The modern workplace is constantly evolving due to technological developments and improved communications. Plus, the new generations are no longer happy to suffer through long hours in a rickety office chair, bored out of their minds, just because they can’t leave before the workday ends.
Right now, employees want flexibility and work-life balance, and the best way to offer them that is to get on the virtual office bandwagon. Cloud solutions, safe lines of communication, and mobile devices make it possible for people to intermingle work and life by working from home.
A virtual office also has benefits for the company since it can exist anywhere in the world and doesn’t cost as much to maintain as a physical office space. So, as the business owner and manager, you can manage operations from anywhere in the world (or from home).
According to recent projections, 25% of professional jobs will be remote by the end of the year, so if your virtual office is still not ready, you better start working on it! Moving forward, we have a few great tips on how to start to make sure your efforts will be a success.
Get the Right Equipment
One thing is clear – you can’t do anything without equipment! And you need to cover equipment for both your office (as the manager) and your employees, who are working remotely. Now, the type of equipment needed depends on the type of business.
For instance, your real estate home office will need video chat tools and software that help manage clients and appointments. On the other hand, if you run a sales business, you will need to equip your employees with smartphones or tablets, plus headpieces for long conversations with customers.
For employees who don’t have direct contact with the customer, a laptop with all the necessary software installed and up to date should be enough. So before you go shopping, have a chat with the employees and ask their opinion – after all, they will be the ones using these devices.
Still, you need to make sure the laptop/tablet/phone has enough memory and storage space to allow your employees to do their work. Plus, they’ll need an HD camera (built-in or individual) for meetings and chats.
Easy Access to Company Data & Resources
In today’s interconnected world, we need ways to communicate and interact with each other. For this, you need a secure cloud service that can take care of your data storage and sharing needs.
Also, you need collaborative work software that allows team members to work remotely on the same files and have a chat while doing so. Many companies work with Google Drive (for collaborations) and Slack (for chats), but there are other solutions out there.
Many companies faced cyberattacks during the transition period when no one really know what was going on. Sadly, the confusion of the times and the lack of cybersecurity knowledge left many businesses vulnerable in front of attackers.
While the most common attacks are phishing and malware, there was also a wave of ransomware attacks that left many small businesses and individuals without their savings. Plus, because the ransom was requested in cryptocurrency, ill-intended actors are difficult to catch.
As things start to settle down, people still favor working from home. Plus, the gig economy (freelancing) is getting stronger, which means more people will need remote access to your data. This means you’ll have to provide them with safe access channels protected by powerful encryption (like a VPN).
It also helps to create special accounts, without administrative rights for each remote user. This way, if ill-intended software manages to sneak in, it won’t have access to the entire database or the entire system. It’s a lot easier to delete one account’s data than trying to recover your entire digital livelihood from the clutches of cybercriminals.
Be Organized and Easy to Reach
Managing a remote team is different from guiding a team of people whose faces you can see and with whom you can have face-to-face conversations. Plus, if you’re working with people from different time zones, communication becomes even more difficult.
To keep everything under control, your virtual office needs a good task management software tool that can keep track of appointments, deadlines, projects’ progress, and so on.
You may also want to hire a virtual assistant, who can work with the software, in case your schedule is extremely packed.
Also, make sure to free your schedule for chats with the team members. Have meetings, but also one-on-one chats, and pay close attention to your people’s needs and emotional state. Work from home is fun and rewarding, but it’s also isolating and can lead to depression.
Consider Intelligent Chatbots
Chatbots are extremely useful for a satisfactory customer service experience, but they can also work inside your business. An intelligent chatbot can offer answers and solutions to the most commonly asked questions and it can also ease up the onboarding process for newcomers.
And, once it’s all set up and ready to go, it will work 24/7, 365 days a year without asking for a raise or a salary. Plus, the processing speed is way higher than that of a human, which means one bot can work on several inquiries at the same time.
The good thing about intelligent chatbots is that they also learn while working. This means that they gather all sorts of data (which you can set) that can be later processed and used to understand your team’s behavior. The same goes for your customers if you use chatbots for customer service.
Hybrid work is one of the most powerful workplace trends this year, but there’s also an increase in people who prefer working full-time from home. In both cases, the existence of a fully-equipped virtual office is necessary as it helps organize things and keeps the company’s data safe.
While it’s true that the initial investment is a bit steep, once everything is set up and ready for action, the costs will go down. Plus, if you give up on the physical office space, you’re already increasing your savings.
Michael Dunlop is the Chief Operating Officer of Paradigm Digital Ltd and has extensive experience in business consultancy services.