a level of self-discipline that not everyone possesses. The best way to determine whether virtual working is right for your company is by assessing the revenue brought in by remote workers vs any staff in the office.
To Sum Up, Is a Completely Virtual Workplace Possible?
In practical terms, yes. And there are various benefits to it, as mentioned above. However, the truth of the matter is that a virtual workplace may not be the right route for every company. If possible, do a trial period of virtual working to see if the level of interaction and communication within your employees suffers. There are time tracking tools and various programs that can provide analytics to help you determine whether your staff is engaged in remote work, and subsequently if a virtual workplace is a right choice for you.
From our other publication, AiThority: Interview with Ryan Hollenbeck, SVP of Global Marketing, Verint