How Can a Virtual Office Be Managed?
It’s good to know the ins and outs of how a virtual office should be properly managed. Read on for details.
A virtual office reaps the benefits of doing away with physical limitations to embrace a fully remote workspace setup – utilizing telecommunication platforms, intranet portals, and safe, encrypted cloud solutions to host and co-work on associated projects.
Virtual offices are easier to set up than ever before. While they date back to the heyday of the fax machine, remote setups today benefit from efficient and cheap face-to-face telecommunications platforms, smartphones, email, voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP), cloud computing and cloud storage, coworking tools, and much more.
Businesses can set up private and encrypted intranet portals to carve out a space for their employees to collaborate without unwanted access, and share and edit files and projects together seamlessly, without the need for any level of physical proximity.
But just because virtual offices revolve around utilizing services that eschew investment in commercial real estate doesn’t mean you can do away with the role of management. Virtual offices still need thorough planning and an effective hierarchy to maintain and even improve productivity beyond the level of a traditional office setup.
Why You Should Set Up a Remote Team
Remote teams, or virtual offices, are easier, faster, and cheaper to set up than a traditional office space, especially for entrepreneurs trying to expand their operations, startup businesses looking for new hires, and larger, established enterprises testing the waters with a regional satellite office in a new location.
Remote teams do away with the need for commutes and physical office spaces, long-term commercial lease commitments, and in many cases, unnecessary office politics.
Virtual Office, Real Address
Some benefits to a remote office setup are more tenuous than others. Some argue that a physical address has a few benefits, including prestige. Clients are more likely to trust a business with an established physical location and a commitment to their vision than a company that exists entirely in the ether of the internet.
However, that view is changing quickly. Even household names like WordPress have long operated as a fully remote team. But even so, these companies do have headquarters and physical addresses, even if nobody uses them. Coworking spaces are one way for your remote business to take on a physical location and reserve a space to meet clients and serve as a business address for physical mail and correspondence, so you don’t have to give up your privacy and enter your home address when creating your virtual company.
Another point of contention is the change in work-life balance that comes with going remote. Some people love the flexibility and freedom that remote work offers. Others feel trapped by it – if you don’t draw a line where your home starts and your “office” begins, it can start to feel like you’re never really at home, or never really at work.
Again, flexibility is both the perk and the key in this case. Offer an optional monthly stipend to your employees to encourage coworking space use, or just working out of a coffee shop if they prefer it. For employees who don’t feel cut out for the work-from-home life, or for whom working from home is more a distraction than a source of additional productivity, the investment in flexible office space options for them can result in a happier, more productive employee.
Set Clear Roles, Schedules, and Boundaries
Virtual offices can be harder to manage because no one is physically present, so it becomes a manager’s job to make sure that team cohesion is present and functioning despite the lack of any physical proximity. Encouraging communication is the most important factor here. Checking in frequently, chatting with other coworkers via company servers, and providing frequent day-to-day updates about how certain projects and tasks are going allows for better control of how everyone is adapting to a virtual structure.
But it’s also important to establish who is responsible for what, in a clearly defined list, to avoid the danger of having tasks slip through the cracks unnoticed. Compile what everyone is doing in any given workday or week and make it public to the rest of the team, so everyone is aware of the role they must play, and so everyone can see that their efforts are creating collective results.
Seeing how your work is having an impact on the overall project and workflow can help establish and reinforce the fact that you’re working as a team, even if you’re all miles apart.
Communication Is Key
Like any good relationship, a virtual office relies on the feedback loop between managers and workers. If either stop listening to one another, the entire system falls apart. That goes as much for projects and coordinated efforts as it does for implementing changes in scheduling and workflow to better accommodate your coworkers’ needs and experiences.
Remote teams are more efficient but losing the element of face-to-face interaction can make individual team members feel more isolated, and less heard. It becomes harder to think of a team or company as family, and more as an obligation to keep the lights on.
Good communication that translates well into actionable results is crucial to proving to your team members that they’re being heard and understood, and that your priorities as a virtual office manager lie with the viability and happiness of the team, rather than short-term gain or shortsighted productivity.
Take Advantage of Coworking Opportunities
Coworking spaces are a better alternative to your physical office needs than setting up an office of your own, especially for a mostly remote or remote hybrid office setup. Virtual offices benefit from eliminating the overhead associated with a physical office space, as well as the time and money spent on commute, utilities, and physical space limiting the hiring process.
While they are physical locations, coworking spaces mesh perfectly into a virtual office system.
A shared coworking location lets segments of your team work together face-to-face on important projects, lets you receive clients in a professional setting without requiring an office space of your own, and lets you rent out the perfect space for any new hire’s initial onboarding experience, prior to going remote.
Furthermore, even remote teams stand to benefit from the organic networking opportunities that present itself in a coworking setting. Occasionally utilizing coworking spaces as a physical location to brainstorm can help your team develop new partnerships with nearby talent or find potential clients.